Every year, IT research and advisory company Gartner predicts the trends that will shape business technology right now and for decades to come. In its report, “Top Strategic Predictions for 2017 and Beyond” Gartner forecasts continuing “digital disruption” as new technologies seep into every level of the economy. After reviewing the study, we see three emerging technologies that promise to change the way small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) interact with customers and each other.
We shared thoughts about AR in our post “How Augmented Reality Technology (AR) May ‘Disrupt’ SMBs.” It’s a subject that bears revisiting, as this summer’s Pokémon Go craze showed AR’s potential to move and motivate masses of consumers. The mobile game quickly became the most downloaded iPhone app of 2016 with AR as its pivotal tech, enabling players to visualize “pocket monsters” in everyday places whenever and wherever they traveled or commuted. Gartner foresees more and more retailers using AR-driven offerings to enhance shopping experiences. Smartphone apps, for example, that will allow shoppers to simulate how furniture will appear in their living rooms before buying. Before long, this AR-led “consumerization of IT” will dribble into the day-to-day business environments of SMBs, ushering in new ways to visualize data or communicate between offices.
Gartner anticipates that one third web browsing will be done without screens via vocal interfaces by the year 2020, a phenomenon dubbed “screenless browsing.” If you’ve ever asked Siri or Cortana a question, or uttered the phrase “Ok Google…” you’ve already participated in this rising trend. Higher productivity and greater safety are the expected benefits, as screenless browsing frees the eyes, hands and feet of users during mundane tasks such as commuting, cooking or exercising to perform complementary tasks. If Gartner is correct, the “consumerization” process will bring a multitude of screenless applications to the SMB workplace in fewer than five years. In 10 years’ time, what was once the province of science fiction could be commonplace – just as we suggested in our recent post “How Today’s SMBs Are Like the Starship Enterprise.”
Anyone who has visited a fitness center or public park knows that wearable devices already have infiltrated everyday life. This category of mobile devices — including smartwatches, fitness bands and other pieces of connected hardware that monitor our every move and send that data through wireless networks such as office Wi-Fi – also are making rapid advances into workplaces of all types and sizes. To date, much of the hype around “wearables in the workplace” has been negative, with concerns about the cybersecurity risks of their continuous connections. Now, employers are starting to consider the benefits of this trend, too. Gartner estimates that one category of wearables alone — fitness trackers – could help more than a third of workers significantly trim their healthcare costs over the next several years. And beyond individual employees, the data collected by these wristbands also could help companies of all shapes and sizes manage the costs of group plans. In a time of shifting regulations, any additional information SMBs can gather will help them cope with the dynamics of these rapid changes.
One of the best strategies for coping with all of these emerging technologies is working with your IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) to assess the and implications and costs of integrating them into your existing platforms for the cloud, cybersecurity, mobility, business continuity and other areas. Because one issue is certain: They’re here to stay for the foreseeable future.