Posted: Fri 20th Jan 2012
Springwise itself has just published its ten top business ideas and opportunities for 2012. We thought we'd share them with you"¦.
1. Thermodynamic stones that help keep coffee at the right temperature. Mmm, coffee. This one speaks for itself. Expect to see them at a cafÃ© near you"¦ 2. Clean-burning cookstoves that use crowdsourced biofuel. A rather brilliant idea that combines technology with social good to help Rwanda's poor cook cleanly and cheaply, while helping to turn Rwanda itself into the world's first carbon-negative nation. Technology, recycling, social enterprise, community participation - it's got it all. 3. App for drivers that detects and reports potholes automatically. Currently available only in Boston, this must surely be adopted and adapted over here soon. As a regular cyclist in London (a city afflicted by an appalling pothole problem), I can say for certain this would pick up thousands of users almost instantly. And give Boris an almighty headache. 4. New font designed for readers with dyslexia. Created by a Dutch studio, this is a wonderful example of design being used to improve people's lives. It's also rather beautiful. 5. Minimalist 10-piece wardrobe designed to span a year. More intelligent use of design to improve people's lives. The Malaysian ULTRA fashion label has launched an eco-minded 10-piece women's wardrobe set that's designed to offer "" through mixing and matching "" enough outfits to last a whole year. 6. Mobile app that scans for melanoma and maps the results globally. Excellent use of the technology in your pocket to promote personal and social health, with genuine benefits for everyone. Expect to see more of this sort of thing in the years to come. 7. All-in-one kits for growing vegetables at home. Reminiscent of an idea we've recently featured in Free Range Friday - the Greenstack that enables planting on vertical surfaces, ideal for tight city spaces. Urban gardening -it'll be all the rage. 8. iPhone users get paid for small, location-based tasks. It was bound to happen - the GPS function on smartphones opens up so many possibilities for market research and customer interaction. In this case, however, Dutch company Roamler's free iPhone app enables businesses to create a mobile workforce to carry out simple, location-based jobs (such as checking that a product is correctly stocked by a distributor) that would otherwise be costly and time-consuming. Think Elance for iPhones. 9. A Mexican soccer team managed by its fans. Yet more use of technology to enable communities to influence events. We've seen something similar over here with Ebbsfleet United, but Murcielagos take it a stage further: whenever there's a key decision to be made, from team selection to mid-game substitutions, supporters can vote online or via text. A great example of tapping enthusiasm to create loyalty and engagement. 10. Snap a photo of a bill, then click to pay. We know that 2012 is likely to be the year when mobile payment finally goes mainstream. Danish Danske Bank now lets consumers snap a photo of their bill and then simply click to pay. Blindingly obvious and incredibly convenient. More of this sort of thing, please.
What do you notice? To my mind, there are three very strong trends underpinning many of the ideas featured:
Interactive/personalised products and services
There's something else, too: none of these ideas have come from big business and none will have cost the Earth to get off the ground. The incredible development of the technology in our pocket is creating an irreversible shift in the relationship between businesses and consumers. More and more, we're buying into goods and services that become bespoke by virtue of the way we interact with them; we're looking for the unique and the personal, the things that make us feel good and look good socially. And this changing relationship is being driven mostly from the bottom-up. It's small business that has the power to drive this innovation. The technology in our pocket opens up the world to small, creative enterprises with fresh ideas and a desire to create a relationship with customers that is more than simply commercial. Start-ups are emerging in the UK at a rate not seen since the 1930s, and technology makes it far, far easier for tiny businesses to be self-sufficient. This is profoundly significant. Will 2012 be the year when small business starts once again to have a wide impact not just on the things we buy, but on the way we choose to shape our identities as consumers and, ultimately, the way we live our lives? I'm an optimist. I think it's possible. I really, truly, genuinely think it's possible. Simon, Enterprise Nation editor
Every Friday is Free Range Friday on Enterprise Nation, where we write about fresh, fun and innovative business ideas - whether to do with improving products and services or simply making businesses run better. We'd love your contributions. Are you doing anything new? Have you spotted anything that's a little out of the ordinary? Email your ideas to our editor or speak to us on Twitter using the hasthag #FreeRangeFriday. Photo credit: Design to forget