It used to be the case that to stay on the bleeding edge of technology, you needed to have a lot of money and a lot of expertise in your organisation. As such, people assumed that big businesses were at the frontier of technology, and everybody else was just playing catch up. But thanks to the rapid digitisation of technology and the economy in general, that’s no longer the case. In fact, it’s often the reverse: today, it’s small companies that are leading the charge and adopting the latest technologies. Large companies are being left in the dust.
One of the reasons for all of this is the fact that small companies are a lot nimbler on their feet. If they see a new piece of technology come along that’s priced right, they’re free to give it a shot to see if it helps their business. With the enormous range of products and services on offer for companies today, having this ability has never been more important. Small businesses can take advantage of what the market has to offer there and then, without having to wait weeks or months for approval from senior management. If something has potential, they’re free to try it out.
Here are some of the most promising technologies today that small businesses are adopting in droves.
Last year, technology firm Microsoft showcased its new hololens product at a big computer gaming event in the USA. The company did a demonstration of how the tool could be used to interact with games, in 3D and in real time. For the user, digital information is layered on top of their regular vision of the real world, meaning that they can manipulate digital objects with their hands as if it was really there.
People, including Microsoft themselves, were quick to point out that this technology has applications far beyond the gaming world. In fact, it could be applied to all sorts of situation: everything from web design to training people to make digital clay pots.
The technology is in its early phases right now, but Microsoft hopes that the HoloLens will be used by small businesses who make up the core of the company’s market.
In recent years, cloud computing has gone from strength to strength. Most of the world was introduced to the cloud with the advent of services like Dropbox. But since then the ecosystem has expanded into a host of collaborative products for practically every niche you can imagine.
Many businesses are now approaching their local IT company for help with implementing cloud systems that go beyond the standard offering. Businesses want more than simple folders and spreadsheets online: they want services that are both suitable for their processes, and that can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
Presently, there’s an entire industry dedicated to just that, enabling employees to access data from anywhere. Small businesses in particular have been quick to gravitate to these systems, thanks to the fact that they are low cost and don’t require large capital outlays. Big businesses have been a lot slower, sometimes because they don’t understand the benefits, but mainly because they’re worried about migrating away from their old legacy systems.
Teleconferencing has been around for a while now, but up until recently, many of these solutions were clunky and awkward to operate. Often they involved lots of wires and specialist knowledge to set up. Companies like Apple and Google are looking to change all of this. They envision a world in which companies can conduct teleconferencing meetings, but without any of the hassle traditionally associated with them. Apple has developed its Airplay and Google has developed Chromecast to do precisely that in consumer environments, but there’s a need for the same simplicity in the office setting.
Now companies are producing lines of collaboration tools that allow businesses to take their conference rooms with them, no matter where they go. The technology relies on WiFi to work, and once it’s up and running, provides multiple functions, like screen share and streaming videos to multiple conference rooms. The cool thing about this software, and so many other new software products hitting the business market today, is that they are compatible across a range of platforms. Most are embedded in the cloud, meaning that the browser has effectively become the OS. And with better standards across browsers, connecting has never been easier.
IoT In Enterprise
One of the most misunderstood, but most significant innovations of the present decade, is the IoT for enterprise. The IoT, at the moment, is seen as a consumer network, connecting things like thermostats and light switches to iPhone apps. But the truth is that there are much bigger opportunities for the IoT outside of the consumer market. A few businesses are getting excited about what the platform has to offer, but the vast majority remain sceptical or worse, don’t actually understand how it can help.
Integrating the IoT into your business isn’t just about connecting “things” – it’s about empowering people to make better business decisions and streamline processes. Take manual data entry, for example. Without the IoT, an employee has to go to a piece of equipment, collect data, and then report back to a spreadsheet. It’s time-consuming and usually boring for the employee. With the internet of things, however, this entire process can be automated, leaving employees to do higher value added tasks, like interpreting and using the data.
Small businesses are making big inroads into the IoT, thanks mainly to its ability to slash labour costs and the fact that sensors and other IoT-enabled devices are now extremely cheap.
Integrating new technology into small business has never been easier. Right now, we’re witnessing a collapse in the price of digital services, thanks to the major advances being made on all fronts. It’s entirely possible that in the future, startup costs for small knowledge businesses, like consultancies and agencies, will fall close to zero. For small business, all these developments are exciting, as they are for the world as a whole.