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Matchmaking Device path to market


Executive Summary

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The Project

Nowadays, in the digital era, people can extend their social networks beyond their geographical area. A great number of online communities that satisfy various social needs have appeared on the Internet space. Moreover, telecommunication technology offers individuals the possibility to maintain contact over unlimited distances. Currently, an interesting merger between Internet and wireless technology is taking shape. Not only can people get in contact by using wireless devices while being mobile, but they can also get notice about the whereabouts of their acquaintances, using wireless devices with integrated geographical locators (like GPS for example), or Bluetooth technology. Nevertheless, low-cost wireless technology can also allow individuals that share similar interests to meet in the most diverse places. This is what the Matchmaking Device System is all about.This invention combines wireless technology and Internet into a very low-cost device, and enables individuals in densely populated resorts, at large gatherings, in nightclubs, in densely populated urban settings, etc., to be aware of nearby individuals sharing similar interests, and to decide to meet them based on their compatibility.

The Matchmaking Device matches two persons according to a set of criteria. It can take any shape or form, and has a built-in low-cost electronic device with short-range communication capability. It signals the compatibility between two users, whenever their Matchmaking Devices come into their range of communication. These Matchmaking Devices can be used in social events like singles parties for example, in which case they can take the form of drinking glasses, bracelets, buttons, etc., and the compatibility refers to interpersonal relationships. They can also be used on tourist resorts, cruises, clubbing areas, and other places where there are an important number of individuals looking to socialize or exchange ideas with others that share similar interests. Used in combination with any type of organization that can constitute an online community, this type of device brings this virtual community into real life.

Background

This project was first initiated by Tibi, Ian and Yvette, on the Discovery Network platform, the precursor of the Open Value Network platform. See original website.

Presentation of the product and example applications

The Matchmaking Device System is a very low-cost proximity sensor with matchmaking capabilities. It can be used to improve social interaction, and to enrich the experience of individuals in a specific social event. It can also be used in the context of open value network for access to resources (granting agents access to dedicated spaces and equipment based on their skills and credentials . Its most important characteristics are:
  • Awareness of the presence of strangers that share similar interests within a reduced spatial area.
  • Indication of the matching probability or compatibility between these strangers.
  • Wide domain of application due to the general definition of matching probability or compatibility. It is able to match any set of human interests or characteristics: it can be used in dating events, in scientific reunions, in schools, on tourist resorts, in densely populated urban settings, research and production environments, etc.
  • A computer does all the data processing, freeing the Matchmaking Device from this task. This makes the MD a very low-cost device.
  • For its use in specific social events, this helps to overcome the problem of the critical mass associated with other technologies used for social interaction, and intended for use in the general population. Considering its low cost, the device can be distributed to all participants of a specific event.

The Matchmaking Device is designed to be fun to use, simple to manipulate, easy to interpret, and reliable. Considering other similar products already on the market, the Matchmaking Device System is unique in many ways:

  • In order to fulfill their purpose, products in this category must be distributed to a large number of individuals to generate a practical probability level of encounters. This is one of the biggest hurdles that this type of device faces when it is introduced to the market: to attain the critical mass. For its application in specific social contexts, where, due to its low cost, it can be distributed at once to all the participants. This makes this product unique in its category!
  • As opposed to other products, the Matchmaking Device System is not primarily marketed for the general population, although use in the general population is possible and easy to implement once the product becomes known. The targeted customer is an enterprise that offers services to large groups of people at once (nightclubs, tourist resorts, party organizers, etc.).This product would be used to augment their services, and to enrich the experience of their clients. The Matchmaking Device System adds value to the services of these enterprises, and for some of them it can become an important or even an indispensable item.
  • The general definition of matching probability or compatibility makes this product very versatile; it can adapt to a great variety of applications with no need to modify its hardware. That allows a great diversification with little investment.

Potential users of the Matchmaking Device System are also interested in the long-term expectations of this product. Our preliminary market study shows that the most promising application is in the dating industry (see the following section). We recommend this specific market for the first introduction of the Matchmaking Device System. The target costumers in this case are nightclubs, singles party organizers, web-based enterprises offering dating services, tourist resorts, cruise ships, etc. The Matchmaking Device System ads value to the services offered by these enterprises operating in these industries, by enhancing the experience of their customers, which are also users of this product. Once we get a feedback from the market, the Matchmaking Device can be adapted for a variety of other applications, with no modifications required for the hardware, and only minor software adaptations. It can be used in schools to match students with similar academic interests, in scientific meetings to match the attendants, in densely populated urban areas for the general population, etc. On the other hand, the modular structure of its electronics permits easy improvements additions of new features. The Matchmaking Device System offers us the opportunity for market growth by product development and diversification. It shows all the signs for a bright future.

