The iPhone 6 May Extend the Touch Screen to the Real World (And How It Will Transform Customer Care)
Apple is broadly expected to include Near Field Communications (NFC) in the iPhone 6. NFC lets customers touch their phone to things in the physical world and trigger actions like opening an app or webpage. This technology combined with other existing Apple innovations like iBeacon will do for the physical world what the original iPhone did for the smartphone.
Allow me to explain a bit: Prior to the original iPhone, most mainstream smartphones still had a keyboard and a trackball. If you wanted to do something in the digital world of your smart phone, you had to enter a command using the keyboard or use the trackball to navigate a menu. But the keyboard stood between the user and the digital world on their phone.
When the iPhone came out, one of its key features was the incorporation of a touch screen user interface. Sure there was still a keyboard for typing, but many interactions no longer required the keyboard. All of a sudden we were able to interact directly with the digital world in our smartphone through something very familiar to us, touch. Tap an icon and an app opens. Tap a link and you are taken instantly to the information you want.
Our physical world today is much like the smartphone before the original iPhone. If you see something that you are interested in, you typically have to type in the product name, a description, something to communicate to your phone what it is you want it to do for you. The keyboard stands between our physical and digital worlds.
If NFC is introduced in the iPhone 6, Apple will show us the many fantastic things we can do with a touch interface on the physical world just the same way they showed us what was possible by putting a touch interface on the smartphone. At StepOne, we are excited about the opportunities that a touch interface on the physical world opens up specifically as it relates to driving a step function improvement in customer experience across a variety of industries.
We work with customers that are constantly trying to make it easier for consumers to activate, configure, support, and most importantly enjoy the products and services that have become so interwoven into to our daily lives. All of these customers have pushed the boundaries of the web and smartphone apps as a channel for customer engagement. What we see from talking to thought leaders in our industry is that the sheer number and complexity of products and services that the average consumer now manages in their daily lives creates fundamental usability issues that apps alone cannot alleviate. What makes this an even more compelling opportunity is that the problem is getting worse at an accelerated rate as more and more “smart” products come online.
We are also driven by some related and very strong altruistic motivations. Have you ever looked at how much paper is wasted in the form of installation manuals and user guides that nobody ever reads? At StepOne we believe that innovations like an NFC enabled iPhone 6 help us get to a greener future. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just touch your smartphone to a new device or product and it magically opened up an app or web page that had the YouTube video for “how to get started with your new product”? Just this weekend I put together an IKEA shelf and was thinking…why a huge piece of paper that killed a tree and has pictures and text I can’t understand? Why not a video? Taking this example further in the case of a digital device like an Internet Modem or a connected Appliance, what if I could tap my phone for the life of that device and the App or Web page was smart enough to know what actions I most likely needed to take based on where I was in the device lifecycle? What if either via NFC or Bluetooth, that menu could be driven by real-time diagnostic information from the device itself? The possibilities are endless: Touch to pair with this new device. Touch to get an answer to your question. Touch to schedule a repair appointment. Touch to order a replacement ink cartridge. Touch to order a new filter.
To see how customers like Telstra are using NFC as a gateway to our Contextual Care platform and a pure digital experience, check out our video here (Gareth Redshaw demonstrates ‘Tap for Help’ starting at the 1:42 mark).
A touch screen on the physical world makes it easier for users to engage with their trusted brands, it provides the context our branded apps and web pages need to be super personalized, and hopefully it helps us reduce unnecessary paper as we all work towards greater environmental responsibility. We will all find out more next Tuesday when Apple unveils the next step in its vision, but we hope the iPhone 6 does for the physical world what the first iPhone did for the smartphone. If so, Apple truly will make another meaningful dent in the universe that will change our lives, and our brand relationships as we know them today.