I recently discovered Microsoft Tag, and my mind is running with the possibilities is presents. Let me start first, however, by telling you what Tag is.
What Is Microsoft Tag?
At first, I thought it was something similar to a UPC symbol, but after further investigation, I’m realizing the power this technology has. In short, the image to the left is a “tag.” It’s specifically designed for one single purpose: connecting the “real world” to the online world. And all it uses is the tiny camera on your cell phone. I’m not even just talking Windows Mobile phones here…this application is also available for iPhone, J2ME, Blackberry, and Symbian S60 phones. Go to http://gettag.mobi to get it on your phone now.
This can include providing more information about a product in text, a person’s business card, a website, or even a phone number for you to dial. Imagine walking through your favorite store (Best Buy, in my case) and just scanning the products you want, with your phone. They could immediately be compiled into a wish list that you could send to your family for the holidays. Pretty cool stuff.
Do me a favor. Go here on your phone: http://gettag.mobi. Install the program, and then let me walk you through a few more scenarios I’m imagining. It will make the story FAR more compelling if you can try it.
Retail sales enhancement
One of the big challenges that retailers face is keeping products in stock. In the case of a clothing retailer, they’ve also got sizes to contend with. So, as a consumer, what do you do when they don’t have your size?
You might ask the clerk if they have any more XLs.
You might ask them to check another store.
You might just leave, and not get that really cool t-shirt.
Retailers have identified this as a problem, and have tried to find solutions to it. Some stores have a computer terminal which lets you order from their online store, but this requires the store to have Internet access, and a working computer. Others will call another store and hold it for you, but that requires you to drive across town to another location. And then there’s the time-honored tradition of rain checks, but as a consumer, who wants to HAVE to come back to the store?
What if, instead of all that hassle, they put Tags next to each of their products in their store. If they are out of stock, the consumer can just scan the Tag, and immediately get taken to a web page that provides a simple checkout process. They already know the product you want. Shipping is free, because you did it from the store. Just give them your address, your credit card, and you’re done. It shows up at your house a few days later.
For example, if Best Buy would create a Tag for every product they sell, they could make life much easier for their shoppers. Let’s say that Windows Vista is selling SO WELL (go with me here…), that they are out of stock. If the Tag that I placed in the picture were on the shelf, I could just scan it, and order online from my phone. (Scan the Tag…it works!)
Conference Badge Enhancement
When you go to a conference, the first thing they give you is a badge. It has your name, the company you work for, and lately, your Twitter name on it. But it’s just words on paper. If I want to follow you on Twitter, for example, I still need to write down your handle, or type it in my phone. And that doesn’t give me your email address, phone numbers, websites, etc. I’d have to get those separately.
What if, on your badge, was a personalized Tag that provided people with all of the information you wanted to give them. When you met someone, they could just point their phone’s camera at your badge and immediately capture your contact information. Here’s an example badge from Codemash 2009.
Bathroom Graffiti Simplicity
Instead of carrying a Sharpie around to tell horrible stories about your ex, why not make stickers of a Tag, and plaster those up in the bathroom instead? (Or get really good at drawing triangles.) When someone scans it with their phone, their phone prompts them to make a call to the number you specified.. This allows you to change your bathroom graffiti all over town with a few clicks of a mouse, as well. Updating the record on the Tag website changes where these Tags take you.
Business Card Enhancement
In a very similar way to the Conference Badge concept, you could put a Tag on your business card that would provide the recipient with a vCard immediately on their phone. No need to take it home and type the info in, they’ve already got it. Think of the cards you could save by letting someone scan one rather than giving it away. Now you’re saving trees! Remember, you should have personalized business cards anyways…
Assembly Line Efficiency
Many assembly lines are challenged by keeping enough of the appropriate parts at the appropriate stations (we’ll use bolts in this example). You don’t want overstock, because there’s not enough room at the line itself. You also don’t want too few, however, because if you run out, the line has to stop, and productivity halts. How things work today, someone usually makes a call to the stock room to replenish the supply of bolts.
What if, instead, there were a set of Tags on the wall. Each tag redirected the user to a webpage that alerted the stock room of the need at Station #7. The worker can then go back to work, and the stock room team can get to moving the supplies to the right place. Most warehouse and assembly line environments require some sort of mobile device, primarily because of their size. It becomes increasingly difficult to find someone if they are roaming through 100,000 square feet of open space.
Imagine going to a concert of your favorite band, and during the show, they play one of their brand new songs. Then, on one of the big screens they have at the venue, they show a Tag. When you point your phone at that Tag (you were already using it like a lighter, admit it), a recording of that new song is downloaded to your phone. (Scan it…these Tags all really work!)
In my final idea, I was thinking about how Tags could be used for a group adventure. Imagine creating a set of Tags that were then printed out as stickers. Probably something on the smaller side. I’m thinking maybe postage stamp size. Now, fast-forward to the next conference you’re attending. The organizers point to an easel during the keynote, on which only a Tag is printed. Those that scan it are shown a hint about the location of the next Tag. Perhaps it’s hidden in one of the conference rooms. Perhaps it’s printed in your program on page 17. But there’s more.
Each of these tags can also be password protected. So instead of just providing a hint, you can also prompt them to figure out what the next password is. Now, we’ve got ourselves a scavenger hunt. Maybe the next tag is on someONE. And they know the password to the next level. The possibilities are endless. And if you live out my way, don’t be surprised to see this happen at an upcoming conference near you…
This tag works (as do the rest of them), but it’s not real. Contacting me about it will only result in mockery and shame. 🙂
In short, the possibilities for Tagging things are limitless. I’ve had some conversations with folks this week, and ideas were just popping out of them as we talked. I didn’t even have these nice visuals to help my story along…
Where do you see this technology being used? What businesses would most benefit from something like this? Do you think YOUR business could use it? To get started…create your own Tags at http://www.microsoft.com/tag.