One of the greatest benefits of working in a startup or small business is the ability to identify and implement new technologies quickly and easily, without the bureaucracy or red tape teams often face in larger, more traditional companies. However, small businesses face different challenges which they must first overcome.
Many enterprises who provide technology services often fail to recognise the value smaller customers bring to their business. This trend is starting to fade, with enterprises creating divisions specifically tasked with handling enquiries and provide support to smaller businesses. This shift is allowing entrepreneurs and small businesses to compete with their larger counterparts when it comes to utilising and implementing the latest technologies within business.
Below, we look at some of the latest technology trends and how they may disrupt the business world.
Augmented and virtual reality
I first experienced augmented reality a few years ago during a demonstration by a major technology services provider. At the time, we were looking at refreshing printing hardware around a newly refurbished office.
Using an iPad and QR code, we were able to map-out around the office the ideal locations for the hardware. We could view a range of device models, in their actual size, and operate the device in augmented reality – opening trays, sending virtual print jobs and running the hardware as if the device was in front of you.
Needless to say, I was impressed. The benefits were immediately evident. The commercial advantages of being able to layout areas, test features and take a virtual tour of any product as if it was actually there. Augmented reality presents the opportunity to bring your products to life without the need to carry anything other than a tablet computer (or virtual reality headset). The CEO of Appy Pie, Abhinav Girdhar, explains how AR has the potential to disrupt and improve every aspect of the business space.
As this infographic by Forbes highlights, Nintendo is another great example of a company who utilised this emerging technology to create the hugely popular and successful game, Pokemon Go. With augmented and virtual reality revenues forecast to reach $162 billion by 2020, there is significant scope for small and large enterprises to start researching the benefits for their business and customers.
From augmented reality to actual reality, 3D printing has presented the opportunity for businesses and more recently consumers to quickly and cheaply produce 3D objects using a range of different materials. With hardware performance improving and costs falling, 3D printing is fast becoming a viable option for many startup businesses in a range of industries and sectors.
One of the greatest opportunities for businesses is in additive manufacturing. Using computer aided design and layering materials to create an almost limitless range of long lasting, durable and low-cost consumer and commercial parts and products. In course, we will see a shift away from more traditional methods of manufacturing, which often require large and costly manufacturing equipment, and the outsourcing of such projects to specialist companies based overseas.
3D printing provides benefits beyond just additive manufacturing, with many people now starting businesses which are focused solely on selling products which are made using 3D printing technology. Bigthink identified how one would go about monetising a 3D printing business, including the hardware and software considerations you would need to make. If a business managed to successfully develop a new and unique product, there is further scope for monetisation through intellectual property registrations, making the business model an attractive prospect for those in the know, even with limited resources available.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
This is an area which is likely to have the greatest impact on new and existing businesses. The ability to process, compute and make decisions based on huge amounts of data in real-time presents opportunities and risks which will impact almost every business and industry sector.
We have seen these technologies used in many different and often surprising ways already.
There are countless examples of enterprises utilising these emerging technologies with significant and measurable benefits. The same applies from a consumer perspective, everything from voice recognition, form auto-completion and technical support chat-bots becoming ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Services utilising artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming far more accessible to all types of businesses, presenting great opportunities for those with the resources and know-how to invest in them.
Internet of Things (IoT)
A comparatively simple concept of connecting and communicating with devices over the internet. Many of us already make use of this technology in our homes. Smart TVs, thermostats, and home security systems which connect to your mobile phone are all prevalent examples in today’s connected world.
Beyond the consumer market, there is significant opportunity for businesses to enter into the IoT market. Connected devices will support everyday business functioning and management, and provide additional benefits which can be passed on to employees and customers. Meetings will be streamlined, offices will be remotely secured, temperatures adjusted without even leaving the desk. As part of the usual hardware refresh, many small businesses will start investing in connected devices, even in the absence of any immediate benefits. Business planning should involve investment into devices which support the next stage of technical evolution, not only in respect of IoT connectivity, but in respect of all emerging technologies.
Investing in emerging tech
Businesses should be giving serious thought to apportioning part of their IT budget into research and investment into emerging technologies. Many businesses fail because they fall behind the competition, and often, this is a direct result of a lack of investment in such areas. We have previously considered how technology should facilitate the way your business functions, and as some of the options above suggest, there are many ways you can utilise the latest technology trends to ensure you remain ahead of your competition. One important factor in making such investments is to do so without compromising your ability to comply with the law, such as protecting the data you will be processing. Law and policy is often playing catch-up to disrupting technologies, so always be aware of how future political and economic changes may later impact your choices of investment.