If you see someone talking to a lamppost, they're not crazy, just from the future
A view from Russell Davies

If you see someone talking to a lamppost, they're not crazy, just from the future

Warning! I'm going to bang on about the Internet of Things again. I'm sorry, but there it is. I'll tell you why at the end. But, for now, I want you to say Hello and Goodnight to a lamppost and a lamp.

The Good Night Lamp is a project live on Kickstarter right now. It’s a "family of connected lamps that lets you communicate the act of coming back home to your loved ones, remotely". You buy a set of lamps, they’re shaped like the iconic houses your kids would draw and there’s a big one and a set of smaller ones. And when you switch the big one on, or off, the small ones go on and off too – wherever they are in the world. So you can give them to a loved one going off on their travels or living on the other side of the planet and they’ll get a sense of ambient connection to the rhythm of your life. Quiet, simple, easy. It is clever networked technology, but it feels gentle and domestic. Google it – there’s a splendid video that will give you the idea.

There’s a long tradition of ‘bringing the product to life’ in advertising; now it’s starting to happen in the world

Hello Lamp Post is a "playable city" project that’s going to be happening in Bristol in the summer. It’s going to exploit the fact that every lamppost, bollard, bench and storm drain in Bristol has a unique code on it and it’s going to make those objects "addressable" via social media. They’ll ask you questions via your phone, those questions will turn into conversations and those conversations will turn into a radio station you can listen to. It’s a fascinating alternative to the usual smart city rhetoric – rather than augmenting everything with displays and making everything report on its status, it gives the ubiquitous objects in the city little playful lives and identities of their own.

Why should you care? Because this is a great place for an advertising imagination to merge with product design. There’s a long and noble tradition of "bringing the product to life" in advertising; now it’s starting to happen in the world. Now, be careful – don’t go off half-cocked. This stuff isn’t easy yet and early adopters will make mistakes. But keep your eye on this area, do some experiments. It’s going to get interesting.

Russell Davies is a creative director at Government Digital Services