10 years ago, a business could be successful without even having a website. Today that is almost unthinkable. Five years ago, a business could get away with not having a mobile website. Today it’s considered essential. Technology—especially network and the cloud—changes the business landscape every day, and how quickly you adopt it could define your success tomorrow.
Here’s a look at six tech trends that could most impact your business.
Just a couple of years ago they were simple chatbots; automated programs capable of leading semi-coherent “conversations” with people based on their text input. Bots have come a long way since then. Now they are full-fledged autonomous agents capable of automating tasks that were considered impossible for a program, often using voice input to add that extra human flair. And while bots like Kit, NumbersBot, Social Share Bot, and others still can’t fully replace human employees, they are capable of greatly reducing the workload.
2. 360-degree photographs
While 360-degree photography can hardly be called a new technology, the ease with which these images can be taken today and their growing use in business is a new trend. You no longer need a special camera to take relatively sophisticated photos—a smartphone will suffice.
Google has invested a lot into 360° photographs in its Street View project, and the company actively encourages users to add more, even rewarding businesses that post them with better search results. It directly attracts local visitors as well.
3. Artificial intelligence
AI research is still in its infancy, but with computational power growing exponentially every year, significant breakthroughs are likely imminent. Two promising early applications involve delegation of routine administrative tasks and customer interactions. According to analyst firm Gartner, by 2020 about 85 percent of these will happen without human representatives.
The cloud, or delivering services and software via a network, is one of the most significant business paradigm shifts in recent years. Unlike AI, this technology is already very much in use. Cloud technology offers massive amounts of cheap storage and a wide choice of affordable and easily deployable software solutions that can bring qualitative changes to a company’s tech investment. It adds business flexibility, enabling companies to quickly adapt to changing environments and shift to alternative solutions as needed.
5. Neural networks
A neural network, in simplest terms, is a computing system that is capable of learning by example to improve its own rules and the quality of its output. These custom-built networks are designed to address complex numerical computations and apply them to solve specific business challenges. In marketing, for example, the network can identify customers who are more likely to react positively to a particular product or service. In the retail industry, neural networks show excellent results at forecasting sales for specific periods. Current applications already show impressive results, and more business leaders are delegating tasks to neural networks.
6. Wearable devices
Specialized wearable devices make it easy for a company’s employees to interact with a range of connected devices used in their work. Specific applications vary, depending on the employee’s status and the industry, but examples include enabling real-time inventory updates, gathering information on employee interactions among employees to optimize collaboration, and more.
Today, technology is changing the world—and business—at breakneck speeds. How new technology is used today is likely to evolve into something quite different in a few years, but staying one step ahead of the competition is an important part of any successful business strategy. Don’t wait, or it will be too late.
For more insight on technology adoption, see Digital: When Ignorance Isn’t Bliss.