According to Google, 90 percent of all media interactions are screen-based, via TV, PC or mobile device. And it’s often all three at once - multiscreening is now second nature for most of us. Very rarely do we sit and watch TV, for example, without at least glancing at our smartphones or tablets. In fact, a significant number of TV viewers interact in real time with others across the country, using social networks to share what they think. A number of production companies have embraced this behaviour and built it into their programmes, particularly those that rely on a public vote.

As it’s clear that there’s a distinct appetite for ‘connected’ experiences in the home – we’re already happy to use three or four devices to achieve tasks, to find information and for entertainment – the next logical step is to exploit our devices’ capabilities to expand and improve our connected universe.

Shoppers could get alerts from retailers on their smartphones as they pass stores © iStock/Geber86
Shoppers could get alerts from retailers on their smartphones as they pass stores © iStock/Geber86

Some of the more forward-thinking tech innovators have already made a start – Samsung Connected Living allows users to synchronise all of their Samsung devices, from the familiar (photos, videos and music) to the cutting edge (washing machine, cooker, TV and more controlled remotely via smartphone). Further, Wolfram Research has a dedicated Connected Devices Project, designed to allow ‘every connected device’, from medical apparatus to industrial equipment, to communicate using their own Wolfram language.

Taking the connected experience outside the home has the potential to revolutionise the way we work, rest and play in the same way that the first BlackBerry and iPhone did around a decade ago. Just as it is hard to imagine a world without the power in our pockets to access and share information, watch TV and buy goods when and where we want to, in 10 years or so it will be difficult to remember a time when healthcare providers, retailers and service companies didn’t connect with our mobile devices as well.

Devices and desires – a typical journey

The technology already exists for businesses to connect with people in a seamless, intuitive way which integrates with existing expectations and experiences. Here’s how it can work for retailers and service providers, such as dentists, financial advisers and the utilities sector:

  • Customers receive a message on their smartphone as soon as they enter a business
  • At the same time, a sales/service employee is told that the customer has arrived via a vibration alert on their smartwatch
  • The employee’s tablet then automatically shows the customer’s profile, previous appointments, requirements, wishlist etc, where they can select the most relevant items and ‘throw’ them to an interactive screen
  • The customer can then browse full product/service details and discuss their options
  • The customer chooses the right service/item for them and can use the screen to order/buy/book an appointment
  • The customer can then make any payments due via their phone
  • The employee’s tablet shows that the transaction has completed successfully and their progress towards sales/service targets is automatically updated for real-time performance monitoring
  • Finally, the customer receives an email receipt/booking confirmation on their smartphone

Just five years ago, none of this connected journey was possible. Today, innovative software companies working with widely-available consumer technologies are now able to roll out this sort of experience in a matter of months. Needless to say, there are big business benefits to be had in being able to access and make intelligent, targeted use of all the information available about customers and their preferences. The result is better employee performance, improved customer experience and increased loyalty.

Naturally, there will be questions to be answered around security, particularly when it comes to sensitive data such as medical records and payment details. Ensuring that all connected data is relevant, used appropriately and disposed of correctly may well involve an upgrade of the Data Protection Act.

However, provided users are invited to ‘opt in’ – by choosing to download an app, for example – all the evidence suggests that most of us are keen to sign up to a connected experience across our favoured devices. According to Salesforce’s ‘2014 Mobile behaviour report’, 83 percent of us believe that a ‘seamless experience across all devices is important’, and around 65 percent are willing to share personal information in order to receive better service. Our connected universe will undoubtedly get bigger over the coming year.