Here’s something I read about about a year ago but got to see up close and personal while down in South By Southwest: the Smart Wallet.  Out of MIT’s Media Lab, these wallets are linked to the the spending plan set in your online bank account and become harder to open the closer you are to breaking the bank.  Check it out:

With the wallet itself facing extinction (NFC baby!), the marketplace for this specific technology may be limited, but the implications run deeper.  Consumer Joe thinks of a world run by advanced technologies and sees Minority Report, yet the minds at MIT see something, well, like what you already see.  They see touchscreens in our windows or walls that warm when they sense we’re cold.  They feel technology should not intrude, but blend in, offering benefits that make our lives easier.

This is an important distinction for marketers to grasp.  Technology in and of itself does not necessarily present a great experience.  Just because you have the brand new thing doesn’t mean you have the consumer’s heart.  True connections are made when what the tool does is more important than what the tool is;  when a dumpy wallet with a brain is more captivating than 62 inch touch screen without one.

This smart wallet looks like little more than a regular wallet, but the technology inside is contributing something to enhance it, to provide a distinction from all the other wallets out there.  This is how technology should be used to engage with a consumer: providing something that – above all else – helps them.