Scent Devices Integrated into our Everyday Life
Interactive Fragrance Technology
Description of Current Situation:
We have five senses- sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Each one of them is extremely important in our everyday life. We use at least one of them in every moment of the day and they are on duty even when we are asleep. They work together to let our brain know what is going on around us and to perceive everything. Some will help us keep safe by warning us about any danger, some will help us recognize people, memories, and more.
Each innovation targets one or more senses to be able to attract the customers and we as humans, are more attracted to the ones that we feel are more personalized and show us specific needs we are require to fulfill. Most of the products and services created focus on the sight, touch, sound or taste senses since they are the easiest to produce and design. However, smell has the power to evoke emotion, before we even logically think about it, because of the fact that olfactory substances impact directly with the limbic system in our brain (Future Morph, 2016). Therefore, it is a very hard sense to target since odor is something we are not particularly aware of, especially at a conscious level (Sung, 2015).
Even though smell has not been fully developed in the media and technology industry, there are several opportunities for the market to take advantage of this sense, especially due to two factors. First, the sense of smell is closely linked with memory. Smell can evoke particular memories that may lead to very positive thoughts in your mind. This can often happen spontaneously, where a smell acts as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten event or experience. Second, smell is highly emotive. The perfume industry is built around this connection, “with perfumers developing fragrances that seek to convey a vast array of emotions ad feelings; from desire to power, vitality to relaxation” (Fifth Sense, 2009).
On the other side, smell is extremely important when it comes to attraction between two people. It is likely that much of our emotional response to smell is ruled by association, which comes from the fact that different people have completely different perceptions of the same smell. This particular characteristic is something that has restrained the development of products that target the sense of smell. Some people may find a certain smell ‘powerful’; whiles other may find it ‘nauseating’ (Fifth Sense, 2009).
Currently, some companies have tried developing products and features that include and try to appeal the sense of smell. For instance, they created a wearable fragrance device that emits deodorizing scent when users begin to sweat, and they have called it digital deodorant. It features an activity sensor which responds to physical movement and when it feels a rise in temperature and moisture, the deodorant emits around the body a special fragrance by micro fans and it is even connected with GPS, which suggests the consumer different routes if the wearer is concerned about offending other people (Payne, 2015).
As well, Scentsory Design created a new vehicle to deliver scent from “smart clothing”. They created an olfactory keyboard that has the ability to choose from an entire palette of scents changing over time. They created a controllable scent bubble that is activated only by the wearer and it can be combined with biometric sensors that measure how you are feeling, where the clothes could distribute scents to cheer you up or reduce stress levels (Future Morph, 2016). Moreover, they have incorporated this technology into “smart jewelry” and connected fashion where they can embed into clothes and accessories this little scent bubbles working alongside sensors that track your feelings, heart rate and body odor. Furthermore, the bubbles can be programmable, customized and even in tune with music (Sung, 2015).
Additionally, companies have been working on adding the sense of smell into the media. For example, Scentee is a plug-in scent cartridge for the iPhone, which releases scents when users receive messages or calls or oNotes allows users to send scent messages through a standalone device (Payne, 2015). This type of technology adds a fourth dimension into what we know and use today, and creates a whole new experience for the users that makes them feel more emotionally connected to the products and the messages received.
Since each user has different preferences for smells, creating and obtaining fragrances suited to each one is extremely complex. A study made by Chuan-Yu (2014), investigated about the optimization of fragrance composition by using information technology related to fragrance. They used the method of IEC (Interactive Evolutionary Computation) to obtain good combinations of smells, where people were presented media contents and evaluate them subjectively by scoring or selecting. The users could manually adjust the intensity of each aroma in the composition of the presented fragrance when they wanted and then they would evaluate the fragrance (Chuan-Yu, 2014). With this method, marketers and product designers can create certain smells according to particular personalities and target each person differently according to their characteristics, likes, dislikes, demographics and psychographics.
Interactive fragrance technology has not been in place for long, due to technological restrictions. Hans Laube invented the first system that released odor in 1950 and it was called Smell-O-Vision, which emitted scents through air-conditioning systems of a theatre so that the viewer could “smell” what was happening in the movie (Variety, 1959). There was not enough emphasis on developing technologies that would target this sense, since most people look for products they can see or touch or taste, since those are senses that we can consciously perceive. However, marketers have now seen a trend of smell inspired products and this is a huge opportunity for media companies to take advantage from.
According to the C-scape, we have now shifted in marketing from the 4 P’s (product, price, placement and promotion) to the 4 C’s (consumer, cost, convenience and communication). C-Scape is a “world where consumers, not producers and marketers, make the choices; where content not distribution is king; where curation becomes a primary currency of value; and were convergence continues to revolutionize every part of every business” (Kramer, 2010).