There is a fundamental pattern of human behavior in social contexts that transcends culture. In the mean time, we all agree that social interaction, individual interests, and the expectations that one has from a stranger, are all modulated by the cultural background. Considering the ability of the Matchmaking Device System to adapt to a great variety of applications with only minor software adaptations, this makes this product universal; it can be sold on the entire planet. 

The Matchmaking Device System offers great competitive advantages. First, there is no other equivalent product on the market. Second, there is a huge and diverse market for it. Third, it can be produced at a very low cost. Forth, it overcomes the problem of the critical mass. Sixth, in can be easily diversified. 

Can we approximate how many Matchmaking Devices can be sold and at what price? Judging on the success of Lovegety, a social interaction gadget introduced in Japan (350,000 sold in the first two months, 25$ apiece), we can safely say that people are willing to pay between 10 and 20 $ for a Matchmaking Device. Dating events organizers, nightclubs, tourist resorts, cruise ships, are willing to pay from 5 to 10 $ apiece and include it in their service packages. The volume can be approximated from the market size.

More about applications

The MDs can be used in social contexts where people are looking to enter in communication with others that share similar interests. It can help initiate communication and enrich the interaction between people by signaling their compatibility. Their application can be restricted to a confided spatial area, or it can be deployed on an extended spatial area. 

Used in an extended spatial area

In one possible realization, the MDs would be used on tourist resorts. The compatibility between two users could be signaled through a combination of sound and light. The MD could be a bracelet that people carry around in eateries, in clubs, at the beach, or other populated areas of the resort. Whenever two similar MDs come within the range of communication, they exchange their own profile category, and they signal the presence of a user carrying the same type of MD by emitting a sound. The matching probability is signaled simultaneously through a color code. The range of communication is variable and the user can control it. The sound alarm makes the MD fun to use as both users could hear it. It could also take the form of a button, a necklace, or other type of object that suits this type of application. Other combinations of light, sound, and/or vibration can be used to signal the matching probability. The MD can also be used on cruises, clubbing areas, or other places where people are looking to socialize with others that share similar interests. It can be used in combination with any type of organization that can constitute a virtual community, organizations that offer dating services to the general public for example, bringing that virtual community into real life. The user can make his/her profile on a terminal at specific locations, or over the Internet. The MD can be uploaded with the user’s information at specific locations, or directly on his/her personal computer. The MD’s can be given for free to users, they can be included in a package of services, or they can be sold individually with other interesting accessories.


Used in a confined spatial area

In one possible realization, the MDs would be used at singles parties. The matching probability is an indication of the compatibility of two persons with respect to interpersonal relationships. The compatibility is signaled to the users via a color code. The MD could be a drinking glass. Whenever two similar glasses come within the range of communication, when clinking glasses for example, they exchange their own profile category, and they signal the compatibility by lighting the corresponding color. The range of communication of these glasses would be short in order to be able to identify, without any ambiguity, which glass’ signal one particular glass has picked up. The gesture of clinking glasses is a common behavior of individuals in the context of a social event where drinks are consumed. This gesture, so natural in western societies, can be used as a pretext to approach two glasses to enter in communication, and to signal the compatibility between the two users. The MD could also take the form of a bracelet, a button, or other type of object that suits this type of social event. The hand shaking is a common behavior when individuals first meet. If the MD is a bracelet, this gesture, so natural in western societies, can be used as a pretext to approach the two bracelets to enter in communication, and to signal the compatibility between the two users. Other combinations of light, sound, and/or vibration can be used to signal the matching probability. The MD can also be used on cruises, clubs, casinos, or other places where an important number of people are looking to socialize with others that share similar interests. It can be used in combination with any type of organization that can constitute a virtual community, organizations that offer dating services to the general public for example, bringing that virtual community into real life. The user can make his/her profile on a terminal at specific locations, or over the Internet. The MD can be uploaded with the user’s information at the location where the Matchmaking Device System is in use.


The Matchmaking Device System can find applications in different industries.

  • Air, rail, water, scenic and sightseeing transportation (NAICS: 481, 482, 483, 487)
  • Educational services (NAICS: 611)
  • Amusement gambling and recreation (NAICS: 713)
  • Accommodation (NAICS: 721)
  • Food services and drinking places (NAICS: 722)
  • Dating services (NAICS: 8129902)

It appears that the Dating market is the most promising for the introduction of the Matchmaking Device System. 

The Air Industry has already considered matching their customers according to their interests, and profession. They enrich the experience of their passengers by offering them the possibility to choose a seat next to a person of interest. One good example is Airtroductions.com. Flyers matchmaking constitutes a positive spin to the painful experience of being trapped into the seat for hours at the time, next to a stranger that might even be unfriendly. The Matchmaking Device System can be adapted for the air travel industry, and distributed by carriers to all passengers. The demand is real, as demonstrated by the success ofAirtroductions.com.

