Predicting the future is, naturally, a difficult task. If it wasn’t, life (and business) would be a lot less interesting.
However, being able to spot the winds of change when it comes to business technology is vital for companies of any size to make the right long-term strategic decisions.
With all aspects of business now commonly falling into a technical domain, no matter what sector you’re in, it’s imperative small business owners think ahead and understand what’s coming down the line before they’re left behind.
Here are the emerging technologies which are set to disrupt the world of business in 2019 and beyond;
A Post-Gordon age
The former CEO of Intel, Gordon Moore, described in a 1965 paper that every 18-24 months the computing power your money can buy will more or less double. So far, this has proved to be a relatively true statement.
However, it’s now looking increasingly likely another of Moore’s predictions will instead come true, that this trend will come undone by 2025 as computer scientists struggle to keep pace.
What we are instead seeing as an alternative reality is a move to smaller, iterative improvements, punctuated by significant leaps forward. This is good news for small businesses, as the slower pace of business technology change will be easier to keep up with – financially and structurally.
While still a long way off from mass adoption, Quantum Computing is likely to be the next big paradigm shift, eventually leaving today’s PCs redundant by crunching sums a conventional computer couldn’t hope to simulate. In fact, the news landed recently that IBM has built the first quantum computer, packing some of the world’s most advanced science into a 9ft glass cube.
The benefits and shortfalls of quantum computing are not yet clear, but rest assured it will completely rewrite the business rulebook, elevating problem-solving and efficiency to the next level. Oh and let’s not forget the security we have in place to safeguard data will also have to completely change.
Head in the clouds
Over recent years we’ve seen more small businesses turn to public cloud, offering the ability to rapidly adopt new technologies and scale up or down on a pay-as-you-go basis. Blowing up the traditional corporate procurement process, public cloud offers huge potential advantage, particularly in resource-intensive fields like big data and AI.
Nonetheless, a hybrid cloud model will reign supreme in 2019 and for many years to come, not only due to a lag in migrating legacy IT systems, but also due to cost factors and the increasing need for real-time technologies. That’s because hybrid cloud bridges both private and public cloud services, giving businesses the opportunity to build a new digital environment and migrate gradually with more flexible cost and operational models.
However, with such a huge range of options now available, finding the right model, both technically and commercially, is a huge challenge. Perhaps most importantly though, cloud technology can increase an SME’s competitive edge.
Being able to respond to your customer’s demands quicker than anyone else, test new solutions in a closed environment and gain intelligent data insights to inform your decision-making can set your business above the rest.
In the next 10 years cloud will become so ubiquitous that it’ll simply be known as “computing”. The good news for small businesses is, as cloud-based storage increases, it will also become cheaper.
Cloud will also become more intelligent, enabled by AI technology. At home, we’re already used to using AI-based systems like Siri, Cortana and Alexa. While this may seem out of reach for most SMEs, AI-as-a-service is increasingly being offered to help smaller businesses come up with innovative solutions to help overcome those tough-to-crack problems.
The rise of the robots
2019 is of course the year in which Blade Runner was set. Yet, while we’re a long way away from a dystopian nightmare and replicants, the press is full of stories about how robots will replace our jobs in the not-so-distant future.
However, naturally, this is a huge oversimplification. In some industries, such as manufacturing, robotics have already replaced many manual tasks, particularly in the West where labour costs are high. In a less obvious role, robots – both physical and in software – are improving business productivity and reducing error rates without causing mass redundancies.
The increased productivity robotics can offer business is inherently a positive to the overall economy, pushing out the efficiency curve. As such, organisations who do not pay attention to the shifts in automation and robotics in their industry face the risk of quickly being unable to compete.
As robotic adoption increases, the cost of this technology falls, meaning what once seemed like a far future is now an everyday reality for many small businesses. But don’t expect your office to look like a neo-noir science fiction film just yet.
Far-out tech predictions
So, what about the really crazy stuff where science fiction becomes science fact?
You may have read stories recently about companies implanting microchips in their employees to monitor their vital functions, track their movements and understand their lifestyles, but will this become the new normal?
The answer is no because it’s crazily intrusive and essentially unethical. Although, as China’s “social credit” system shows, we can get all that information without the need to put chips into people.
Quantum Computing may well be just around the corner, opening up huge new opportunities to take previously insurmountable problems and solve them in a matter of seconds. Equally though, we may come across a seemingly impossible issue to solve that prevents the potential from being realised and stall progress for decades. The same applies to AI, as both fields rely on a surprisingly small amount of theory and maths to make it all work.
Smart dust, nanobots and general-purpose AI may all come to fruition in the next decade and change the world entirely. Or, alternatively, they may not, as thanks to the law of diminishing marginal returns, changes are more a case of evolution than revolution.
The only prediction we can give about the future of technology with any real certainty, is that the future won’t be predictable at all.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by By Craig Lodzinski, Chief Technologist for Developing Technologies at Softcat.
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