Here’s something you probably already knew: at a rate that’s unprecedented, the internet is creeping into the real world.
You can see it in companies like Uber, that are slowly eating away at the taxi industry. You can see it in the drones that are coming up on Kickstarter every day. You can see it in the hardware that Paypal and Square is building to help transactions happen even easier than before.
It’s happening. Software is eating the world. It’s slow, but it’s going to happen everywhere.
Up in our little corner of the world, we run a company called Breather that’s on the front lines of this stuff. Breather does a simple thing– it’s an app that lets you unlock and open a network of private spaces— in your own city– all with the touch of a button.
Basically, it’s peace and quiet on-demand.
Now that’s cool enough. But I’m a marketer at heart. If you are too, you’re always wondering– Great, but how can I use that? What’s interesting in this new stuff that will help me win?
Well, I’m here to tell you one way all this new hardware is is what’s going to help– by allowing you to use affordable technology to A/B test not websites, but physical space.
Ok, 101 lesson here: You can test websites right now, today, using a tiny piece of code that will tell you if people like one version of your site better than another. It’s called A/B testing. It’s simple. You probably knew this. If you didn’t, try Optimizely. It’s awesome.
So of course testing is important. But 12 months ago, I never would have believed what we can test inside of real space now.
Remember, software is eating the world. Sensors, electronics, and micro-controllers are getting smaller and smaller, which is why we can fit them inside objects in the first place.
And the most important thing all these sensors are interacting with now is your mobile phone.
Logging Points of Interest
Here’s how it works:
When you unlock the door and enter a Breather room, each sensor in the space says Hey! There’s someone here! and proceeds to watch your main points of interest.
Do you like to sit in a chair, or the couch? Are you getting work done at the desk? Are you lying down to take a nap? All this stuff and more is (anonymously) logged using RFID and Bluetooth.
What does this end up looking like? Well, it looks a little like a heatmap for space.
Why do we do this stuff? The same reason that Google provides you personalized search results: to give you the experience you want. Fundamentally, so you will use Breather more.
So after receiving thousands of customers, we’ll know– which books are being looked at, which way is the couch being used, what your favourite chair is, and more.
And as any growth hacker can tell you, data can help us give you a better experience, come back more often, and spend more time in our spaces.
The Future of Space Optimization
Decorating is an art right now. Thousands of years old. Fung shui, Philippe Starck, lots of other stuff is super vague and flowery.
So what “works” in design is really up to interpretation. In fact, physical design is a lot like advertising was in the Mad Men days— before testing, 50% of your ad spend was wasted, you just didn’t know which half.
But those days are slowly coming to an end. Sure, there’ll still be room for “creative,” but slowly, choices in decoration (especially in commercial space) are going to be replaced by rigorous testing, the same stuff we see in Lean Startup land. In retail, this already happens— we know that loud music inside clothing stores encourages people to buy more, for instance.
But our interaction with the customer has to be more subtle than that. Since there is no one in a Breather but you, we were forced to do it this way. But soon, because of our optimization process, other offices will be. After that, hotels. Then, who knows.
The point is this: cutting edge stuff is where all the profit happens. All the advantage, all the real benefit, happens while you are experimenting.
And where experimentation happens right now is with the Internet of Things.
And Breather isn’t alone in doing this. Large corporations like Deloitte have begun using the same technology, as have startups that use targeting for purposes like finding parking and sports video capture.
Trying new stuff is critical. You have to find it, and test it, soon. Because you need every edge you can get.