2018 is an exciting year for small business tech.
Whether it’s products that are developed specifically for small business – or developments that now see big business tech financially obtainable by smaller counterparts, you’ll want to have a look at what’s going to be possible in the next 12 months – as some of it could significantly redefine the direction your business moves in…
Voice for business
While 2017 was the year that saw voice assistants hit the mainstream, 2018 looks to be the year that voice becomes a must-have business accessory.
Amazon’s Alexa will be available to small business and enterprises early in 2018 – but it’s integration into other devices that’s proving to be the most exciting development for businesses. Both laptops and vehicles with Alexa built in are soon to be available – and dongles available to upgrade cars and devices that aren’t Alexa enabled.
Alexa in the workplace could revolutionise communication – and it’s addition to mobile devices could see the potential of truly connected workplace expand enormously.
When you combine greater levels of connectivity with a need for ultra-quick market agility you become more aware of why decentralised digital workspaces are becoming increasingly popular for small businesses.
Never before have so many freelancers combined with small business to create dynamic workforces – and this is made infinitely easier with products like Microsoft Office 365, Google’s G-Suite and others. It will not be uncommon to see small businesses shunning the need for central office space in 2018 – and instead opting for tech supported virtual offices, with employees around the globe.
While blockchain technology is unlikely to make a big impact on your small businesses office in 2018 – it’s very much on the ‘one to watch’ list moving forward.
If you’ve heard of the blockchain it’s almost certainly been in the same breath as Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies – but to link it only to monetary transactions is somewhat short sighted.
A blockchain is essentially a distributed record of transactions – with the impartial hosting computers tasked with validating the transactions that are recorded. If the digital footprint of a transaction works out, then it’s added to the decentralised record – which then becomes a permanent record, unable to be deleted or changed.
While digital currency is often linked to anonymous behaviour, the possibilities of blockchain tech for business offer exactly the opposite – indelible records of important exchanges – something that could revolutionise everything from money to healthcare, manufacture, logistics, sales, payroll and more…
Bots and chatbots
If you had interacted with a chatbot until recently it was probably painfully obviously that you were doing so, clunky responses and slightly uncalibrated solutions were commonplace, leading to consumer frustration – and sometimes a feeling like you were being short-changed by customer services.
Advances in the tech mean 2018 is likely to be very different – with chatbot technology now offering some advantages over traditional human chat.
Time waiting on hold could be a thing of the past for customers engaging with chatbots, as could delays while customer records are interrogated or solutions sought. And of course, a chatbot system can be scaled with almost unlimited potential – meaning that if your small business expands significantly overnight – so does your sales, support and service provision.
The average UK commute is 25 minutes each way – meaning 216 hours or around 5 and a half weeks of business time is spent potentially just sitting in your car.
Now consider what that additional time and work could add up to for your small business over the course of a year. Self-driving tech is still expensive now – but it would also be expensive to take on someone of managerial or director quality for a lengthy period of time.
As the price of self-driving vehicles fall – small business resources could be stretched much further…
E-commerce isn’t anything new – so you might wonder why it features on a list of things that are going to be hot in 2018.
In actual fact, it’s the continuing decline of the high-street that’s seeing e-commerce continue to feature as a must-have for small businesses into 2018 – especially as search becomes more and more accessible throughout our day, with mobile and voice browsing featuring more prominently in consumer’s lives expect to see more companies such as Atlas Ceramics and other popular E-commerce sites adding new tech driven features to their websites.
If you’re not part of the e-commerce juggernaut that continues to roll – 2018 might be a good time to start thinking about how you can get aboard.
5G cellular connectivity seems close to being a reality for the major cellular networks – and its implementation will see further increases in speed over 4G connections.
The technology behind 5G is designed to reduce network speed delays that occur due to ‘latency’ – effectively the measure of delay that occurs when data is transmitted around the world (and more often than not, to and from satellite orbit). Higher latency causes bottlenecks in data flow, slowing a connection.
Higher connection speed makes it more and more feasible to have significant chunks of your business working remotely, on client sites, at pop-up venues, at employees home – and so on – giving you some exceptional options for how to grow and manage your business.
Internet of things
The 5G tech we’ve just mentioned also promises to have a huge impact on IoT or Internet of Things connectivity.
It’s predicted that virtually all new electronic devices manufactured by 2020 will have connectivity capability, meaning our world is likely to become more connected like never before – and the possibilities for small business are incredible.
Consider your company’s payroll – with working hours updated automatically from a worker’s smart phone, laptop and car – removing the need for huge amounts of pay and expense calculations. Or maybe the IoT possibilities around stock levels and checking would be more appealing – with smart labels scanned in and out, automatically updates a real time system and re-ordering with zero effort required from your team.
Although connectivity ideas like these might seem the stuff of daydreams at this stage, innovative features like Amazon’s ‘Dash’ are making our day to day lives far more connected than they ever have been before – and the business applications could be far more wide-spanning.