A lesson in the use of technology

I’ve been traveling extensively over the past week and been too buried to post. My last post was from the UK where I was working on a very interesting project – more about that in the weeks to come. For now though, here’s what’s been on my mind.

While awaiting a domestic flight at the Dallas Fort Worth airport, I noticed a digital sign that was promoting local attractions. The signage had a ticker line that read, “Use your phone’s Bluetooth to receive more information.” Just out of curiosity, I sat for a while to see if anyone would use their phone to acquire the additional information. After watching for quite a while, not only did no one use their phone, no one gave the screen more than a brief glance. I thought to myself, I bet the owner/operator of that screen sold advertisers on the idea that that screen would be seen by several thousand passengers a day. I bet they put together a nice rate card showing the number of impressions the screen would generate as well as the benefits that would be derived from the advanced content via Bluetooth. Wow, if my experience was emblematic of a larger trend, then someone isn’t getting much for their money.

Regardless of the viewership issue, the fact that the signage owner/operator selected Bluetooth as a means to link signage content to the mobile handset struck me as odd. I doubt many people here in the U.S. even know how to make their handset discoverable much less use it as a medium to receive information? I’m told that familiarity is not necessarily a problem in Scandinavia or Europe where Bluetooth is apparently more commonly used, but it’s definitely an issue here in the States. So why did they use it? Perhaps it was a European-based signage company that sold DFW the sign. Perhaps they’re just so enamored with technology that they don’t even care how people use the technology. Who knows, but the clear lesson is simple: If people aren’t familiar with the technology on a broad scale, then don’t use it. When looking to use technology, select that which is commonly used and understood. I know this seems obvious, but apparently not to everyone. BTW, I’m sure you can appreciate that I’m not a big believer in Bluetooth as the ultimate convergent technology… at least in the near term. More on “less than useful” convergent technologies tomorrow.

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