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The Zombies That Killed Apps and Created New Content

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It won't be long before you're surrounded by zombies. Everywhere you turn they'll be there, determined in their efforts to get a piece of you. I'm not referring to the shambling, brain-hungry, rotting-meat-on-legs zombies, spawned from George A Romero's imagination - instead, these are Scott Jenson's zombie devices.

Jenson, creative director at innovative design company frog, has predicted that we're about to be inundated by a whole bunch of smart - or zombie - products that leverage the lowering price of microprocessors and utilise RFID chips to pump out app related content. Movie posters with related apps; medication bottles with related apps; bus stops with apps; supermarket apps; school apps; apps, apps, apps. Apps. All of these zombies, single-mindedly pumping out apps that you need to download before you can access the content. But are apps the best way for brands to communicate with users through these products?

If you're a brand, is it better to hold a conversation with your customers when they want to talk to you, or make them wait? The movie-goer standing near a poster having to download an app in order to see the trailer, or the commuter waiting at the bus stop having to download the app to get the bus times - apps have their place, but are they necessarily the right content platform for these devices?

One possible solution is just-in-time (JIT) interaction. It's a concept currently being championed by Jenson, who believes it's the solution to the increasing rise of app glut - a term he gives to the state mobile users find themselves in when forced into a perpetual mission of spring-cleaning their phones and tablets, uninstalling redundant and unwanted apps, and installing new ones. It's this constant state of management that's counter-intuitive to the essence of the agile, mobile devices we're using.

With JIT interaction, smart devices will be able to broadcast their names into the world around them and communicate and connect with other smart devices, creating a near instantaneous user experience. You can access the content you need to without downloading an app. It's just there, ready and waiting for users. You just check your mobile to see which smart devices you want to connect with in the nearby vicinity, look at its content and that's it.

And within that realm there are opportunities to produce some innovative and exciting new forms of digital content. Jenson believes the content will be carried over simple web pages, but this seems to go against the whole mobile device experience. It's almost going back to the old way of thinking, where traditional ways of working were applied to new digital formats in the hope that they would work the same way - advertising, video, publishing. Why not provide content experiences that take advantage of mobile devices, leveraging augmented and annotated reality, geo-optimisation and other mobile-centric goodness?

And if the easily accessible content available through JIT platforms lends itself to being simplistic, immediate and somewhat disposable, should it be the end of the user's experience? What if they want to delve deeper? As with any new format, the foundations get laid and the content evolves and become more sophisticated with time. But perhaps this new content could have calls to action to draw the user in further, make them go deeper once they have the opportunity to do so, creating two very different but connected experiences.

Whatever shape the content takes, Jenson's point about the need for a different kind of interaction between smart devices and mobile devices is something that brands and content producers should start seriously thinking about. And if a new kind of content is created through our interaction with zombie devices, let's make sure it's as immersive, relevant and user-friendly as possible.