where is my nearest Internet shop? (2000)

 Roger Frost’s column in ‘TV Technology and Production’ from when the Internet just started to get easy

Where is my nearest Internet shop? (March 2000)

While it is in the routine of columnists to get things wrong, I can safely predict that we will learn to speak a new language in the times ahead. We will visit ‘portals’, the Internet front pages that bring together offers of flights, news, and TV listings. Some of us will find ourselves a nice ‘vortal’, a vertical portal with a sharper focus on their market.

All of us will e-shop more as the attractions of free delivery and crowd-free Xmas shopping continue last seasons e-spree. Time will tell if e-Tailers will be able to enhance the current experience: while the majority of buyers say they prefer the net to malls and catalogues, some 88% of visitors abandon their shopping baskets due to out of stock items, sluggish responses, checkout surcharges or technical snags. So despite the allure of buying a new Mercedes – with all the extras please – on the Internet, most will at least remember to abandon that shopping basket before the checkout.

The final prediction, and one with ramifications is the growth of mobiles, PDA’s and anything wireless. Most people are likely to have a mobile phone before they have a PC, so the next generation of phones will allow them to access the Internet. They will be able to order goods and services, search for information and more. No longer tethered to the wall, the key to these services will be in a word, location. People want to know about a restaurant nearby, what’s showing at their local cinema – whether they are in Acapulco, Atlanta or Acton.

According to the Durlacher Mobile Commerce Report, Smartphones will become the standard mobile device from 2002 onwards. They will include a WAP (Wide Access Protocol) microbrowser, which enables wireless Internet access. Knowing the subscriber’s geographic position will facilitate location-based services, such as advertising, shopping, reservations and information provisioning.

The missing link will be to bring companies who provide the content together with geo-coded information, that makes use of the technology. Enter therefore whereonearth.com with its innovative, geo-coding technology – in short a digital, intelligent map of the world that will be vital to the new generation of mobile e-commerce, they are calling m-commerce.

A UK company, whereonearth.com holds the lead in making this possible – their products combine geography and the Internet to develop ‘spatially enabled directory services’. Among the clues to what this means are product names like GeoZip – a Java based global address decoder; GeoLocator – a “where is my nearest?” search engine and GeoData, the database map of the world.

Take a customer like LeisureHunt, a UK Internet accommodation service that uses your location to find anything from a large hotel to a small B&B. Found at portal sites like Yahoo!, VirginNet, SkyNow and ITN, you can search on location, price, or facilities. Adding whereonearth.com’s geographic search engine sorts the best matches to the top, automatically increasing the search radius if it doesn’t find enough nearby.

For marketing specialist Claritas, whereonearth.com provide a database of 2.5 million place names that brings together geography, postal data and boundary information for every country in the world. Fed with a list of customer accounts, the application not only analyses the business data by income, age and household size, but for the first time, by “where”. It charts their density on a map, turning data into a tool for refining customer relationships, supply chains and products. Understanding where customers are opens up new opportunities for increasing efficiency and adding value. It needs only a quick try of whereonearth.com’s web demo to see how it can determine where to place offices, depots and shops or where there are new markets to explore.

Steve Packard, CEO of whereonearth.com, states their case, “Every merchant on the Internet needs to know where its customers are, understand their specific requirements and fulfil their expectations in terms of service and physical product delivery if they are going to survive and become profitable.  whereonearth.com can enable a merchant to make informed decisions and deliver more value to their customers.  whereonearth.com brings the “Where” to the web and is a key piece in the m-commerce puzzle”.

3D surround smell:

And there’s more than spring in the air – as the latest piece of media to find its way across the Internet are the smells of roses, daffodils and maybe more. The company DigiScents will produce special ScentStream speakers that emit smells in response to instructions coded in RealNetworks streaming media. Coming to a nose near you, and described as “innovative and compelling” is aroma technology that web sites selling flowers will be queuing to offer. The plan is to launch the ISmell computer peripheral, and build it into websites, DVDs and games.

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