How we engage with the people, places and things around us is ever-changing thanks to rapid improvements in mobile and web technologies. The speed at which this evolution takes place will only continue to accelerate in 2011 with the help of fledgling startups who will push the boundaries around geolocation, mobile photos, entertainment services, community and physical-to-digital connections.
What follows is an exploration of five significant startup markets that will grow in significance in 2011. Some of these specialized categories are ripe for disruption and innovation, while others have already produced early leaders that will be difficult to best.
Regardless, the startups iterating in these newly invented product categories will capture our imagination in the year ahead and transform the way we use technology in our daily lives.
Read on for five major trends that will hit startups in 2011, and let us know your own predictions in the comments below.
1. The Rise of Object Tagging
As constant web and mobile users, we’ve all grown accustomed to tagging people and places in photos and status updates. In the year ahead, new services will help us tag real world objects in much the same fashion.
QR code and barcode scanning mobile applications are growing in popularity and purpose, and we’re quickly moving towards a scanning and tagging world where we use apps like Barcode Hero or Stickybits to add our own content to the physical objects we encounter in the real world.
The physical-to-digital connection is what will drive this trend in the new year. Startups such as thingd andMoodstocks have a more grandiose vision around creating digital databases of things, but they’re also creating products that are people-friendly and practical.
We’ve yet to see any one object tagging application or service become a breakout hit, but this will change in 2011 as more consumers warm up to the mobile and social discovery of “things.”
2. Entertainment Checkin Services Will Continue to Innovate
2010 was the year of the checkin. What started as a simple, albeit explicit, way to publicly say “I’m here” mutated into a way for startups to create entertainment checkin services and for companies to build tools to help publishers keep visitors on site.
The entertainment-oriented services are an especially interesting group of services. GetGlue, Miso, Philo, Tunerfish, TV.com Relay and a handful of others have all cropped up with their own variations of the “check in to content, get rewards” concept. Most are successfully inking deals with studios and networks around their entertainment properties, and just recently, GetGlue grabbed $6 million in a Series C round led by Time Warner Investments.
Within this fast-maturing niche is still room for innovation. The opportunities are in motivating user behavior around entertainment content and surfacing fail-proof recommendations.
Somewhere sandwiched amongst Clicker, Rotten Tomatoes, GetGlue, Boxee and Netflix is something that can actually figure out what we really want to watch right now and help us watch it in a fashion that supports the interests of studios and networks. It might be a combination of semantic intelligence, social media and game mechanics, or it could be something entirely new.
There’s certainly money to be had here. Investors are financing these ideas, networks are looking for strategic partnerships and cable companies have money to spend.
3. Website Communities Will Dominate the Digital Experience
The rise of the social web has led to brands and businesses emphasizing Facebook, Twitter,Foursquare, YouTube and their social presence over their own website. Social will remain a top priority in 2011, but there will be a website renaissance that focuses on bringing the community back to the site.
2010 has laid the foundation for this movement with the emergence of publisher tools that drive website visitor engagement. Badgeville, OneTrueFan, Marginize, Meebo and Envovle, for instance, are all working on their solutions for the website-as-community concept.
Badgeville lets publishers install a plug-and-play product that adds social rewards and gaming elements to their websites — think rewarding user activity with badges and achievements, à la Foursquare. OneTrueFan also applies game mechanics to website content and Meebo will release its own solution for web checkins in 2011.
Marginize’s browser extension pulls social conversations into a site’s margin but its publisher tool eliminates the need for the extension and lets visitors check in, earn badges and rewards, and participate in onsite comment threads that can be pushed out to social networks. Envolve, however, takes a Facebook-chat style approach to website engagement.
There will continue to be rapid innovation around publisher community tools in the new year. I’m not yet convinced that 2011 will be the year web users completely embrace this idea, but this trend will certainly be pushed forward by publishers who use these tools to engineer a more compelling reason for the visitor to stay and engage. Should they do so successfully, the fruits of their labor will be users that remain on site, share their activity with social networks and influence upticks in traffic, and possibly even sales.
4. Private Location Services Become More Popular
In 2011, the location-sharing counter culture will emerge as mobile users demand less social, more practical tools for sharing their whereabouts with smaller circles of friends and family members.
There’s clearly an audience that appreciates the visibility and rewards that come with checkins, and that is not likely to change. But, a growing number of mobile users will want to apply geolocation technology to their personal lives — think keeping track of the kids, knowing that a significant other made it home safely, or sending and receiving timely notifications based on geographic location.
Consumer-friendly Neer is a prime example of how always-on location technology can be highly personalized and yet not overly intrusive. Geoloqi’s geonotes further personalize the experience by allowing you to leave notes for you or your friends at various locations.
In 2011, we’ll see more applications and services emerge with similar purpose due to advancements in geofencing, proximity awareness and mobile device technologies. Perhaps the only barrier to mainstream adoption is the strain that these services place on mobile phone batteries.
5. Mobile Photo Sharing Takes Off
We’re in the midst of a mobile photo sharing boom that has yet to reach its climax. Due to rapid improvements in handset technology, it’s now possible to take a stunning photo and upload it to the web in seconds.
Applications that build expressly around this purpose have cropped up in recent months and prove the viability of this emerging market. Instagram, for instance, has surpassed 1 million registered users in just 10 weeks’ time. With this type of momentum, the startup looks to be an unstoppable force.
Purpose will matter just as much as a platform. Foodspotting, DailyBooth and Path all have put their own unique spin on mobile photos. Still, the underlying mobile photo sharing trend can be applied in a number of yet-to-be fully explored fashions.
Because smartphone adoption is nowhere close to capacity, and growth is anticipated in the new year, there’s still time for a few more big ideas around mobile photo sharing to emerge in 2011.
(Originally posted on: Mashable.com)