Imagine the following scenario — enter a shopping mall and get a message on the phone that shows you can get a 90 per cent discount on your favourite shoes by rushing to a specific outlet and show the bar code in the message. And as you watch, the discount percentage starts to drop. 90, 89, 88 ...
When you see this, you start to hurry, instinctively. It is human nature. You are (most likely) running to the store to show the store attendant your 80 per cent discount bar code. Is this possible?
Yes, this has been done before by a shoe retailer to ensure that they are able to grab customers’ attention within the mall. They managed to ensure that the customer walks past all other shoe stores and reaches their outlet.
The above is achieved by a technology referred to as LBS or “location based services”, which denote a technology that uses the inbuilt features of a mobile phone (called GPS or global positioning system which uses satellites to pinpoint the location). LBS is normally used to provide information, entertainment or security.
Usage varies, but at the core of it all is the “location” of a device. This is one of the most widely used technologies, but also one of the simplest.
For consumers, the above scenario (of a reducing discount) or proximity-based marketing (offering discounts in the vicinity that you are at) makes it convenient to find deals. And for companies, it makes it easy to attract the right customer. In addition, it helps eliminate unwanted messages or sending a big brochure of discounts, thus saving on costs and making the targeting effective.
The same technology can be used to help employees too. Consider a hazardous working area (like a mine). You can be in that location for limited time only, before subterranean gases become harmful to health. We could use exactly the same technology to help the employee realise when he/she needs to leave the area.
Another use is to provide the relevant information to an employee. For example, a doctor could get the patient details of the specific patient at whose bedside he is, thus eliminating the need to search for a patient’s record. It is also secure because once he is out of the hospital, the information becomes unavailable to him/her.
Or consider the example of connecting people or communities. When you want to ensure that your loved ones are safe, you can use some free apps that can give the location of where the family member is ... in real-time. This can be used for ensuring their safety, check on their well-being (for example elderly parents who maybe become immobile) or planning based on their arrival times.
Enterprises have started using this technology (in conjunction with others) to start tracking the location of their trucks, ships, etc. The Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) has become much more accurate now due to this technology.
We do not need to get overwhelmed by technology or the jargons. A lot of technology exists under the hood. We use it without even knowing about it.
Also, one technology can result in multiple applications. Our innovative ideas are the only limitation to using a particular technology. Most importantly, technology exists only to help you become better/safer/healthier/productive.
That is the ultimate goal.
Anand Subramaniam works in the tech industry.