The power of dreams – not quite yet

As someone who would pay good money for a better night’s sleep I was drawn to the exciting news of the new Dream:ON app that helps to influence your dreams and give you a better sleep.

I’m not sure about you but I have had many nights’ sleep ruined by my dreams being distracted by thoughts of work, things I have forgotten to do and other mundane things. I certainly know that I sleep better when the dreams are about enjoying a relaxing family holiday, shooting a 68 at Pebble Beach or of course doughnuts if you’re Homer Simpson!

What a beautiful and simple innovation – giving people better dreams and helping them improve their sleep. How much would you pay for that as a business proposition?

But can this dream become a reality? At the moment the Dream:ON service is linked to a study at the University of Hertfordshire so isn’t really a commercial venture but I tried it myself last night and here’s my thoughts:

Well initially I was struck by the simplicity and ease of use of setting up the service. I wasn’t too sure how the 2 free soundscapes would influence my dreams but I went to bed excited about the night’s sleep ahead.

Sadly, I guess you can argue that it didn’t work! I didn’t get to hear any of the soothing music and I certainly didn’t get any better dreams. In fact, I actually had a worse sleep as I was worried about my iPad laying on my bed and even had to rescue it when it fell off and smashed against the bed side table.

However, looking at it optimistically I can see that there is real potential for developing the service whereby it works better both functionally and commercially based on a few tweaks:

  • using a specialist device such as the Jawbone UP to monitor your sleep patterns rather than leaving your mobile phone or tablet laying on your bed. This should give much more accurate results and save you worrying about your phone as much. It would also allow the service to work on memory foam beds!
  • having the Dream:ON app working with wireless/bluetooth speakers so that the music can be played via your existing bedside audio system
  • a simpler business model that gives a two-week free trial to a wide range of dream soundscapes so that consumers get happy the service works for them before then charging a small monthly fee – something I would happily pay for a proven way to better dreams and sleep!
So I won’t be using Dream:ON again tonight as I try and catch up on some sleep.
However, maybe the guys at Jawbone or anyone else that has a potential interest in this exciting new proposition can dream something up so that we can all sleep a little bit more peacefully!

Tapping your customers up with NFC

As someone that likes thinking of fun ways new technology can be used to provide better customer experiences it is sometimes depressing that so much of the talk surrounding the fantastic NFC (Near Field Communication) technology that is built into my new smartphone (and will probably be in your next one too!) is based upon the notion of us using it as a mobile payment system.

I’m sure that this will definitely happen over time and will indeed offer us a simpler way for us to make many of our lower value purchases. However, given that this technology is now literally getting into many of our hands I think there is great opportunities for brands to use this to drive their own innovation and creativity with customer propositions and communication.

So it’s refreshing to see that Clinton Cards are looking to make better use of NFC to improve their customer experience and provide greater value. In doing so they will obviously help expedite use of it as convenient payment mechanism also.

My old company Sony Mobile are also looking to drive better customer experiences by providing NFC tags that allow their users to more conveniently programme their phone into customised settings – such as setting GPS, maps and voice activation simply by tapping their phone on a tag left inside the car.

So who are going to be the creative brands that really grasp this new technology and do something simple, fun and mainstream that really gets people talking about their brand in a positive way?

For instance we all know that Facebook wants to drive more ‘check-ins’ and entertainment venues/bars want to drive more customers so why doesn’t someone produce simple Facebook check-in stickers to go doors so you simply have to tap your phone as you enter to immediately activate the Facebook check-in?

We know that brands are struggling to find ways effective ways for using QR codes in advertising and other channels to drive consumer engagement. Basically QR codes are a bit ugly and it’s still not always convenient or attractive to get your phone out and take a picture of a poster. I would propose some start to shift to NFC instead which can offer a better customer experience and at least may help positioning for the brand in a better way.

Other ideas where the simple tapping of a mobile phone to a company’s marketing or actual product may make sense could include store promotions/vouchers, free content, network integration, etc.

Clearly many will want to wait for a bigger critical mass of NFC phones and others may be sceptical that this could be another passing technology that never really takes off.

But I applaud the marketer that can really show the innovation and drive to build their brand by being amongst the first to really embed NFC into their marketing and customer proposition.

At least I will have more things to tap my lovely new smartphone on! 🙂

Raspberry Pi – a surprising great British technology success?

I’m not sure how many of us knew anything about Raspberry Pi until today but it’s refreshing to see that the British Foundation behind it have had such a successful launch that their website has crashed due to overwhelming demand and the first 10,000 units have sold out straight away.

So what the hell is Raspberry Pi and what on earth have they done to create such a demand for launch? Well, for the uninitiated Raspberry Pi is actually just a basic computer board as shown below.

As someone who strongly advocates ‘simplexity’ you may wonder why I am heralding such a product as Raspberry Pi.

The answer is that despite looking like – and actually being – a highly complex technical product the Raspberry Pi Foundation are actually taking some great steps of simplexity to build their launch success.

Firstly, their vision is very straightforward, unique and compelling for a large number of children & parents alike – ‘to inspire a new generation of schoolchildren to programme computers‘.

But why would programming such an unsexy computer board like this be compelling in today’s age when children are spending increasing time consuming various digital media on their multitude of gadgets such as mobile phones, tablets and connected games consoles?

For the children I guess that IT geeks still fall some way behind ‘sports star’, ‘musician’ and ‘B-list reality TV show celebrity’ but I’m sure that the phenomenal success and wealth of people behind digital businesses such as Facebook and Angry Birds, etc. will have an increasing number of kids wanting to emulate them.

For the parents, well wouldn’t you rather encourage your children to learn computer programming rather than have them spending all their time playing games on your iPad?

The Foundation have taken a number of other simple moves to help create their success:

  • There are only 2 variants of the product and both are really cheap – from just £16 for a mini computer which should be within the reach of all families
  • The technical product uses common and cheap format to keep costs down and ensure some future-proofing (SD cards for storage and HDMI for video output to TV)
  • They agreed 2 licensing deals with UK distributors that will hopefully provide (after initial launch success) good online sales and minimised their commercial risk
  • Awareness to date has been built in a simple low-cost way through both a link up with local schools around Cambridge and now what would seem to be a great PR and online push – today being the #1 most shared story on http://www.bbc.co.uk!

Hopefully the Government will help and get right behind this initiative to encourage the use of IT such as Raspberry Pi in schools.

There is also great potential for a wide range of businesses such as BBC, Sony and even Microsoft to provide support and incentives for kids to push themselves to create the most exciting Raspberry Pi programmes. Not only would this be a great corporate social responsibility initiative but they could also get these children more actively engaging with their brand.

This is of course just the beginning and true project & commercial success will only really occur if they can continue to sell 10,000 or more of these every week and get large numbers of children busy creating exciting new ‘Raspberry Pi Apps’ to share with their friends.

But who knows, maybe this simple scheme will soon develop a British child launching ‘Facebook 2.0’ having learnt their initial programming skills on a Raspberry Pi?