The rise of the sharing economy over the past few years has shifted mindsets and traditional business models. Consumers are much more open to renting items and services from individuals instead of established businesses and organizations. This is shaking up engrained business models and allowing for new possibilities in the global marketplace. The peer-to-peer sharing models, like Spinlister (where I work) and Lyft, offer new and unique options for transportation at your fingertips.
Sharing has gone mobile. A decade ago the sharing economy was fragmented and limited in its practical use. First, people had to accept the idea of sharing. People had to be willing to trust the community and take a risk on another person actually delivering that good or service.
Second, when people began sharing they were unable to do so on a global level. That made it difficult to sustain any real income. Before mobile devices were widely available, sharing was limited to informal personal networks or websites offering limited services via the Internet. AirBNB probably would have succeeded regardless of mobile technology, but what about the other major players that help drive the sharing economy as a whole?
Advances in mobile technology have propelled an entirely new marketplace with people sharing everything. More importantly, it has made the fulfillment of immediate or impulsive needs possible and convenient. It helps complete transactions that start online, coordinate multiple parties and make the entire experience frictionless.
Sharing would struggle if it weren’t convenient and it would never be convenient without mobile technology. People are constantly on the go and busy. If an item they're trying to share is on their person, they need a way to update the location of those goods to be truly useful and frictionless for both sides. Mobile technologies have opened the doors for people to effortlessly share goods and make money.
The realization that idle goods can generate significant income, and mobile technology makes sharing those goods easy, has transformed the sharing economy into a multi-billion dollar industry. A recent internal study commissioned by us at Spinlister found that only 4 percent of Americans have used AirBNB or Uber. Imagine how big the sharing economy will be once it hits 20, 30, 40, or 50 percent saturation.
Sharing in an interconnected era. I was recently discussing a concept called The Internet of Things (IoT) with a brilliant young engineer working within an exclusive technology development department at a major electronics company. There is a race to develop hard goods that both serve a function and connect directly to the Internet, other goods and devices. That information can be relayed into third party applications.
For Instance, imagine you need a eight-foot step ladder. With IoT, you could locate the ladder nearest to you. Add that data to a sharing economy platform and you could share almost every object you own! This is an extreme example but it illustrates how mobilization technology will expand the sharing economy in the future.
While practical use of this technology is likely five to 10 years out for major product lines, I expect these applications will trickle down to everyday goods over the next decade or two. Within that time frame I also expect the sharing economy to mature, more major players will emerge and a critical mass of people will regularly use a sharing economy platform.
Once IoT is added into the equation, people will start thinking of mobility in terms outside of their mobile phones. This “mobility of things” will open the door to the sharing of almost everything you can think of. It will be easy, fluid, cheap and revenue generating.
The sharing economy movement is the gold rush of our generation. The advances in mobile technology will strengthen the marketplace while making it easier and more convenient for all parties involved to participate.
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