What is the Physical Web?

Imagine you are hungry at home and thinking about what you’d like to have for dinner. You open the fridge, look inside, but find nothing you’d really fancy in there. Traditionally, you could look online for local food delivery restaurants, or open up an app on your phone to order something. Or, on the ‘Physical Web’, you could simply raise your phone to your fridge, and get immediately connected with your local pizza shop, or any other restaurant in your vicinity, and order something there and then.

Or imagine sitting at a restaurant, wondering what’s on the menu that you might be allergically sensitive to. On the Physical Web, you just touch your phone on the menu, a list opens up on your screen for you indicate the substances you are allergic to, and the menu is then automatically filtered to only the items you can eat.

Strictly speaking, the ‘Physical Web’ is a term that was coined by Google to promote the use of its ‘Eddystone’ Bluetooth beacon technology as a means for physical objects to deliver information as quickly as possible to the phones of nearby individuals. We have taken the terminology a step further however, to mean the use of any technology or system that makes our surrounding physical world interactive.

As always however, there is a difference between concept and reality; and in reality bringing actual Physical Web solutions and implementations into being, that can work for both businesses and consumers, runs into all sorts of practical challenges. Our goal here is to have a look at the difficulties marketers can face when trying to understand how to include the Physical Web in their marketing mix, and how we are trying to resolve these.

Who are we? At Blupath we are building an omni-channel Physical web platform, which we use to power industry specific Physical Web solutions. We are working to build the world’s greatest Physical Web platform – a claim that strongly feel we can justify.

Industry specific

The potential that the Physical Web can bring to a business or organisation is immense. But we recognize that there can often be a huge gap between translating technology potential into a real business use case.

The communication needs of different industries, and of different businesses within each industry, can vary wildly. At Blupath we do not try to sell technological capabilities, without a clear vision of how these can be useful for your business. We therefore do not simply sell a ‘platform’, but clear, industry-specific Physical Web solutions powered by our platform.

We have systems like ‘Infopoint’, specifically catering to the needs of cultural institutions such as museums and galleries. Or systems like ‘KitchenLink’, specifically targeted to the needs of the supermarket industry. Both are Physical Web solutions, working on the basis of a merging between the physical and digital worlds; both are powered by the same Blupath platform; and both are designed for the needs of a specific type of businesses.

Rather than trying to figure out how the Physical Web as a concept can be useful to your business therefore, we suggest you have a look at our solution pages for Smart Cities and Culture, Supermarkets, Restaurants and Hospitality, and Fashion. We provide you with all the help and support you may need, through all stages of an implementation.

If however at the end of the day you have in mind a completely different Physical Web project, we can work on a solution to meet your specific needs. By constructing your solution over the pre-existing Blupath platform, we ensure we can work faster, and on a sound and tested basis, that ensures both lower costs, and quicker turnaround for you.

Multi-channel

The core of the Physical Web is connectivity. You have to have some way to let a physical object or location interact with your phone, and deliver information and functionality to it.  There are a ton of technologies to achieve this. You can use ‘Eddystone’ Bluetooth beacons, like Google suggests. Or ibeacons. Or NFC. Or Wifi. Or even printed barcodes if we want to get down to basics.

Whatever options you choose however, you’ll always find some type of challenge. What if a customer has Bluetooth switched off? What if they’re connected to a different Wifi network? What if their phone doesn’t have an NFC receiver? What if they don’t have such and such an app installed?

Technology should be an enabler, and not a burden. You should not find yourself having to struggle with 5 different platforms, each focusing on one specific technology area, and each managing a different type of deployment. You should not have one system to communicate through your WIFI, and one to communicate from in-store beacons, and yet another to do NFC marketing, and all of these neither communicating with each other, while always leaving out some individuals from their potential reach.

In Blupath, we have built what we call an omni-channel Physical Web platform, powering ‘Smart’ solutions. Which basically means that our solutions can use multiple different technologies synchronised together, in an interface that makes the actual technology irrelevant, and as easy to use as possible, giving you one platform, that can reach out to every single individual, regardless of the phone they have or the apps they have installed on it.

At the same time, by integrating the statistics that you get from all connectivity channels into a single analytics view, you can evaluate the effectiveness of different communication channels together, while building an overall view of your customer’s behaviour from multiple different points of contact.

Targeted omni-channel communication

The Physical Web is all about using the Physical World around us for communication. But as marketers, we know that blind, one-size-fits-all communication rarely works. It is not enough for us to make a physical object interactive and capable of feeding us back information. The information needs to be relevant to the person receiving it, and to the context they find themselves in, otherwise it is simply junk noise.

At Blupath we power what we call Dynamic communication through our Physical Web solutions. That means that the content each individual will receive as they interact with the Physical World around them, can differ from the content that another individual will receive.

Businesses using solutions powered by Blupath can define their own communication strategies, controlling how individuals can be engaged differently depending on factors such as location, time of day, prior interactions, data held on an individual’s profile, etc. As a simple example, a supermarket utilizing our ‘KitchenLink’ solution, can engage with each consumer directly in their kitchen, through their Kitchen Fridge, with targeted, consumer-specific content. The goal is relationship-building and personalised marketing; and not blind push-messaging.

What makes this even more powerful, is that by being hosted on the same platform, the data and insight you gain from consumer interactions with one solution, can help better target communications through another solution. So a supermarket can start to better understand its customer through their ‘KitchenLink’ interactions, which then helps drive more targeted communications through in-store beacons.

To then take this a step further, the same data can be extracted to better fine-tune its traditional email marketing. Targeted consistency through a unified communications strategy through all channels is what omni-channel marketing is all about, and is at the core of our philosophy at Blupath.

The Physical Web is not simply about connecting the physical world to the cloud. It’s the ability to use the objects and spaces around us to get useful, contextual information from them as fast as possible… It is creating the ability for objects to speak, and to give us functionality and data that is immediately useful to us.