Technology is a powerful thing.
It can make our lives easier, transform the way we do business, and even connect people from thousands of miles away, all over the world. Companies throughout the world – particularly in some of the most technology-rich sectors – are constantly looking for new innovations that not only make them more appealing to their customers but help them to outshine their competitors too.
In a world where “digital transformation” is becoming more essential than ever to organisations who want to stay ahead of the curve, it’s important to remember that transforming a company is about more than simply implementing every new piece of tech you find. Today’s businesses need to evaluate the opportunities available to them and make decisions based on relevance, scalability, and security.
To help you get started, here are just some of the biggest technology trends that have been transforming our environment in 2017.
1. AI, Chatbots, and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence is probably the hottest topic in tech right now. Over the last year or so, investment in AI has been ramping up, as more companies from Google to Amazon explore how the use of machine knowledge can transform the world as we know it. As we discover more solutions for AI accuracy, like natural language processing, deep learning, and neural networks, the potential of AI is becoming even more exciting.
Today, AI can be used to help companies sort through millions of pieces of data, within a fraction of the time it would take to process that information manually. Chatbots are enhancing customer experience, with some statistics suggesting that chatbots will be responsible for savings of over $8 billion per year by 2022.
The potential of AI is tremendous. We’re already seeing some of the possibilities today, in computers like IBM’s Watson that learns over time, and simple virtual assistants like Slackbot, Alexa, and Cortana. With the potential to access and use so much data in so little time, AI could potentially transform everything we know about the way businesses work – streamlining everything from customer service, to product development. It’s no wonder research predicts that it’ll be worth $5.5 billion by 2020.
2. The Arrival of Interactive Broadcasting
This year, we’ve seen a lot of buzz around the concept of “interactive broadcasting”, or live streaming. In fact, the chances are that you see several examples of this technology every day when you’re checking out your Facebook Live or Twitter Periscope feed. Though the tech has been popularised by social media, what most people don’t realise is that it has incredible potential for businesses too.
As connecting with modern customers becomes increasingly difficult, interactive broadcasting could open the door to a new level of experience for brands. 2017 could be the tipping point for this tech, which can give businesses the opportunity to share events with customers around the globe, deliver real-time product training to employees, and schedule interactive webinars for users.
Already, 46% of the population in China are using interactive broadcasting daily. The latest figures predict that the market in China alone will reach around $5 billion by the end of the year, just slightly short of the market for movies in the country.
3. Access to Big Data
For a while now, big data has been more of a buzzword than an actual strategy for businesses who want to take their company to the next level of digital transformation. This year, however, the concept of big data has become more accessible for everyone. New Services like “InsightSquared” are giving companies the chance to mine the information they need from tools that are already in use, like Zendesk and Google analytics. Organisations are leveraging data instantly to drive growth in their business.
As we move further into the future, the chances are that we’ll see more demand for big data solutions to be quicker, and more secure than ever before. Fortunately, with the advent of AI technology, managing the big data we collect as businesses should be simpler than ever.
4. IoT and The Next Stage of Customer Service
Excitement around the “Internet of Things”, or IoT is something that’s been gathering for some time now. By 2022, it’s an industry that’s expected to grow by more than $883 billion, with more than 25 billion connected devices in the marketplace. While larger companies are already tapping into the potential that IoT has to offer, smaller businesses can still benefit from the advantages of this technology.
Companies of all sizes can use IoT to regulate their use of energy and improve security monitoring through applications like the “Nest” device. At the same time, tracking payments and shipments is much easier thanks to smart tracking programs and card readers. As technology develops, and IoT platforms become easier to use, IoT adoption is sure to grow.
Already, we’re seeing new solutions emerge in the form of things like the connected car. With inexpensive cellular connectivity solutions, car makers can monitor everything from handling, to tire pressure, and driving experience. Using this data, manufacturers can give drivers the information they need to improve their mileage, visit cheaper stops for gas, and even anticipate repairs.
5. The Collaborative Enterprise
We started to see changes in the collaborative marketplace in 2016, with more companies than ever before starting to consider new solutions for bringing dispersed workers together. In 2017, the world of collaboration has grown even greater than ever, with new workplace solutions appearing in everything from instant messaging to HD video and audio conferencing.
The cloud is being used to its full potential, as collaborative apps like Google Teamwork, Slack, and Skype for Business offer ever-more-innovative solutions for modern companies. Not only can you call a person and see their availability in real time, but you can also share documents and files that various members of a team can collaborate over and annotate at the same time.
Even the average meeting space is changing, with the “big” and expensive meeting rooms of the past being quickly replaced by smaller, more intimate spaces known as “huddle” rooms. With a huddle room, a collaboration app, and other tech solutions like digital whiteboards, workers from all over the world can connect through a seamless strategy for productivity and workplace efficiency.
6. The Arrival of Augmented Reality
Although virtual reality appears to still be in a stage of stagnation, despite attempts made by companies like HTC, Facebook, Google, and others, augmented reality seems to be making more of an impact during 2017. Ever since the “Pokémon Go” craze, the interest in augmented reality has been ramping up, among consumers and businesses alike. Estimates suggest that the market for AR will reach about $80 billion by 2025, and this year could be the tipping point for this technology.
The possibilities for AR are endless. Car manufacturers could introduce people to “virtual” experiences where they get to explore and see cars right in front of them, without having to visit the showroom. Furniture designers could allow customers to place items from their collection into their living room, and assess their style before ever having to make a purchase.
With so much potential in the future, it’s no wonder that 67% of businesses are considering the use of augmented reality in the enterprise. In fact, about 20% of businesses expect to be able to start using augmented reality this year.
Rob is Founder & Publisher of UC Today, a leading news publication specialising in Unified Communications & Collaboration technologies.