We help businesses figure out what technologies make sense for them, and it certainly is true that there are a lot of new technologies changing the way we do things.
The rise of the internet has changed whole industries – think about travel agencies, record stores, book stores and newspapers. However, newer technologies on the horizon mean that we are about to see even greater changes.
Here is a quick overview of six technology trends you need to be aware of. The first three are here today, but consumers are far ahead of businesses and businesses need to catch up. The second three are right around the corner!
The use of smartphones and tablet devices connected to the internet is quickly changing how we get information and how we do business.
Consider these stats:
- Over half of all Americans now go online with their phones (Source: Pew Internet)
- 56% of US adults own a smartphone (Source: Pew Internet)
- 34% of cell internet users go online mostly using their phones (Source: Pew Internet)
- Smartphone owners spend nearly 2 hours a day on their phone, but only 23 minutes of that is for phone calls (Source: eWeek)
- More people worldwide have access to a mobile phone than to a toothbrush (Source: Mobile Marketing Magazine)
- Worldwide, 20 % of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices (Source: Marketingland)
- And 20% of home broadband traffic is from mobile devices (Source: Strategexe)
- At a minimum, your business needs a mobile website. Here is further information on what can do in the mobile area.
What exactly is the cloud? At its simplest, it means storing information and using software applications that are independent of your local computing hardware – whether that hardware is a PC, laptop, server, or mobile device.
Let’s look at some examples. You are using the cloud when you:
- Use an email address from Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook.com
- Watch a video on YouTube
- Listen to music on Pandora or Spotify
- Share files or backup your computer using Dropbox or Apple’s iCloud
- Use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+
- Organize notes, research and projects using Evernote
- Track customers with SalesForce.com
- Do payroll, accounting or invoicing using FreshBooks or QuickBooks Online
- Provide customer service and support with Zendesk
Prior to the cloud, the only option for companies was to buy, install, update and maintain their own computer hardware and software. This required a significant level of technical expertise and cost especially if you want to enable collaboration among employees or have multiple locations.
Many smaller businesses could not afford the infrastructure costs, but today is a great time to look at your business processes and see which ones could be more effective using some of the available cloud tools. The biggest benefits of cloud computing are:
- You don’t have to own and maintain hardware.
- You don’t have to update software. It is automatically updated for you and you get new features as you use the product.
- You can work from anywhere. Your information is available wherever you have an internet connection.
- There is a low cost of entry. There are many free services available and many with affordable monthly or yearly subscription models.
Google Apps for Business is a set of services for mail, calendar, instant messaging, video calls, shared documents and more. This video gives a quick overview of how using the cloud works.
Social media seems to be everywhere. You know when you turn on the news on TV and they are reading tweets posted on Twitter that this is not going away.
Here are some statistics from the most popular social media platforms (Source: Social Media Today)
- YouTube – 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and 500 years of YouTube videos are watched on Facebook every day
- Facebook – 2.5 billion pieces of content are shared every day and Senior citizens are the fastest growing segment of Facebook users
- LinkedIn – 43% of US marketers have found a customer through LinkedIn
- Twitter – 400 million tweets are sent every day, and 25% of consumers who complain about products on Twitter or Facebook expect a response within 1 hour
- Google+ – integrates with Google search results and has the largest number of monthly visits
- Pinterest – 80% of Pinterest users are women, and Pinterest drives more referrals than Facebook or Twitter
Your customers are using social media, and you should be where your customers are. Social media is where word-of-mouth happens today. Many businesses are not sure how to use social media for their business, or else they treat it as an advertising billboard only. Instead, use it to listen to customers and as a tool to spread your business story the way you do when dealing with customers “in real life.”
Don’t make the mistake of building your online presence only on social media. Social media should get the message out while directing customers to your website – the platform you own and control. See more about developing a social media presence here:
- Getting Started with Email Marketing
- Just Say No to Social Media Marketing
- How to Find the Right Social Media Marketing Mix
3-D printing has been called the next industrial revolution. It works by printing out objects by layering materials into a 3-D solid object based on a digital model design. It is called additive manufacturing because it builds them up a layer at a time from a particular material. Consumer versions of 3-D printers generally use plastics right now, but metals and even biological materials are being used in some applications.
Home versions of 3-D printers are available for purchase now and you can go to some UPS stores for 3-D printing services. Service providers like Shapeways print medical implants for surgeons, models of buildings for architects, lampshades for interior designers, custom-made knobs for cabinet-makers and lightweight parts for industrial robots.
For further reading and exploration check out these links:
- This Company is Taking its Cues from Amazon as it Works to Reinvent Manufacturing for the Modern Age
- 3-D Printing Scales Up
- 3-D Printing for Life Science Applications
- Printing Out a Biological Machine
- Makerbot 3-D Photo Booth
- Shapeways 3-D Printing Service
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things refers to objects that are connected to the internet – everything from cars, to lights, to washing machines, to heart monitors. Every day we see more connected products. I just got a new washing machine which talks to a phone app for troubleshooting and diagnostics.
Here are three examples of interesting consumer products you should know about: Nest, Twine, and Tile. Amazon has even launched a home automation section for these types of devices.
- TWINE makes the Internet of Things Simple to Use
- Tile – This Little Thing May Help You Find Your Keys
- The Nest Thermostat
- Amazon Launches Home Automation Section
And here are some articles on what the internet of things may mean for business and consumers:
- How the Internet of Things Changes Everything
- How The Internet Of Things Will Transform Everything – IT Experts
- Welcome to the Programmable World
- The Internet Gets Physical
- The Internet of Things: Smart Houses, Smart Traffic, Smart Health
- Customer Service in the Age of the Internet of Things
Wearables are a new category of computing devices that are defined as always accessible, easily worn on the body and capturing or presenting real-time information. Wearable computers today primarily take three forms: bracelets, smartwatches and eyewear. Although other forms are also being developed, like hi-tech clothing with sensors and tattoos that can be used in place of passwords. Approximately 15 million wearable devices will be sold this year and the market is expected to have fast growth.
The largest group of wearables available today is the fitness trackers – bracelet devices that track your activity. Most popular are the Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone UP and the Fitbit Flex.
Remember Dick Tracy’s 2-way wrist radio? Today’s smartwatches want to connect you to the internet. The Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Pebble are two smartwatches available today.
Google Glass takes a different approach by putting a voice-activated computer on your face. The screen is visible as a head up display about 8 feet away and up to the right (like looking at a rearview mirror in the car), and it speaks to you through a bone-conduction speaker next to your ear. The idea behind glass is that it should be available when you want it, and out of the way when you don’t. Read about my experiences as a Google Glass Explorer here.
Here are some links to learn more about wearables:
- Google Glass – What It Does
- Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch
- Pebble Smartwatch
- Motorola May Give You A Tattoo or Vitamin for a Password
- What wearable computing is really all about
Not all these technology trends impact your business today, but you should be aware of them and the opportunities they may present for your business.