13 July 2010

Build Your Own App: Crisis Communications Game-Changer

So Google's open platform has sparked the next big innovation - Android operating system-based phone users will now be able to build their own mobile applications.   It's a great idea for consumers, who want to pick and choose the features they like. Google has a cute little video that shows you how easy it is to use. 

It's also enormously intimidating for those of us who practice issues management and crisis communications.

I saw this and immediately thought of what I wrote about the Good Guide mobile application:  
Now they've added a barcode scanning feature so you don't have to work your way through their lists to get the info you want right away. Nice time saver. So I tried it out on a box of cereal.

And I learned immediately that the company that made the cereal has "violated the Clean Water Act."

And then I realized it's just a matter of time before I'm going to learn if a company discriminates against gay people, or is a union buster, or has a CEO that denies climate change, or has a political action committee that gives only to Republicans, or has a slew of OSHA violations, or doesn't pay any taxes, or has another product that's being recalled - ALL AT THE POINT OF SALE.

The Android inventor labs already has a GPS feature, and a host of social network features.  If they don't have a barcode scanning feature - the video seems to suggest they do - I'm sure it will be added soon.  Google has also been working on a lot of image scanning and searching technology, so I wouldn't be surprised if you will soon be able to get a wealth of information about something immediately just by taking a picture of it.

So let's sum up - regular joes and janes will soon be able to go anywhere, scan any barcode or take a picture of anything, and access the news and databases - accurate or not - of their choice about the things and places around them.  Things like "there has been a rash of violent crime near this store" or "that place has a discrimination lawsuit filed against it" or "this product kills kittens" or anything else.

And they'll be able to share that instantly with people they know (or in the case of some Facebook friends, people they barely know.)  They'll be able to upload a blog post or a video of them talking about what they've just learned.   And that information will be shared several times over before any company has a chance to monitor it, let alone respond.

"Real time" just got more real. Maybe we should call it "surreal time."

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