Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The platforms for communication

I am looking at the range of devices (platforms) that can be deployed by the PR industry. I do not mean channels (e.g. emai. IM Facebook etc). What are the things that can deliver interet protocol based information is what I really seek.

My thoughts so far are given below but what have I missed?

Devices like a television or radio set, PC, laptop, mobile telephone, game machine (Yes, Xbox and Play Stations are included too) and VoIP (lets call it Skype for ease of understanding) static and mobile sets are all platforms for communication.

We need not stop there, there are many other platforms available to the consumer. ePaper, a flexible sheet that can be digitally updated, will has a place alongside newsprint and books; ePoster, posters that can be digitally updated are communication platforms that are internet enabled have a place alongside posters, signage and even computer and TV screens.

Then there is Near-field electromagnetic ranging (NFER); Real Time Location System (RTLS); Radio-frequency identification (RFID) and contactless 'smart' cards (like the oyster card used by London Underground). They allow small amounts of data to be transferred between smart devices and receivers. These devices mean that there will never again be a need for exhibition registering when tickets can both include a lot of information and can transmit it to computers for visitors to gain admission. In retailing such technology will mean that the supermarket check out is, well, on its way out.

There are new platforms on their way and the mobile phone is due for a major revolution with iPhone and its more advanced cousins already in the shops. Two hundred Manchester City season ticket holders trialed a system through which they "show" their Nokia 3320 handset to an automatic reader to get into a game, instead of handing a card to a gate attendant. In Estonia cell phones can be used in a similar way to pay taxi fares and and bar bills. Many people use satellite navigation in their cars. These devices can also be used to provide a wide range of information about routes, local restaurants and beauty spots and already 'talk' to mobile phones and thence, to the rest of the internet.

These platforms can be linked using internet protocols by traditional cables, radio in many forms including wireless local area networks (WLAN), often known as WiFi; infrared, often used in phones and the cable free computer mouse, cellular telephony and the simple Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices and cables.

It is usual and common to get money from an ATM on the street. These internet enabled platforms and the information kiosks to be found on many a street corner are part of this mix of channels.

Most people, for the most part, do not notice these changes taking place. They are gradual and quickly form part of daily life. Who today finds the Oyster Card strange or thinks of it as a channel for communication. Oyster cards are also getting 'very clever'.

For the PR practitioner, the use and application of platforms for communication to have a profound effect of publics is a matter only of the extent of their imagination.

Imagine a satellite navigation device offering a story about a company as it passes by. Too late, it has already happened. These devices are already being deployed by the PR industry.

Is there an appetite for all these platforms? A survey in 2006, suggested that 60% of UK consumers spend £5000 on gadgets every year, with 30% of those surveyed saying that they have 15 gadgets in total.

What is really big about these devices? Its un-nerving. Many of them can be used for a range of two way communication. We know this of the ubiquitous PC and cell phone but what of an ePoster? One that can interact with a cell phone. In Japan user can already 'pull' information from them! Progressively, this interconnectedness of these platforms will engage the consumer in ever more one to one, one to many, many to many and many to one forms of interaction. And, while we are pondering these developments (and sending an email from an Xbox games console as one of the authors did when writing this book – and got back an answer!), its worth noting that many of these platforms do not have a keyboard or even a mouse, many do not use text, but use pictures, graphics and sounds.

What have I missed and how are these platforms being used? Answer not on a postcard please.