Some leather shops in Dharavi have found a novel mode of marketing, thanks to a project by the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B).
The shops can send notifications promoting their products to passers-by along the leather market, between Sion station and the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC).
Around 11 of the 150 leather shops have joined the ‘physical web’ created by an IIT team and another 19 are in the pipeline. Physical Web is a pilot project chosen by Google for the Internet of Things Technology Research Award.
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The stores are connected to the web through ‘beacons’, a technology officially to be launched by 2019, given by Google. The Industrial Design Centre (IDC) of the IIT has placed the beacons in the shops. While currently the beacons send signals up to a distance of 30 feet, they are capable of sending signals up to 60 feet.
Any smartphone user can switch on bluetooth and location in the device to receive notifications from the shops and browse through the products sold inside. No external application is required to browse.
Chinmay Parab, a second year M. Des student from the Interaction Design wing of IDC, said the aim of the project was to see how people react to a new technology. “We also aim to bridge the barrier between availability of technology and those who don’t have access to it,” said Parab.
The other aim is to turn Dharavi into a digital hub. According to Parab, the team zeroed in on Dharavi after studying the people — termed emergent users — for over a year.
“We study the recent users of technology. We noted a new pattern in the area with respect to technology adaptation and adoption. The small-scale manufacturers and business owners were adaptive to technology,” he said.
The self-sustained informal economy of the area made it ideal for the pilot project.
Currently the team is studying the reaction of the market to the physical web.
“Every technology is created for a specific target, which should be able to afford the technology.”
“We are trying iteration of the technology and observing whether this needs people to adapt themselves to it or whether people can simply adopt the technology,” said Parab.
A report will be shared with Google, too, and the team is hopeful of a follow-up grant.
The project is a collaborative effort of the IDC and Swansea University, UK.