Sunday 19 July 2015

Merging Physical Realm with the Digital Realm and Leading a Real Smart Life - Part 1

Imagine moving into a new neighbourhood in a new city and everything is unfamiliar to you. The streets, the parks, the restaurants, the people, the shops, the historical buildings... Everything. Pretty overwhelming huh at start! Especially in places where you must act and behave like a local so that people won't bother you or try to get smart with you. It can be very intriguing and scary at times depending on where you are. Unfamiliar locations without anyone to point you towards your destination or to help you out with your query.

Then recall the movie Terminator where Arnold is looking at people and fetching details about them in his Heads-Up Display (HUD) and knowing whether they are the people he is searching for or not. Punch it with the movie Predator where the Alien is scanning for Heat Signals emitted from humans and getting the information on its HUD, irrespective of Day or Night. Let's take this concept further forward and see what else can be thought of and can be done.

Imagine walking down a street without a name, in that new place you moved into, and stopping in front of a beautiful building. Suddenly Digital Data floats up in front of your eyes regarding which building it is, and its history, and its location on a map that you can see in front of your eyes. Then you look at a poster beside the building which has a picture of an upcoming rock concert, and you point at that, and then suddenly you get to see a Music Video of the featured Rock Band playing in front of your eyes. Meanwhile something beeps and a line comes floating in front of your eyes, "This is Walmart, pick milk, you have run out of milk in the fridge." Then you move in and Digital Data guides you to the rack where the milk can is kept. You happily pick up the milk can and then Customer Reviews float in front of your eyes regarding that product and its price. You are happy with the reviews and take it and leave the store without waiting for the queue at the counter as there is NO Que and NO Sales Counter!!! Your bill has been paid by your bank automatically to Walmart. You get into your car and start driving, getting all kinds of data on your speed, proximity to the next car, lane change alert and collision alert. You decide to let the car drive itself and take you back home while you take a nap. It has been an exhausting day.

Straight out of Science Fiction Films, right? Noppes. It's Happening.

Believe me it's all happening, and within 10 years we will be able to effortlessly do all these as proper steps have been taken in this direction, to merge our Digital Information World with our Real Physical World. It's Happening folks. Right now. It's Happening.

We are toddlers now, but yes, we are getting there. So, let's explore some technologies now that are helping us to merge our Physical World with that of the Digital Information World.

QR Code:

Quick Response Codes have caught everyone's attention nowadays, both consumers and people who want to market their services and products. This is popular in Japan. It is those square Black and White boxes you get to see beside Newspaper Advertisements and Magazine Advertisements. QRCode boxes have those black and white geometrical shapes in them. Those are codes, which can be read by any QR Code Reader App. The geek terminology for it is Hard Linking or Mobile Tagging. Those QR Codes have coded URL Links in them which once decoded by your QRCode Reader takes you to that URL. So effectively you can Tag any physical object with a URL or other information. Most common use is to link a Physical Poster or Outdoor Advertisement with the Facebook Page, or some other important landing pages, say that of downloading a Mobile App of your company. You can generate the codes for free via QR Code Generators and stick it anywhere you need it in the Physical World. That code once scanned, connects people to the Digital World and gives them access to more information about that object or product. It has become extremely popular now a days to the extent of people affixing QR Codes to Gravestones even, so that you can visit and read more about the person who lies buried there. Innovation does not end there. Watch this video to see how Virtual shopping malls have been created in Subway Stations in South Korea using QR Codes.


Well let's be honest QR Codes look Old School and gibberish and looks ugly beside a nicely composed creative. So what to do? In comes SnapTag. It does all that is done by QRCodes, and much more. SnapTag instead of all those black and white codes, has a small Code Ring, which sits around a company logo, or say a Facebook "Like" symbol. So effectively it's Hard Linking physical objects with help of Company Logos. It has tremendous marketing potential, but the only hitch is the creation of a SnapTag is a paid affair unlike QRCode, as it's a patented technology by SpyderLynk. To read the codes you also need a special App called SnapTag by SpyderLynk, which you can download for free. So yes, this is a significant improvement over QR Code, but you must pay to create the Tags and users must have the SnapTag App installed in their devices.

See how a SnapTag works.


In a comparable manner like the above two, a German company T-Ink, has developed a coding system which is invisible to the naked eye. When you hover the smart phone camera over an advertisement with the invisible touch code in it, predesignated digital content gets pulled into your phone. So, while scanning a picture of a furniture from the magazine you can have a360-degree view of it in your smart phone. So, the code triggers the TouchCode App to fetch digital content for you. Imagine buying a ticket for a concert and then you hold the ticket beneath the camera of the phone and the TouchCode App triggers a music video from the Internet where you can see the guys performing on stage. This too, like SnapTag is a paid to create code and it's patented by T-Ink.

See how Touch Code works.

RFID Tags:

RFID Tags have been in use for over few decades now. Recently RFID is being widely used in Departmental Stores to keep track of the inventory. It's also popular in the Cargo Industry to keep track of the shipments. Use of RFID tags in keeping track of pets and flocks of sheep is also becoming common. Few RFID implants have taken place in humans too. The main purpose is to store some tracking data in chips and embed it in packaging or inside the biological or artificial body. So, when the embedded Tag is near a matched RFID Reader, the data can be accessed, and shipment tracked. Many Smart Cards use this technology to fetch data about the user. In future Departmental Stores can do away with Sales Counters courtesy tracking capability of RFID Tags. When you pick up a product from the shelf and keep it inside the Shopping Trolley you will get billed by the RFID Reader which is attached to the Shopping Trolley. By the time you leave the store your Bank Account will be auto debited. So, this technology does away with Point of Sales Terminals. Many other uses of RFID are coming up every day.

Well, these technologies are just Tip of the Iceberg, of what all are happening around the world today. Do read Part 2 of this Article to see where we are headed to merge the Digital World with the Physical World. Bigger surprises are coming up in the next Article. 


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