The ultimate goal of any tech device is to cater to as many different needs as possible.
The new generation of mobile phones, spear-headed by Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android OS, has taken significant steps in this direction. By combining the now indispensable item of a mobile phone with a way of connecting to the net easily and effectively, these devices have increased useability and productivity in previously inconceivable ways.
The role that apps play in the new generation of phones is largely responsible for this increased usability. As they bring the highly customizable nature of the net into a pocket-held device, these phones have now outdated traditional tools like the map, and even more recent developments like the dashboard GPS. As the technology incorporated in the devices becomes more complicated, the services that they facilitate become more advanced. For example, the addition of a second camera, and the improved resolution on the iPhone 4, coupled with the new FaceTime app, has made the once futuristic concept of mobile video calls a reality.
While the idea of having a single device that can do absolutely everything is something of a science-fiction pipe dream, it makes sense for small businesses to think in a way that anticipates consumer desires for such a device.
A little lateral thinking that considers both the possibilities of the technology available and the desires of the average consumer can present people with products and services that they didn’t know they couldn’t live without.
Great tech business ideas use a little bit of lateral thinking to combine the possibilities of the technology available with the desires of a consumer demographic.
A fine example is a ShopSavvy app, developed by Texan digital agency Big In Japan. The app, which is available across most major 3G and 3GS phones, is essentially an online price comparison search engine. The defining thing that makes ShopSavvy different from traditional retail search services like Shopbot, is the way it makes inventive use of the hi-res cameras found on these mobile devices. Users take a picture of the barcode of an item they’re curious about. The app identifies the product they’ve photographed and immediately presents a list of local and online retailers and prices. The app incorporates Google maps to provide directions to nearby stores stocking the product, as well as the contact information for these stores so users can check if products are actually in stock.
This is a superb idea, and will no doubt have earned an enormous amount of business for Big In Japan for its forward-thinking, but it isn’t without its flaws. How does a consumer find a barcode in the first place? This would encourage the use of the app actually in stores, lessening the use of the Google Maps feature slightly.
The important aspect of the idea is the way it uses the camera, though. Some lateral thinking around this idea presents an infinite number of possible business concepts.
Take this one as an example: what if your business were to develop an app intended for sale to major supermarkets? Another approach to the camera/barcode idea would be to tweak it to cater to customers who want their groceries delivered to their homes. Instead of walking to a nearby supermarket, they simply scan the packaging they already have in their cupboards, submit the information along with their credit card to the supermarket, and they’ve finished their shopping. A self-service checkout in your own home.
It’s this kind of lateral thinking that makes a successful business. Think of something that you or your customers dislike, or would love to see happen. Investigate the capabilities of the technology available to you, and cater to a crucial and valuable niche that your customers didn’t even know existed.
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