Throughout history, cynical minds have dismissed technological progress, choosing to instead complain about its power. As the legendary sci-fi author, Aldous Huxley, famously said, "technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards", while Albert Einstein once observed that "our technology has exceeded our humanity".
In the modern business world, however, attitudes couldn't be more different. With the personal computer and the Internet completely transforming how we work and communicate – just as the typewriter and telephone before it – efficiency and innovation have evolved rapidly. In the 21st century, these technologies have not only enabled the growth of individual companies; they have formed entirely new industries.
So, if the many devices and services we take for granted today can emit such transformative power, what can tomorrow's technology achieve? To answer that question, it is first necessary to determine what these emerging technologies are and how the marketplace will adapt to them. Here are seven new technologies that are going to disrupt business on an entirely new scale.
Many consumers are already in frequent contact with artificial intelligence (AI), whether they know about it or not. Due to the cultural impact of science fiction, we tend to believe that AI consists of a humanoid at a financial institution, restaurant or opera house. However, the reality is a little bit more mundane – or perhaps more exciting, depending on your viewpoint. Either way, business is betting heavily on AI, and so far, the gamble is paying off in areas as diverse as customer service and market research.
Considering its prevalence in the marketplace – online and offline – it would be surprising to learn that AI is still in its early stages, akin to the computer and Internet frontier of the 1980s and 1990s. Pioneers and academics are still coming to terms with its wide range of potential uses and applications, even as companies adopt it into their existing processes.
For now, though, AI is an emerging technologies that is already performing tedious tasks, such as:
- Leveraging customer relationship management (CRM) software by automating and multitasking functions that might have required the human touch.
- Automating customer service to process and resolve common inquiries (such as ‘chatbots’ or automated phone systems).
- Identifying and optimising market and customer insights for research, marketing and sales efforts.
- Unlocking treasure troves of client, business and industry data.
The public's main concern is that AI will replace human workers, but studies suggest that this is an overstated concern. For instance, finance is one of the biggest industries to adopt automation, but job growth is anticipated to grow 6% annually for the next decade in the US. Rather than fearing its rise, you should instead start looking at how the technology can be implemented into your existing model.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) has existed for several years, but businesses are only now beginning to realise the benefits of deploying smart devices and systems. This generation of young and sharp consumers has immense expectations because of IoT, so it is up to businesses to deliver the goods.
So, how exactly can you integrate the IoT into your daily affairs? Some of the ways the IoT is being employed right now include:
- Customer Engagement: You can continually engage with your users through smart interactions; offering real-time support or monitoring product consumption.
- Installed IT: Instead of IT being added to the product, IT is part of the product, meaning that your business is monitoring, probing and executing solutions to problems.
- Big Data: IoT is building upon big data and generating new categories of findings which can be useful for business. A smart application can now learn about user movement, household temperatures, front-porch lights and shopping patterns, for example.
- Automation: Sensors play a significant role in IoT technology because it produces data in real-time, which is then stored for future use. For instance, the shipping industry is installing IoT sensors in vehicles, giving companies immediate data on elements like temperature and light, which can allow them to assuage delays or even theft.
An interesting recent trend in the corporate world has been the massive investment in interactive video technologies. This is a video communication technology that operates like a regular video, except there are clickable areas that complete an action. The purpose behind it is to improve collaboration and productivity, fill in the skills gap and transform meetings for the better.
However, innovation will not stop there. Analysts say that this type of communication will be further enhanced through the power of an immersed experience, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
How is it helping offices today, though? Well, for one thing, it streamlines the training process, which is a valuable method when turnover rates remain at all-time highs. Rather than taking an employee away from his or her regular duties, you can automate training through interactive video, with people who consume these multimedia presentations more likely to retain the information.
Blockchain is projected to become mainstream in every industry by 2025, but what exactly is it? A technology that supports virtual currency and enables digital information to be distributed, it can be likened to a digital ledger for networks. Blockchains are decentralised, and the information is verifiable and open to the public.
If you're wondering why that is good for your business, it's because blockchain technology is primarily used for faster and cheaper payments (hence its popularity in the finance and retail sectors). But that's not all; there are numerous other possibilities, too:
- Smart Contracts: A smart contract has the terms and conditions of the agreement installed into the code on a decentralised blockchain network. It makes sure that all parties involved in the contract fulfil their obligations.
- Human Resources: When you want to hire candidates with the relevant qualifications, you want to make sure that they are whom they say they are. A blockchain could theoretically verify all sorts of information, from employment records to academic transcripts to certifications.
- Marketing Campaigns: Do you want to tailor your marketing campaigns to every individual customer? Blockchain allows marketers to track and verify customer information, behaviours and patterns, inflating your return on investment (ROI).
As more and more organisations embrace blockchain-enabled digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, it can also affect the way that you send and receive payments using cryptocurrencies.
Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality
The consensus is that augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will soon play an enormous role in our society at a personal and corporate level. That said, so far, early AR/VR performance has been disappointing, with the steep decline in investment dollars pretty telling. It's still too early to dismiss AR/VR as a gimmick, though, and definitely too early to throw the tech world's newest toy in the garbage.
The most promising use of the technology so far is the potential to erect a virtual environment. For instance, a home improvement store might have the technology to help you realise your dream house by testing out various paints, furniture and windows, or a teacher might take their classroom on a digital journey to Renaissance-era Venice. Alternatively, a real estate agent might provide a virtual tour of a property without ever leaving the office.
Another innovative feature for businesses is the ability to create a personalised learning system, a feat that would slash human resource costs, boost productivity and even adapt to high turnover. Like the interactive video technology previously mentioned, AR or VR can offer a simulated experience of the office environment and day-to-day tasks for applicants and new hires.
Ultimately, the most significant advantage of adopting AR/VR is that you are appealing to millennials, the largest and most tech-savvy generation on the planet, making it a useful tool in your HR strategy, too.
Serverless computing is a form of cloud computing where the cloud provider runs the server. The user only pays based on the total amount of resources consumed by an application, instead of pre-purchased units of capacity that may or may not be used. IT departments are ostensibly ebullient over this new technology because it could potentially slash operational costs, automate fundamental infrastructure and enable private firms to allocate their resources into new capabilities that add more value to the organisation.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) became the first-ever serverless cloud computing model in 2014, and, for the last five years, has promoted and driven a series of industry trends through heightened innovation.
Let's face it: 5G, the fifth generation of cellular wireless technology, will inevitably be a game-changer in mobile technology. But what is fascinating is that all the emerging technologies listed here will not be possible without 5G.
Automation, smart communities, serverless computing and all the other tech of the future will be possible because of 5G. They can only function by relying on its speed, range and connectivity – with estimates of rates that are up to a hundred times faster than current 4G.
Commercial 5G networks are currently being rolled out and integrated into specific locations, with the technology set to expand throughout the globe over the next few years.
Ultimately, every business is searching for a competitive advantage, and in the modern world, the best way to achieve this is through technology. Sure, our dreams of flying cars and humanoid assistants have yet to come to fruition, but there are other more efficient and beneficial technological advancements that companies can fully utilise: AI, 5G and blockchain. Besides, who needs a life-sized robotic assistant when we have Alex or Siri to serve as a digital assistant at our startup or SMB?
What other emerging business technologies should we be keeping an eye on? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.