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March 19, 2012
By Carol Wallace
Director, External Communications

As I ran up the stairs to the USPS main office in midtown Manhattan at 7:00 pm on April 15, 1989, I vowed I’d never wait until the last minute again. I swore I’d be more organized at work so I could drop my 1040 form with all my tax information off at H&R Block weeks, nay months before it’s due next year.  As I whisked up the stairs to drop the tax return into the mail, a representative in a superhero costume took a bottle of aspirin out of a basket and handed it to me.  “Here, it’s for your Excedrin headache.” 
 
I burst out laughing. It stopped me in my tracks.  Excedrin met me right in the moment with the perfect punch line, brand sampling, and bonding moment that I still remember vividly more than 20 years later. 
 
That is the idea behind GeoFences. I just returned from hearing the voice from the future – Amber Case, a cyborg anthropologist and user experience designer, and keynote speaker at South By Southwest 2012.  As we mere muggles of 2012 wrestle with how to apply data to multi-channel customer communications, Case has leapfrogged to a day where data will be waiting for each of us as we arrive at specific locations.
 
Instead of asking dozens of queries each day of a handheld device (Where’s a restaurant? What time does the bookstore close? Where’s the closest restroom?), consumers may be calmly fed helpful and educational information. (The building to your left was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; I know you like Sushi, there’s a great spot around the corner; your friend Cindy was here last week and wants you to see the rose garden.)
 
It’s a subtle scavenger hunt that unfolds smart treasures.  It’s basically enhancing your natural physical experience rather than changing it by having you ask 20 questions. This evolution should reduce the intensity of millions of data points and messages being pushed to consumers each day. It will also be a part of a move toward “calm technology” that aligns more closely with our physical and intellectual activities.
 
Some of our technology developments have been a little disruptive to our natural states.  We need to revise our driving laws to accommodate new behaviors around handheld devices.  We worry about how our children are learning in an educational system that often ignores their new passions around gaming and interactivity.  We’ve changed the nature of where and when we work, and have reorganized global teams around powerful new communications and mobility tools.
 
Thanks to technology, we’ve seen an extreme and extremely accelerated transformation of our lives.  As our technology matures, we should return to more natural postures where we take time off from chasing data and facts and instead see the data meet us wherever we arrive. 
 
This next evolution is about technology better serving man rather than man keeping up with the newest devices and apps.  It should also include a return to our original upright positions.  Our recent stance -- hunched over our devices at work, in public and at home – will likely be only temporary. 
 
How will you find those great Excedrin moments for your brand in this new world?  Will you be the airline that allows seat selection from the taxi? Will you be the dentist who visits schools the day after Halloween?
 
Whatever the future holds, I hope you clear GeoFences with agility to continually meet and delight your customers upon arrival.