The future of smartphones

Amy Castor
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The MIT researchers' wireless chemical sensor
Above: New sensor can transmit information on hazardous chemicals or food spoilage to a smartphone. Image credit: MIT/Melanie Gonick

A combination of sensors, machine learning and virtual reality

Imagine you walk by an Italian restaurant and your phone knows exactly where you are. It knows you love gnocchi and you even traveled to Milan recently. It offers you not simply a coupon, but an immersive experience where you get to explore the restaurant virtually to see what people are eating and visit the kitchen to see how food is prepared. Tempting?

Over the last decade, smartphones have evolved from simply phones to portable entertainment centers. We use them to text, watch movies, and keep ourselves occupied. Now smartphones are about to evolve further. Sensor data combined with machine learning and virtual reality will usher in new wave of engagement, convenience, and utility. Interestingly enough, much of that technology is sitting inside our phones right now.

Your smartphone is smarter than you think

Most people don’t realize how smart their phones actually are or how much they already know about us. Unlike laptops, modern smart­phones are packed with dozens of tiny sensors that enable them to collect all kinds of data on who we are, what we are doing, and the world around us.

Accelerometers and gyroscopes are the sensors we hear about the most. These have the potential to collect data on us even when we are not actively using the phone. But most smartphones also have an image sensor, touch sensor, proximity sensor, and up to 30 other sensors, including GPS for location.

New sensors are being developed all the time. Each one opens the door to new possibilities. Chemists at MIT recently developed a smartphone sensor that detects when food has gone bad. Imagine using your phone to check if the rotisserie chicken you brought home three days ago is still safe?

Sensors make our phones more aware. But sensors themselves only collect the raw data. Putting that data to use requires machine learning. By searching for patterns in the data, intelligent apps can figure out whether you are tall or short, big or little, and even guess at gender. It may sound spooky at first, but not so when you consider how useful apps will become.

Apps of the future think on their own

The most intelligent apps will use sensor-based data to provide contextual information. We have seen examples of this already in first-generation fitness apps that track how fast and how far you are walking or running. And many apps, such as Opentable, Uber, and Yelp, use GPS as their main component to serve information based on our location.

You may already be familiar with Apple’s iBeacon technology, tiny wireless transmitters used widely by retailers, airports and even the NBL and NFL to deliver finely tuned content to your Smartphone based on your location.

Some apps today are even crowdsourcing sensor data for traffic and weather forecasts. Consider how Google gathers smartphone GPS data, and sends it back to users as accurate route-time estimates. Another company, PressureNet is working to pull barometer readings from smartphones to improve weather and climate predictions.

But tomorrow’s mobile apps will employ sensor information to a far greater extent. Theses apps will pick up on patterns and routines and learn a user’s preferences over time. “Anyone can collect data. Finding an automated way to create the meaning of that data is paramount,” says Nils Forsblom, the founder of Adtile, a company working on new ways to use machine learning and virtual reality for marketing.

Future apps will usher in a new level of convenience. Instead of asking for input, they will anticipate your needs. Your phone might send calls to voice mail if you are driving or switch into Airplane Mode when it senses a plane moving on the tarmac. An app might hear people talking in a conference room and ask, ‘Do you want to record the meeting?’

Virtual reality adds a new level of creative engagement

But what happens when you mix sensor data and machine learning with virtual reality? Mobile devices may one day deliver immersive experiences, bringing inanimate objects to life and letting you do things like walk around a sculpture or explore the latest exhibit at a museum.

“The phones of the future might look something like Oculus VR meets iPhone—without the headset,” says Forsblom. Oculus is a headset that delivers virtual reality to the smartphone, but Forsblom predicts smart­phones will deliver immersive experiences without the headsets.

Advertising may no longer interrupt whatever you are doing or reading, but take the form of an active engagement. You might use your phone as an extension of yourself to walk through a car show­room. If you see something you like, you can use gestures and motions to explore a car in more detail, get more information, or sign up to a test drive of a vehicle.

“In the future, smartphone hardware and software will work in seamless harmony. Future mobile devices will be a mix of invisible apps for utility, entertainment, virtual reality, and gaming. Mobile virtual reality will be the ultimate input-output ‘device’ and creative medium,” says Forsblom.

The next few years will likely see dozens of new apps that use sensors in all kinds of mind-boggling ways. Our smartphones will become more like a personal assistant that understand our preferences, habits, our likes, and dislikes. And virtual reality has the potential to take that one step further, allowing us to explore places and objects without having to get off the sofa—now that’s convenience.

This article was originally published on Venturebeat →

Adtile introduces FireMotion

Leslie Van Every
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Adtile FireMotion

Press Release, February 11th, 2015

Adtile Technologies today announced mobile advertising industry’s first multi-sensor mobile engagement platform, FireMotion. This new mobile ad platform works like a lightweight operating system bringing motion technology to mobile advertising. As part of FireMotion, Adtile Technologies partnered with Passworks and Two Tap, two leading companies in the mobile commerce space, to ensure a seamless purchasing and reward experience on smartphones.

FireMotion’s proprietary technology accurately tracks the phone’s positioning and velocity, which allows the phone to function as an extension of the person. FireMotion gives advertisers a new set of creative tools to use in mobile advertising campaigns.

“People find most mobile ads are ineffective or annoyingly disruptive. That is because most of those ads are designed for desktop and don’t take advantage of the incredible sensory hardware already in smartphones.”

