How innovation and a hot DC summer brought ice cream via your smart phone

July 13, 2012

It’s hot out there.  In our nation’s capital, we’ve broken the record for the most consecutive days over 95 degreesRunways are melting, neckties are being shed, and residents are realizing what life used to be like before electricity and A/C.  What better time than now for some ice cream?

One innovative new company happens to agree.  Uber, an app-driven car service, has just announced that they are deploying a fleet of ice cream trucks throughout Washington, DC, and other major cities.  Feeling a little hot under the collar?  No problem.  Just open the Uber app on your smart phone, tap the ice cream cone symbol, and you too can have an ice cream truck parked on the curb in front of you in minutes (musical jingle optional). 

Uber has capitalized on available technology to meet popular demand and create new markets. Who would have thought that ice cream delivery was in need of reinvention, even if just for promotional purposes?  Uber is doing just that with on-demand ice cream, all while giving it the sense of serendipity that made neighborhood ice cream trucks seem so magical growing up.

Uber isn’t the only car-related company to capitalize on technology in new, innovative ways.  NCF Scholar Nick Schulz wrote this week in Forbes on his experience “renting a car in Phoenix from a woman in Oklahoma City.”  Standing in front of a kiosk equipped with a video screen and camera, Schulz walked through the entire process of renting a car with someone sitting hundreds of miles away.  Not only did he find this a “terrific example of technology disrupting old ways of doing business,” but he realized the implications that readily available, high-quality video link-ups would have on employees and companies alike.

Innovation is often sparked by a simple thought.  Why not use smart phone technology to connect passengers with available luxury car drivers?  How about letting rental car customers skip the lines at the counter and deal with an agent directly by video?  The ideas that these questions spark often face down tough hurdles before being implemented.  Nevertheless, once these new approaches are realized, it becomes hard to imagine life without them.

Now, excuse me while I order some ice cream.