The Matchmaking Device System can be introduced in schools to match students with similar academic interests. Signs of a need for tools intended to improve social interaction in the academic environment are already visible (a good example is  Workshoplive.com). The Matchmaking Device System can be adapted to suit the needs of students as well as those of the schools administrators. It can be designed to match students not only based on academic interests, but also integrating all sorts of interests related to after school activities, sports, music, etc. The school administrators can find this product very attractive as the MD Locator (part of the Matchmaking Device System) gives them the possibility to monitor and to control student behaviors and orientations.

It is also easy to imagine applications in the Amusement Gambling and Recreation Industry. Making new contacts can interest individuals that attend amusements and recreation facilities. The Matchmaking Device System can enhance the experience of Disneyland’s visitors. 

The Accommodation Industry looks even more promising. More and more people travel for business, and some of them travel a lot, and alone. Sometimes, their hotel room becomes a cell of solitude. Some hotels have sensed the problem and help lonely customers to find a partner for sport activities, for diner, or simply for a nice conversation at the lounge. SoHo Metropolitan Hotel offers “Solo at the Soho Met” a service that pairs up guests for shopping, sporting events, theatre and sightseeing. The Matchmaking Device System adapted to this application can be a great solution to this growing problem. The hotel could distribute a Matchmaking Device with the room key, and in conjunction with their already existing matchmaking systems, the Matchmaking Device would enables spontaneous encounters with a match-person in the elevator, at the lobby, at the bar, or in the morning during breakfast. The accommodation industry has already considered the matchmaking solution to a growing problem, showing that there is place for this Matchmaking Device System.

The industry of Food Services and Drinking Places is the closest one to the dating industry. People go out in nightclubs to socialize. That is their primary goal when they decide to pay over 10$ cover charge just to enter a nightclub. An event where socializing is the main scope is home to social interaction devices. A great numbers of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, are very keen to use them. The Matchmaking Glass System was designed precisely for this kind of application. For applications in the Food Services and Drinking Places Industries, the Matchmaking Device System is purchased directly by actors in this industry.

This brings us to the Dating Industry. Dating organizations, have a database of singles that are profiled and matched to other singles. From there, a very complex network of dating activities expands. Some of these activities remain technology-mediated, or somehow virtual: chatting and video-chatting, emailing, talking on the phone, sending pictures, etc. Others reach into the real live: dining, dancing, meeting in a bar or in a coffee place, going to see a movie, taking a walk in a park, playing a favorite sport, and even going in organized tours and vacations for singles. The Dating Industry reaches into the Food Services and Drinking Places Industry, Accommodation Industry, Recreation Industry, and even the Travel Industry. All real live dating events are home for social interaction devices. Dating events organizers are keen to use different strategies to make people interact, and members of dating communities appreciate all the fun things that make them better connect with others. For applications in the Dating Industry, the Matchmaking Device System is distributed by the dating company to social event organizers, to be used at their specific locations. The Matchmaking Device can be custom-designed for the dating company licensing this product-idea. It puts the dating company in the middle of the party. It facilitated its connection with real life social events, without any direct involvement in the organization of such events, by partnering with those that do it best: club owners, singles parties organizers, actors in the tourist industry, etc. If well orchestrated and well designed, the Matchmaking Device has the potential to make giant waves, and become the “coolest” social interaction gadget. Working with the user's Internet-based profiling and matchmaking systems, it will draw people to their websites. If everybody at the party has it, everyone will want it! This is the perfect product that will intensify members’ activity, increase conversion, and at the same time improve retention and reduce churn. It will do that by pooling users to their dating websites, by enhancing the dating experience, and by improving interactivity and the sense of community. Furthermore, social event organizers are also drawn to their websites, as they try to reach members of your online communities, who are at the same time their clients.


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Industry Analysis

Dating industry

The dating industry offers products and services that help individuals in their search for long-term, romantic, and sexual partners. Dating is a very complex social activity, and should be understood from a psychological and sociological perspective. A product or a service offered by a dating company increases in value if it takes into account the whole complexity of the dating activity. It should respond to the needs of individuals that are engaging in dating, and these needs transcend the sphere of online dating.

The industry went from brick and mortar dating companies and independent matchmakers, newspapers ads, phone dating, and life singles events (speed dating, singles parties, etc) to Internet dating, as the technology made it possible. Online dating entered the scene, which is a new form of dating service that concentrates only on online dating events. Soon, almost all the new possibilities introduced by the Internet technology were implemented, harvesting various forms of expression and presentation, and means of communication. At this moment, companies operating only online are realizing that dating is not just an Internet business that should be run by an IT staff. To succeed in the future one needs to be specialized and to understand marital, romantic and sexual relations. The computer should be viewed only as a tool, and the Internet based services should be regarded as part of a broader experience that extends into the real life. At the same time, actors in the traditional offline dating understood the power of the technology, and begun to integrate it with their own services. The future is the integration of online dating and the traditional dating models. The distinction online/offline dating will fade away, as they become part of a whole integrated service. Specialists in human relations, and life dating events organizers constitute a crucial element in the dating business.

