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Over the past 5 years there’s been a steady change in how technology is used to simplify our lives. While the trend of convenience is not new (most technology stays due to its convenience in practical lives), the modern trend is to use better and more real time information to generate a new level of convenience for existing systems or concepts. The first time we really started seeing this was the introduction of the iPhone, which started a slow change from desktop and stationary computers to mobile ones. Since then we’ve seen a large reduction of mp3 players, personal organizers, cameras, even wallets. This simple concept of having a phone be a mobile information delivery system has been well documented and its impact is continually being increased.
The current trend among disruptive companies is based around the next level of information/communication convenience, in the same way that the iPhone disrupted its market. From employment to transportation to relationships to the music industry, the current trend is information convenience.
Companies like Uber and Lyft are innovating in the area of transportation convenience. The first front is the convenience of transportation on demand. This is an area where the current systems of public transit and taxis have struggled. My personal experience with taxis was has been trying to find the right local taxi service late at night, with no taxis on the road. After calling the service I had to wait for 30 minutes to an hour after, with no idea when the taxi would show up, and any taxi I saw couldn’t pick me up since I called.
Uber and Lyft came up with an interesting solution where you have a single app that can get you transportation in many cities (and they’re continually expanding). When you specify where you want to go, the app shows you where your transportation is while on its way to pick you up and give you an accurate estimate as to when it will be there. When comparing the regular taxi service it is easy to understand how companies like Uber and Lyft are winning hands down.
Other innovators in transportation, such as \”One Bus Away\”, are showing that by increasing the information to consumers, things such as transportation can become more highly convenient without changing the structure of the current systems.
Another area of innovation is employment. For many the 40 hour work week is just something that needs to happen to pay the bills. For others we’re seeing a shift towards independent contractors who can decide their own hours, decide how they want to work, and have less cost to the companies by doing so. Technologies like CroudFlower and Mechanical Turk have companies paying for completed tasks rather than the number of hours performed completing them. Businesses are leveraging this available man power to accomplish anything from reviewing consumer feedback, such as GlimpzIt, to generating a distributed workforce of drivers, such as Uber. The assumed employment wisdom of the past, where benefits and a steady income matter most, are out weighted by the convenience of working the hours which make the most sense and a compensation model based on how well you perform as an individual without management.
Another company is innovating in an area which lately has been hotly debated, relationships. Weple is making it convenient to stay involved with those you know. Through the use of what Weple calls Social Streaming, a live/stored stream hybrid model, users can stream an event, have a push notification sent out to either all their friends or a specific group, and allow those friends either to view and interact with the event as its happening live, or come back later and view and interact after the fact. This technology, when looking at a small test sample, has caused the type and frequency of social interaction to increase substantially. When members of this test group were asked how the technology affected their view of their relationships, they indicated that there was an increase in familiarity and understanding of the others in the group. When looking at the modern workforce, being pulled many directions all at once with limited time, this type of technology has the potential to disrupt our definition of community and strengthen our connections to those around us.
The music industry
Another area of innovation is around the convenience of handling non-centralized payments. Areas such as payroll have been innovated on for years, but companies such as MediaNet are innovating in fields which isn’t so visible to the general population. MediaNet is known as the backend for a lot of music services, from radio streaming services such as Songza.com, to paid streaming services such as Beats Music. The area where they are creating a disruptive technology isn’t the content delivery, but rather the ability to pay everyone involved with the songs that play. Most people have heard of labels, which represent the artist. The other piece to a song is the composer which is represented by the publisher. While the label is rigorously involed with providing songs and approving services, the publisher is often a forgotten entity. Governments are working to ensure there’s repercussions for ignoring the publishers. The problem is that unlike the labels, the publishers can own parts of songs, ownership can change, and tracking who owns what and how to get their money to them can be difficult. Companies like MediaNet are working to address the problems of tracking and distributing royalties correctly in a way which minimizes the efforts of consumer facing services. In doing so, they increase the accuracy of payments which in turn helps the music industry. As this effort is seen as more achievable by those in the industry, the expectation for this type of accuracy and capabilities will become expected.
While this is a fraction of some of the disruptive companies out there, it is apparent that the current trend of technology is shifting to a convenience in how we can receive and utilize information for markets which aren’t really new. While everyone might not embrace or fully understand these changes, the market is defining a new equilibrium around them. Sometimes the most disruptive companies don’t find something new to do, but take something already there and do it differently.