South by Southwest began as a music festival in 1987, and in 1994 added an interactive (tech) component. The interactive conference attracts 10,000+ to Austin, TX, and has quickly become one of the must attend events for technology professionals and enthusiasts. It is a launching ground for new technology. Here are two pieces of technology from this year’s conference that appealed to me as a market researcher:

1. Last year Foursquare, the location game, bought the back cover of the conference program and tried to put location on the map. A year (and millions of smart phones) later, Gowalla, another location game, was a sponsor of the event. Add to that a huge presence from AOL/Mapquest and a subtrack of at least six sessions on the topic, and you get the idea that location is trying to be the next big thing. Foursquare added 700,000 users during the conference, and Gowalla added many as well. Take one or both of these out for a spin if you haven’t already.

Market research opportunities: A) Partner with Foursquare and Gowalla to provide survey link capabilities. Example - Best Buy customers checking in at one of Best Buy’s stores would see a special offer button that, when clicked, takes them to a survey and $2 off their purchase if they complete the survey. B) Incorporate into ethnography studies so that you can track your participants’ activities.

2. QR/UPC codes made their first appearance at this year’s conference. Each attendee badge had one that linked to the wearer’s SXSW info page to use instead of exchanging business cards. And Chevy pasted the codes to the cars they were showing that took you to a special Web site all about that car. With a QR reader app that you can download to your iPhone or Android phone, you can click on the code and it will automatically take you to a Web site, text or video, etc. Sticky Bits (making their debut this year at SXSW) is a UPC code generator and reader that works the same way.

Market research opportunities: A). Attach a survey link to a QR code and print the code on packaging, in advertisements, etc. B) Incorporate into ethnography studies so that participants can scan a UPC code and attach a thought to it.

Try this yourself to see how it works. Download the i-nigma reader on your iPhone or BeeTag for Android phones. Open the app and use it to scan this code with your phone. This will take you to a quick survey using your cell phone internet browser As smart phones become more and more prevalent, they will become valuable tools for our industry. And these are just two interesting ways to utilize them. Have you seen other applications with promise?