The most successful companies stay abreast of technological advances. Disruptive innovations can completely transform existing practices and create brand new paradigms, and history is replete with once-great industry leaders who fell from grace when they failed to adapt to changing business models. Organizations that fail to respond to new technologies do so at their own peril.
With that in mind, here are business new tech trends that every entrepreneur should be keeping a close eye on. It may seem like these things have nothing to do with your industry or business, but tech tends to pop up in surprising ways. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
1. Cloud-Based and Mobile Apps
Mobile technology has been transforming the way companies conduct business for a while now. Mobile Internet usage surpassed desktop usage in 2014, and companies need to ensure that their eCommerce platforms can accommodate this shift in consumer Internet preferences.
Furthermore, the transformative technology of cloud computing creates new opportunities, facilitates new revenue sources, and streamlines services in a cost-effective manner. The cloud helps break down barriers in the supply chain by enabling efficient communication between clients and suppliers.
2. The Internet of Things
As of 2015, approximately 99 percent of products were not connected to the Internet of Things, the network of sensors and communication systems designed to share information across devices. In the future, however, we should expect more products and devices to be enabled to communicate machine-to-machine and machine-to-mobile-device.
In response, companies will have to produce smarter, more connected products. Onboard sensors, for instance, give companies the ability to monitor the status of machines and other products to improve their understandings of product life cycles. This information will enable companies to schedule maintenance service calls before products malfunction.
Understanding how customers use products will help engineers design future models. In addition to providing useful data to the end-user, the collaborative effort can also fundamentally change the client’s experience. This trend is also driving heavy speculation in both public and private markets and fueling talent wars between companies looking to release the “next big thing.”
3. Robots and Automation
As technology has advanced, machines have gained the ability to perform more and more tasks. Robots and automation are used to increase productivity and reduce costs. The density of industrial robots continues to grow each year.
While people are familiar with automated assembly lines and robots replacing/supplementing workers who perform manual tasks, automation is now entering the white-collar workspace as well. Watson, the IBM super computer, defeated his human competitors on Jeopardy in 2011! This milestone signals the arrival of computers with advanced artificial intelligence, and these robots may soon become knowledge workers. For example, when provided with sufficient basic information, computer programs can replace journalists.
Just as they have totally altered the assembly floor, robots and automation will dramatically transform the back office.
4. Drones and Autonomous Vehicles
Drones and autonomous vehicles have leapt from the pages of science fiction and into the real world, transforming the way companies conduct business in the process.
In the past, we watched companies moved from brick-and-mortar stores to predominantly online presences, and now, drones and autonomous vehicles are taking this a step further by eliminating the need for human-staffed delivery services. Labor-intensive, traditional postal delivery services have remained relatively unchanged for many years. This new technology, aided by improvements in artificial intelligence, can reduce the expense of shipping and handling. It can also eliminate the need for some of these legacy carriers. Once FAA and motor vehicle restrictions are resolved, drones and autonomous vehicles will be a more effective and efficient means of transportation and distribution.
5. 3-D Printing
Also known as “additive manufacturing,” 3D printing has become more commonplace as the cost of the machines has fallen. In the past, the technology was used to make non-working prototypes. Today, 3-D printers can make a variety of fully functional products.
In industrial applications, the printers are used to manufacture parts that cannot be cast or forged. In other instances, the technology makes parts at a fraction of the cost. Printers are now being designed that can use a wider range of raw materials, including rubber, glass, and various metals. In fact, MX3D, Autodesk, and the city of Amsterdam are collaborating to print a bridge over one of the city’s canals – the first such 3-D printed bridge in history.
As for future consumer applications, we may reach a point where individuals can purchase designs online and simply print their products at home, bypassing manufacturers completely.
Technology is always evolving. New ideas and concepts reach the market on a regular basis. It is essential that business leaders identify the innovations that will have the most impact on their organizations. By understanding these advancements, business owners can align themselves with where the world is heading and prepare for what the future holds.