The Right One and Together Dating, the largest brick and mortar company providing dating services is now offering online services by introducing eLove.com. The arrival of the Internet opened new possibilities that could be applied for dating purposes, but it did not replaced the need for in-person assistance of matchmakers, and for singles events organizers. It seems that a well-integrated hybrid model is the most promising one, as it overcomes the limitations of both, only online dating, and only offline dating. Users can access a very large database of singles, browse very complete profiles, use very sophisticated automated matchmaking systems, and contact other users under the veil of anonymity; all in a secure environment that reduces misrepresentation. The same users can also get individual and personal assistance and guidance in their quest for love. Companies that operate only online will not disappear completely, whereas these operating with the hybrid model, and that can make a profit from it, are poised to gain market share.

The other important component of the dating business is real life dating events. A singles party, for example, offers a very different kind of environment, where people interact with one another in a natural way. Speed dating, singles vacations, It's Just LunchAirtroductions.comDateAGolfer.com, etc. are examples of a hybrid model between online and/or offline dating and social event organizing.

As we mentioned above, dating is a very complex activity. Companies in this industry have to find a way to address issues from each dimension of this complex problem. Elegant solutions have been implemented, ones that don’t require large investments. A very good example is the association between Match.com and ClubMed. In this context, the Matchmaking Device System presents itself as a very clever way to connect online services with life social events. It enables online dating companies to develop a vast network of relations with social events organizers, because the Matchmaking Device System presents itself as a valuable tool for both parties. Furthermore, it connects users (daters present at the social event) to the dating company in a direct manner, and it puts the dating company at the center of the live dating event.

We also have to realize that the informal dating segment represents more then 60% of the real market. Less then 40% of single and looking Internet users in the U.S. are using dating websites. This means that more then 60% of Internet users, which are at the same time singles and looking, search for love in real life social events, through their social network, around their workplace, at the church, etc. Dating companies have to find ingenious ways to tape this vast reservoir, and to bring daters who don’t use their services to their websites. To reach daters, companies rely mostly on traditional marketing techniques, but other non-conventional methods can be much more efficient. The Matchmaking Device is present at life social events where daters are in action, and this is the perfect moment to present them with other dating alternatives, as their attention is focused on dating.

If you're shooting to become one of the mega-brands in the online space, I believe you need, aside from a major marketingbudget, a very innovative approach to community that will solve some specific problems that even the large communities face” (Michael Jones founder and CEO of Userplane, a leading provider of web-community applications in the social software space). The Matchmaking Device System can be seen as a very powerful promotional item. It stands out at the event where it is used, owing only to it’s functionality. If well designed, it will stand out in the public eye, becoming a marketing tool. Judging on the success of Lovegety, a low coast social interaction gadget introduced in Japan (350,000 sold in the first two months, 25$ apiece), we can safely predict that that Matchmaking Device has great potential to become the “coolest” social interaction gadget. Moreover, social events organizers are eager to include it in their toolbox. Furthermore, the device itself constitutes an“innovative approach to community. It is a social interaction device operating in the real world; it is definitively a community binder element. The concept of community transcends the virtual world. The sense of belonging, and the strength of a community are improved as the interaction between members becomes more diverse, especially if it integrates real life events. The goal is to find ways to offer costumers a rich and meaningful experience. Internet-based dating companies have to find ways to connect with real life dating events. Evan Marc Katz says: "The quest for love has never been stronger [...] As a result, dating coaches and matchmakers gain traction in 2006. In addition, online dating sites galvanize to create more live events -- dinner parties, speed dating, cruises -- designed to increase customer interaction." -- Katz, founder of E-Cyrano.com, is a personal trainer for online daters who are looking for love. His site is evanmarckatz.com.

A relationship between two people is shaped by interaction. As technology became more advanced, we saw the progressive integration of more complex and rich means of communication and expression. It went from plain text, to sound and pictures, and more recently to video and video-chat. All these new implementations met only success, even if they ware regarded by some with skepticism. Giving members more freedom of communication, and the possibility of getting in contact by means other then those offered on the dating site, was initially viewed as counterproductive from a business point of view. Reality showed that members of online dating websites continue to pay their monthly fees, and talk positively about the website, in accordance with the benefits they take in return, and not because they are obliged to stay as members in order to maintain contact with their match. To an even further extent, those who integrated real life dating events to their services stroke the write note. Enriching the dating experience and providing a strong sense of community, this is the future.


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