In this case, consumers do not particularly express the need of smell driven products, but unconsciously, smells trigger several thoughts and actions in us that make us feel more connected towards our surroundings. The convenience of products that target smell is enormous since you can completely experience a memory or a moment or a place with this technology without having to be in the exact place, due to the fact that smell evoked emotion and transports you to places that your mind has engraved in it. Finally, it is an interactive technology that is personalized to the consumer’s needs and wants, which creates a two-way communication between the buyer and the seller.
Prediction of the new trend:
Nowadays, when we are consuming media through traditional and non-traditional channels, we constantly want to change channels in the TV if there is an ad, or we want to flip the page in a magazine or we add ad-blockers to our Internet devices. I think the reason behind this is that we are already bored of what we see. Maybe the Super Bowl advertisings really interest us because marketers would think for a year of a good ad that will captivate people’s attention, but the rest is already known to us. However, imagine if we are watching a TV show at 2pm on a cold Saturday and suddenly you smell a scent of soup that reminds you of your grandmother’s soup. At that instance, you do not want to change the channel, you just want to keep smelling it and buying the soup the TV is trying to sell you and this, is the next trend that will be coming to media.
Since companies are already developing products that incorporate smell, my prediction is that the next trend will be that every medium –Television, radio, smartphones, tablets, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality devices, videogame consoles…- will come with a device that will spread scents to the users.
The future of interactive media incorporates big data, where marketers, advertisers and product designers will have universal data to create products for unique users, there is the fact that now the audience are “on the go” and you can target them at every moment of their day and there would be screens everywhere. With these changes, scent can influence and impact each of them in a way that media consumption will increase drastically.
My prediction of this trend is that the media, in any way, will make users feel something they have not felt before. It will bring up memories from the past, it will evoke emotions and feelings, which will create loyalty towards brands and a different connection that has not been seen. The trend may be used in various ways. For instance, it could be a great technology used for teaching. While students may not feel connected to certain topics, by using Virtual Reality devices that combine a digital display with small fans that direct an emitted odor to a specific spot in the screen will make students really feel the past and be connected to it as well, which creates a greater impact.
When talking about the Six Supertrends described by Edward Cornish in his book “Futuring: The Exploration of the Future”, the prediction of the trend is connected to four of the six Supertrends: technological progress, economic growth, improving health and increasing mobility.
Technological progress includes all the improvements being made in computers, medicine, transportation and other technologies that enable human achieve their purposes more effectively (Cornish, 2004). Including the sense of smell into the media will have a great impact on how we perceive technological today and it means a massive progress in what technological devices can emit and create for users.
Thanks to the technological advance, people will want to know-how to produce goods and services that incorporate smell, as well as consume them, which will have a great consequence in the economy. People will want to create and consume this technology. Moreover, the perception and consumption of the media will transform as well, since people will want to experience this in their homes, in their work, in their leisure activities and will raise the economy as well.
Furthermore, as I mentioned above, scent can be used for several purposes, and one of them may be to decrease stress levels in people. It may happen through any device, but the emission of certain smells can change a person’s mood completely and can calm them for better performance in school, work or in their everyday life. This means there would be an improvement in health with this trend.
Although the supertrend of increasing mobility talks about how people, goods and information has quickly moved from place to place and in greater quantity, it could also refer to the fast translation of smell. With the use of vehicles or mediums like the television, radio, Internet, mobile phones and others, smells can be transported easily to everybody from sending a love message with the person’s favorite scent, to creating an ad in the radio that smells like your favorite pizza flavor.
Prescription/Scenario of the new trend:
The new smell and scent trend will surround us everywhere we go and will be extremely immersive. I will explain how it will impact people by giving an example of a day in the life of a person and how this trend will influence everybody. You put an alarm in your smartphone to wake up and go to work. You wake up with the smell of your favorite coffee to wake up inspired and motivated. You did not have time to eat breakfast so you are expecting to have breakfast at your office. While you are in your car listening to some music, and an ad of a new yogurt comes up and you can smell how the yogurt tastes with fresh strawberries and you cannot wait and stop at a convenient store on your way to work to buy this yogurt. At work, you are a little bored and you go into Facebook an see a picture of your mother and father (and since you already customized on the Internet your parent’s most-used perfume), a smell of that perfume comes out of the laptop and you decide to call them since you miss them a lot. After work your car perceives high levels of stress from sensors adapted to the car seats, therefore they release lavender perfume from the small ventilators that help you calm your nerves. Finally, you arrive home and you are scrolling through your Instagram feed and you encounter with an ad of your favorite pizza and suddenly you are very hungry, so you decide to order the plate through the app.
