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4 Innovative Ideas Transforming Their Industries in 2016

02/16/2016 11:58 pm ET
  • Brian Hughes CEO, Founder, Digital Marketing Expert at Integrity Marketing & Consulting

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Are you good at spotting innovation within your industry, or are you constantly playing catch-up? Executives spend a lot of time talking about innovation and creativity in company pitches, but studies show that more often than not, it's all talk and little follow-through. Executives and managers frequently shoot down creative ideas that would help a company grow in a new direction or capture an existing marketplace, reports Inc. Creating a workplace culture that drives innovation is tricky.

Case in point: Kodak. Back in 1989, the company's engineers built the first DSLR camera. Executives panicked. Bringing the camera to the marketplace would cannibalize film sales and undermine business. Executives failed to realize the importance of first-mover advantage and seize the marketplace first. Of course, their plan to delay the inevitable was a fail. Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012, the same year that sales for the four major camera makers (Olympus, Sony, Nikon and Canon) topped $31.6 billion, despite continued competition from smartphones.

Every day, it seems like a new product or service launches with a truly "WOW!" impact. As a solopreneur focused on digital marketing, I keep a close eye on innovation within the digital marketing space. But sometimes it's nice to step away for the chatter over the latest social media network or local mobile SEO tactic and check in on what other industries are doing, too. These four ideas are poised to transform their respective industries and are worth watching in 2016:

Industry: eCommerce and banking

Idea: digital gold with BitGold

Canadian startup BitGold is advancing the digital payment revolution with a simple mission: help people securely acquire, store and spend gold. This includes offering customers a prepaid card for spending their gold or converting gold payments into currency at any ATM machine. While BitCoin has failed to take off partly because consumers don't fully understand the product's value, BitGold's founders are optimistic their product will find a broader mass-market appeal. They've got one thing already going in their favor: as an elemental unit of accounting for the past, present and future, gold is a natural unit for online savings in the age of global trade and currency fluctuations.

Industry: technology

Idea: parent-friendly smartphone monitoring with Pumpic App

Today's teenagers live online: 92% use their phones to go online daily and, shockingly, more than half of all children report being a victim of cyberbullying. Worse, the majority of cyberbully victims never inform their parents. Constant, unrestricted access to chat apps is correlated with an uptick in everything from teenage sexting to cyberbullying. Tragic cases like the recent death of a 13-year old Virginia girl who allegedly met her abductor online are a reminder that parents must step up to protect their teens. Pumpic app is a multi-feature parental control app that allows parents to monitor text messages, call history, contacts, emails, and popular messaging apps including Kik, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. A remote control panel allows parents to set restrictions and unobtrusively check in on their children.

Industry: healthcare

Idea: child-friendly thermometers with Fever Scout

VivaLNK's Fever Scout is a flexible patch that provides continuous temperature monitoring. For young children, the soft patch is barely noticeable. For busy parents, it's a lifesaver. The patch sends continuous data directly to a smartphone app that tracks and alerts parents to a change in the child's temperature. Customizable notifications alert parents when a child needs attention. The flexible patch will start shipping in Spring 2016.

Industry: auto

Idea: In-vehicle diagnostics and car-to-car communication with telematics

Telematics - defined as the blending of computer and wireless telecommunications technologies - is transforming cars into smarter, safer and better-connected vehicles. While most of us are already familiar with basic telematics features like GPS and infotainment, new telematics services like in-vehicle diagnostics and vehicle-to-vehicle communication are poised to transform driving as we know it. Get ready for pay-per-use and premium subscription services that control everything from content streaming to maintenance diagnostics, reports Robert Prime, the founder of Telematics.com.

Got a Big Idea? How to Evaluate Your Innovation for Success

While we can't see into the future (yet), we can use a set of metrics to evaluate which ideas are likely to be game changers and which will just fizzle away into the world of 8-track tapes, CueCats (remember those?) and Segways. Take a page from the late Ohio State University Professor Everett Rodgers (who coined the term "early adopter") and consider these questions:

  • What is the product's relative advantage compared with the marketplace? If your idea has a clear positive advantage over the existing marketplace, people will try it.
  • How compatible is the product with the status quo? Being too ahead of our time or current infrastructure will hinder marketplace adoption.
  • How complex is the idea? If a layman can't understand its value or grasp a new paradigm, you may struggle to achieve mass adoption.
  • How easy is it to test your product? If you can't test out your idea on a small scale without the resources of Elon Musk or Apple, it's less likely to be adopted on a larger scale.
  • How observable are the product's benefits? If your product is easy to use with an immediate quality-of-life benefit, your innovation is more likely to be viable.

Bottom line: 

Don't get stuck inside the box. Keep a close eye on emerging technology and industry trends so your business will be prepared to innovate and stake out first mover advantage in the marketplace.

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