“My goal at Adtile is to help brands create the kind of advertising that creates human connections. I want to change the quality of mobile advertising and deliver fully integrated approach.”

—Nils Forsblom, CEO and founder, Adtile Technologies

The response from ads using Adtile’s FireMotion has been very positive. The initial reports show over 30% engagement rate and an average of 23 seconds of participation time with over 6% click-through rate, which are some of the highest rates in the online and mobile advertising industry.

Although higher click-through rates are essential for mobile ads, Adtile Technologies wanted to remove any barriers to purchase by partnering with Passworks and Two Tap to create one of the simplest mobile engagement options available today. FireMotion ads can seamlessly connect to a universal shopping cart, Passbook, Google Wallet or Payments. A person who interacts with a FireMotion mobile ad can purchase the product in the ad instead of going to a different webpage, keeping the entire purchase and payment process extremely simple.

“The launch of Adtile’s new platform is a great compass for established advertisers who want to take full advantage of mobile capabilities, and Two Tap is very excited to power e-commerce interactions on the new platform.”

“FireMotion’s integrated approach will offer new and rich tools to build experiences that are vital to brands that want to stand out in the bland mobile banner ad-space.”

—Raz Roman, co-founder, Two Tap

Instead of spending a lot of time and money developing new sensor enabled mobile ads, FireMotion ad builds will be available through the password protected Adtile Motion Store. This online store will feature unique motion ad interactions that can be used by brands and agencies by simply incorporating design and storytelling into the flow. These result-proven ad builds incorporate very specific interface design and developer guidelines for quality and constraint purposes. All FireMotion ads must be approved by Adtile Technologies for quality assurance. Brands can also work directly with Adtile Technologies to create specific designed ads as well.

About Adtile Technologies

Located in San Diego, California, Adtile is a pioneer and developer of multi-sensor advertising technology for smartphones and tablets. We are working with leading technology companies and Fortune 500 brands. Adtile is on a quest to transform mobile advertising. We believe the best way to revolutionize mobile ads is to create an entirely new design that embraces the needs of mobile users by making it part of the user experience. We’ve created a mobile-first advertising solution from the ground up—challenging assumptions about how ads work and redesigning it for a world on the move.

More information is available at:

Delightful Connection

Leslie Van Every
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This week, we will focus on a feature many of us use daily, but almost never talk about in great detail—Bluetooth Low Energy. Bluetooth LE’s proximity sensing capabilities have been gaining some buzz recently—not as part of the smartphone, but in brick and mortar retail stores thanks to beacons.

Small enough to attach to a wall or counter-top, beacons transmit messages directly to a phone using low-energy Bluetooth connections. As you approach the beacon, your phone can be activated to send highly targeted content to your phone, such as special offers or coupons from stores a few feet away. Beacon technology can turn idle window shopping into a sale with a well-timed mobile reward. Apple Pay or Google Wallet can then be used to “close the loop” in terms of attribution.

There are a few apps that use these features already, such as Launch Here, which makes it possible to link apps to places using iBeacons or Beecon, which helps you to manage, detect and range iBeacons around you. At the same time marketers are also finding new ways to incorporate this technology into various use cases.

But beacons are just one of the ways Adtile incorporates proximity sensing capabilities into its solutions. We’re also working on sensor arrays to bring the Motion Ads to life in a whole new way.

Mobile Conscious

Leslie Van Every
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Adtile Motion Ads
At Adtile, we believe in the power of sensors.

The sensors in your smartphone make it ‘smart’ or what we like to call ‘mobile conscious’—since you are, after all smarter than your phone. Those sensors help tell stories in ways that go far beyond simply reading something on your phone. Sensors have the power to turn you into the main character of a brand’s story. The story unfolds around you.

Over the next couple of months, we will take a closer look at each individual sensor and how it can be instrumental in shaping the way you use your phone and live your life. We will also discuss how these sensors can make a huge impact on people when used by marketers in their ad campaigns.

Let’s start with one of best known sensors that you probably rely on every day:

GPS, Global Positioning System

Many people are familiar with GPS, which has helped millions of people get from point A to point B, showing wayward drivers the fastest route to their destination. The GPS sensor in your phone connects with several satellites in space to figure out exactly where you are, so it can bring you the best information based on your location at that specific time.

When incorporated in a mobile app it can help you find a restaurant, locate stars in the sky, and give you a local weather forecast. GPS can tell you which is the closest cinema featuring that movie you want to see tonight. Some of your favorite apps probably rely on your phone’s GPS—such as Yelp, Fandango, Secret, Zillow, airline apps—the list goes on and on.

So, how can GPS be used by marketers in their advertising? It can turn an ad into an immediate action. Once your ad captures the interest of a user, you want to have that user be able to act on that interest immediately. For example, Adtile’s Motion Ad Technology can create a mobile ad for Starbucks, offering the user a free latte and immediately pull up the user’s location, listing out the closest Starbucks. That dynamic creative, which relies on the GPS sensor, turns the ad into an immediate consumer action to guide the user towards the closest Starbucks. Needless to say, that level of personalization in an ad can create a stronger connection to the user and in the end, a sale.

GPS sensor makes it possible to create an immediate connection between the people and ads that will be much more useful for customers and will drive engagement that both users and brands can benefit from.