Sunday, November 06, 2011

Quantization trends of the future: crowdsourcing and geolocation

Two conferences held in San Francisco last week underline key future trends, the crowdsourcing of work (and maybe everything), and hyper-local mobile-phone based services such as payments. Thematically, crowdsourcing and mobile services both deal with quantization – the idea of resources being granularized to the smallest unit, and then directed fungibly and automatically to where they are needed and requested, like routing internet data packets. In this case labor units and targeted personalized mobile services can be delivered on a quantized basis. Market principles continue to seep into life with quantization models which typically provide superior value creation and exchange.

CrowdConf2011 (November 1-2, 2011) was bigger and broader than CrowdConf2010. The main focus continued to be on crowdsourced labor, but these models are also emerging in e-government, consumer travel, entertainment, fundraising, and philanthropy (and health, though not included at CrowdConf). Software, professional services (i.e.; graphic design) and R&D have long been staples of crowdsourced labor, and these models are now being extending to almost all areas of the enterprise including sales, social CRM (customer relationship management) and finance, accounting, and administration.

Mobile-phone based services
Mobile is the platform. One billion smartphone users are expected by 2013 and app downloads grew explosively from 300 million in 2009 to five billion in 2010. Arguably, the mobile phone has become an indispensable human augmentation accessory: the loss of a phone is noticed within five minutes, versus the loss of a wallet which takes an hour. The intimate continuous connection individuals have with their mobile phones suggests the platform as a critical delivery mechanism for many important future services such as mental mood performance optimization.

Geo-Loco (November 3, 2011) focused on hyper-local mobile services delivery. The biggest growth area is mobile payment programs where the prevailing methods in use are 2-D barcodes (as used in Starbucks smartphone apps) and NFC (near field communication) chips which send encrypted data over short distances. The development of corporate and brand marketing strategies for mobile services delivery was another big focal area. The poster-child of success of branded smartphone apps, from Starbucks, allows payments, store locating, and checking nutritional information. Ironically, drinks can be configured out of 85,000 possibilities and shared with friends, but not actually ordered!

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