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Crowdsourcing apps could be the future of info gathering

By Evan Wade / August 7, 2013

Forget about the cloud. Now that remote data storage and access have become everyday solutions, the tech world is ready to adopt a new “next big thing.” The heir apparent is “the crowd” (AKA crowdsourcing).

The purpose of most crowdsourcing efforts — collecting data, online labor and other resources from a large pool of users — reflects a reversal in what we’ve come to expect from the information age. Instead of web surfers using computers to retrieve information from other computers, users are constantly communicating with one another through a vast number of devices that include smartphones and tablets.

Before you write this off as a passing fad, keep this in mind: Waze, a mapping app that asks its 70,000 users to input real-time traffic info, was recently acquired by Google for $1.1 billion. For Larry and Sergey to pony up nine zeroes, they must have thought Waze was onto to something. As AllThingsD’s Liz Gannes points out, expect to see more upstarts pitch themselves as “We’re Waze for ________.”

Fast, easy demographics

Not surprisingly, customer demographics are among the most important bits of data your company can obtain. The GolfLogix app, for example, collects user-submitted information from the first tee to the eighteenth green. The app already works with over 4,000 golf courses, offering data ranging from scorecards and hole guides to recommended club selections and swing styles. As the most popular golf app on the market, GolfLogix leveraged its unprecedented amount of users to form a partnership with Golfsmith, the world’s largest golf superstore, and the popular tee time booking website

The collected consumer

Consumer apps with crowdsourcing capabilities often have a strong social tie, making them perfect for broad research as well as one-to-one information collection. Popular social shopping app Fancy aggregates product information submitted by its users into a Flipboard-style catalog, allowing enterprising retailers to use data collected from the site to see which products have the potential to go viral and which need to be moved to the clearance rack.

Another smart example of using an app to crowdsource is the appropriately named Weathermob. It applies the Waze model to meteorology, collecting data from individual users to create a reliable resource for their specific geographical area. Everyone talks about the weather at some point and Weathermob taps into that by collecting user-submitted forecasts along the lines of “Ice planet Hoth” and “Ice cream weather.”

Of course, crowdsourcing isn’t right for every company, but these experiences show passionate fans will participate. That alone makes “the crowd” a viable option for the right business in need of the right data.