As 2017 got up and running, there were predictions galore trying to pin down the tech trends for the year ahead as well as the near future. Compound that with the fact that 2020 is right around the corner, and there’s a collective sense we’re on the threshold of the Jetson’s future we’ve been waiting for.
After spending time looking through the tech predictions for 2017 and beyond, we found five trends that were emerging: augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, chat bots, on-demand services, and cybersecurity. Then, we rounded up articles that deal with these subjects from a small business perspective. Buckle up. The future is now.
Maybe you heard about Pokemon Go last year? You know—the mobile phone game app that blew up the internet?
Well that game relied on a little bit of technology called “Augmented Reality,” which simply means that a digital overlay on a video display integrates a digital image with the real world around it. Trust me, you’ll be hearing more and more about this in the near future.
This article examines businesses that are already using the technology, and it’s very much within reach for small businesses. Before you brush it off as a teeny-bopper whimsy, think about this: Ikea is using it to help people envision furniture in their home. It’s being used for training for hazardous work situations, or helping model new landscape designs. When you get creative, the possibilities are endless.
Uber created more than just a car service. They revolutionized how consumers expect to interact with service businesses. What we’re seeing is that there’s huge demand for on-demand services, and small businesses as well as startups are able to take what they do best in their business and integrate on-demand to further grow their business. This article points out that small business owners who don’t consider this new growth area could be swallowed up by it.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, will only continue to dominate tech headlines until we’ve reached the robot apocalypse.
In the meantime, businesses are finding creative and cost effective ways to make use of AI. This HBR article discusses the idea of “AI Lite:”
“At the less-expensive end is a knowledge-based approach that organizes data and language into highly malleable and helpful blocks of information. These “AI Lite” systems don’t learn new tricks—unless their human minders use new code instructions to “teach” them. But they can become very smart indeed about sorting and distributing their information in extremely fast ways.”
AI Lite is a great way to automate customer interactions, administrative tasks, and more. In fact, email marketing automation is making more and more powerful use of AI.
OK, speaking of AI: Chatbots. If you don’t foresee your business exploring AI—or AI Lite—in the near future, Facebook has its own pre-packaged chatbot (which is a form of AI) that you can use right now to automate interactions with your Facebook community. It’s worth a looksee.
Not all technology is peachy, utopian stuff. One of the biggest concerns of the tech age (emphasized by the hacking scandal of the 2016 U.S. elections) is cybersecurity. Unfortunately, everyone is vulnerable, but small businesses feel the brunt the most. And the future trend is toward a marked increase in cybercrimes, not a decrease. This is something small business owners will need to keep on top of.