As technology continues to grow and develop, innovations that were once only available to larger businesses and corporations increasingly find their way into the workplaces of smaller businesses. As more and more businesses take advantage of emerging technologies, they’re arguably in a better position to streamline processes, accomplish more and operate in ways that wouldn’t be possible without them.
With 2019 up and running, it’s perhaps easier to suggest which emerging technologies will likely shape the rest of the year ahead. To make sense of the picture that’s been shaping up at this early point of the year, we’ll present a collection of tech trends that we think businesses will adopt as the rest of the year moves forward.
Set to become big news this year, immersive reality might seem like something you’d only see in a science fiction film or used by the video game industry, but it also has the potential to carry out a number of business applications. From employee training to creating a more enjoyable and engaging customer experience, it’s expected to be an incredibly influential piece of tech for small businesses going forward.
With the popularity of Pokémon Go and other augmented reality games, it’s clear that there’s a demand for reality being toyed with and amended in some form; filtered into the business world, there is a huge potential for it to capture the imaginations of employees across sectors.
The increasing developments in artificial intelligence mark an exciting time for small businesses. Machine learning and narrow AI, two emerging innovations, allow for the targeting and execution of specific tasks, which makes it increasingly likely that we’ll see an increase in the adoption of the tech this year.
For industries such as manufacturing, AI is especially useful since it can be combined with robotic-process automation to perform particularly repetitive tasks. According to the Office of Technology Strategies, 41% of business organisations have adopted AI solutions, a clear sign of the progression the technology is making.
Its usage is sure to vary from business to business, but AI can help small businesses offer more personalised experiences to their customers by maximising their time and automating manual tasks. If your team spends a lot of time on things like inputting data, then the use of AI could be hugely beneficial.
Following on from the above, Chatbots are an artificial intelligence program that simulates interactive human conversation using key pre-calculated user phrases and auditory/text-based signals. All of which translates to automatic responses that can do the talking for you. Often used for basic customer service on social media, they’re proving very popular with SMEs as a way of improving customer service and satisfaction.
At its core, the internet of things is a system of interrelated computing devices and digital/mechanical machines that have the ability to transfer data over a network without the need for human or even computer interaction. This can consist of things as different as your car or a fridge; as long as it has an on and off switch, it’s theoretically possible to connect it to the internet.
A relatively realistic scenario could involve driving to a meeting. With the proper connectivity, your car can connect to your calendar and tell you the best route to take. Through this improved connectivity, it’s possible to achieve a smoother workflow, while businesses have also commented on enhanced customer service and improved decision-making as a result of leveraging this technology.
Not to be confused with cloud computing, edge computing is an extension of the internet of things, connecting with devices on the ‘edge’ of a business network, such as smart sensors, actuators and security systems. Still relatively shrouded in mystery, the goal of edge computing is to allow data analysis at the source of data, creating more rapid responses and an expedited workflow as a result. Because the source of data is closer to the network, it reduces the backhaul traffic to the central system when compared to the cloud.
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Application programming interfaces (APIs) essentially allow a product, service or device to communicate with another product or service. Often used to create websites and mobile apps, APIs are proven to be one of the most effective small business technology trends to invest in, especially now that smartphones are endlessly prevalent nowadays.
They also allow remote access to sensitive data that would usually be hidden behind a firewall. This is particularly useful for off-site salespeople who can quickly access information on the road through APIs, providing them extra information before heading into client meetings.
As we become more and more reliant on technology, it makes sense that it could replace long-standing office equipment in a way that can improve productivity and save resources. Consider the idea of converting to a paperless office. It’s a huge change, but it means you’ll be able to save on both office supplies and energy, and as the public becomes increasingly conscious of the environment and the planet, it’s not inconceivable.
Additionally, larger offices are using smart sensors to compile data on which areas of your workspace are over- or underutilised to determine more effective use of the environment, while smart plugs and thermometers monitor energy use and office climate, creating optimal conditions for its employees.
If you’re pragmatic in your approach to the future, then a digital twin creates a virtual model of a business’s process, product or service in order to monitor systems so they can predict problems and plan for the future. One of the more intriguing tech trends that’s making an impact of business processes, it even extends to employees, allowing for digital twins to be physically present at meetings, where they can collaborate with other members of the workforce.
Of all the technologies discussed in this piece, this is perhaps the least likely to be robustly present in your workplace this year. However, there is a good chance that the seeds of the technology will start to grow in your business before the end of 2019.
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