Introducing: chaining

Posted on 14/12/2012


You’ve of course realised that this not a new word, just a new meaning. But stick with me on this.

Years ago, I used to spend a lot of time in boats. Rowing boats, huge 30 foot long 8 man water-vehicles. They were awkward to steer, but when everyone pulled together they moved like lightening.

If all 8 people found a rhythm and stuck with it, something called “chaining” occurred. The back person (stroke)’s oar would connect with the puddle created by the guy at the front of the boat (bow), forming a chain. Essentially, where the first   guy in the boat finished, the last guy started off. (See photo)

My new definition of chaining is as follows: synchronicity and connectivity between multiple electronic devices or screens. In my mind, this is a current challenge for tech companies, software manufacturers and marketers.

Here are a couple of user journeys:

Food shopping
Short of time, you scan a few websites for a recipe. In-store, you have your phone/kindle/ watch bring up the recipe and check though the list to make sure you’ve got everything. You even check the webcam / contents list of your fridge through this to be certain you’ve still got milk.

This idea whole idea started in Tescos. The store near me has just included out a recipe picker touchscreen near the entrance. Browse for inspiration, then fire off a text/ email shopping list to yourself that you can follow in-store.

Travelling is all about experiences. These experiences are created by and based on information (recommendations, weather forecasts, directions, etc.) Currently this information is scattered all over the place: in printed and digital guide books, websites, mobile apps, printed leaflets and tourist information offices.

Not so with chaining. From an internet cafe in Bali you browse available day trips and last minute offers. You book a hotel for the night and share a map of the location with your phone. You also add a few extra sights into your itinerary builder app and ask your friends what they think. None of it requires wires or roaming charges- its just a case of passing information from one screen to another.

You’re off to meet you friend on the other side of town. However, you don’t want to miss out on the film you were watching before you left the house. Chaining means you can pause the film on your TV and pick up where you left off from your phone/ tablet.

As we buy more gadgets, we’re going to expect more from all of them. Fewer people will be happy with plugging-in to synchronise. There will be less of a “parent; slave” (desktop; mobile) relationship  between devices and instead we’ll expect them all to cooperate, almost acting like one device. We know it’s possible – it’s happening already – and because of this, we’re going to expect it even more.

So sharpen your software, plug-in your services and soup-up your comms, because our expectations just jumped. We’re entering an era of everything everywhere.