The entire way in which you experience advertising, social media, places, your surroundings and much more will change. You will be conscious about the smells and what do they provoke in you. With this new trend, the C-scape mentioned before is also affected since consumers will want to always experience and perceive scents at every moment and situation. The convenience will be great since people will have it all the time and everywhere through every device they have. As well, users will be able to customize at their homes, their own favorite smells for their photographs and paintings for example and be able to remember certain scents that arouse important emotions. Moreover, users are looking for more and more interactivity between companies and the users and amplifying the experience with an extra dimension, which will create a greater interaction and communication between the buyer and the seller. How Edward Cornish (2004) would call this scenario is the Optimistic Scenario, where the trend will create a better future.
The Continuation Scenario will be that the trend will continue without much change, where users will only experience the sense of smell directly from people or food or surroundings, but this cannot be sent or perceived through devices. People will not be able to remember their grandparents’ smells through photographs, and would not be able to taste in their mouth new dishes at their favorite restaurants through advertisement.
On the other side, a third scenario could be the Pessimistic Scenario could be that smells bring up exceedingly negative memories in people that they really want to forget and those can have traumatic consequence. Sometimes, people, places or memories are hidden in our subconscious and we want them to stay there, and the interactive fragrance technology trend could have negative results on people. Moreover, as mentioned before, people have various tastes in smells and while ones may enjoy some smells, others can feel disgust towards them, creating undesirable outcomes as well.
Current media companies will have to adapt quickly to this trend and be up to date to be able to provide users with the best experience. For instance, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, Wii and other videogame consoles will have to incorporate smells and scents in their games and ads. This way, users will have an immersive and captivating experience while playing the games and really feel as they are in the place of the character. Also, websites like Yelp that provide reviews about restaurants will have to add this technology for people to be able to taste the food through their olfactory sense to be able to figure out what they want to order or where should they go to eat. Another example could be adding interactive fragrance technology into smart TV’s and make companies only create ads with scents to transmit their message in television commercials and make them more interesting so people do not skip these as they do nowadays.
With the implementation of this new trend, new media companies will appear as well. Most likely, the companies will come from the industry of fragrance since they already have the expertise on smells and creation of scents, specially the chemical engineers who work with them. I think that what will happen is that there will be major partnerships between media companies with fragrance companies to create alliances between them and create media companies that solely focus on smell advertisement.
The opportunities that this industry provides are infinite. There is not much development done until now, however, it is a field in which advertising companies can start concentrating on to be able to attract more consumers and fully immerse them into storytelling. Nevertheless, there may be some problems they will encounter during the journey, especially with technology constraints. Moreover, sometimes having so much information combined into smell, it can create scents that do not reflect what advertisers and media companies want to display, or they may not be well accepted by the public, since it is something so new and uncommon.
Additionally, there may be ethical issues surrounding this new trend. The main issue that comes up to my mind is copyright restrictions. How different can pizza smells be? How can Pizza Dominos be differentiated with Pizza Hut in a radio ad that emits pizza scent into your car? Companies would start creating a “scent trademark” that would be very hard to distinguish if there was copyright or not. Furthermore, companies will not be able to know for sure the users’ perception and how each person captures each smell. Some scents may cause allergic reactions or extremely negative memories to appear and companies will have lawsuits that will be difficult to win.
In my opinion, the most important factor that would make this trend not to occur would be if users do not show any need or interest towards this technology, or do not accept it in their daily life. If there is not a positive reaction from consumers, the trend will fade away. Although my prediction may not entirely happen, I am positively sure that the sense of smell will be more developed in a few years. Users will be able to customize fragrances and send it through mobile devices to their peers, and smell will be used for marketing and advertising in several ways to create another dimension for the consumer experience.
Cornish, E. (2004). Futuring: The Exploration of the Future. Bethesda, MD: World Future Society.
Interactive Fragrance Technology - Future Morph. (2016). Retrieved December 03, 2016, from http://www.futuremorph.org/my-future-finder/fashion-textiles/interactive-fragrance-technology/
Kramer, L. (2010). C-scape: Conquer the forces changing business today. New York:Harper Business.
Payne, L. (2015). Google's Fragrance Wearable | Stylus | Innovation Research & Advisory.Retrieved December 03, 2016, from http://www.stylus.com/fqjwfw
Psychology and Smell – Fifth Sense. (2009). Retrieved December 03, 2016, from http://www.fifthsense.org.uk/psychology-and-smell/Scent of Mystery. (1959). Variety, 15-17.
Sung, D. (2015). Biometrics to blow your mind: The sensors at the heart of our wearable future. Retrieved December 03, 2016, from http://www.wareable.com/wearable-tech/biometrics-blow-your-mind-sensors-wearable-future-776