Technology seems to be moving faster than ever. Homes can now be powered by your voice, machines are learning how to think like humans and virtual reality is helping people be transported to different worlds. We are all living in a period of great innovation. This can feel scary, but the exciting opportunities for business growth have never been greater.
This article looks at four of the most disruptive tech trends that are transforming businesses in 2019. Discover what they are and what you need to know about each of them.
What is blockchain?
In a 2016 TED Talk, Don Tapscott, in reference to blockchain, said: “the technology likely to have the greatest impact on the next few decades has arrived”. Although blockchain originates from 1991, its popularity and understanding has grown only more recently.
Blockchain can take a bit of time to get your head around. Whilst many may have heard of bitcoin, or cryptocurrency, blockchain is the underlying technology that enables these concepts to work.
As its name suggests, blockchain is a sequence of blocks or groups of transactions that are chained together and can help to move digital assets from one person to another. Typically, you would transfer money via a trusted 3rd party, such as a bank. But blockchain means that you no longer need to rely on intermediaries. You can transact peer-to-peer, using an open, distributed ledger concept, which is more secure (thanks to cryptography), and the process is faster, which subsequently means lower costs.
Whilst blockchain typically records financial transactions, it can be used for money, other financial assets, intellectual property, contracts, votes, arts, energy, identity and much more.
How will blockchain disrupt businesses?
Blockchain is something that can completely transform the way business is done, to provide huge advantages to various stakeholders. Here are just a few examples to consider:
- Better supply chains – Blockchain can help businesses manage complex supply chains more easily and in real-time. Supermarkets, for example, could easily see the journey of products from field to shelf. This transparency is then something that could help customers make more informed buying decisions.
- Smart contracts – Contracts can often face claims or disputes. However, blockchain can help businesses simplify paper-intensive processes, reduce many of the risks that arise from human interaction and create contracts that are immutable. This can often all be done far quicker and more cost-effectively than traditional methods and provide a single point of reference in the future.
- Improved payment systems – Payments between suppliers, customers and employees can be complicated for businesses, even more so if payments are being made internationally. Not only does it take time for payments to be made via banks, but there can be large charges incurred too. Blockchain can remove the need for a middleman and payments can be made quicker and at lower costs.
In a recent article, PwC stated that “When a technology moves so quickly, it’s dangerous to sit on the sidelines. We’re watching blockchain move from a start-up idea to an established technology in a tiny fraction of the time it took for the internet or even the PC to be accepted as a standard tool.” Blockchain is regularly evolving and is a tech trend that will continue to transform the way we do things in business. The opportunities are out there (far beyond bitcoin and cryptocurrency), but it’s now important for businesses to develop their knowledge of the technology further and fully embrace the many benefits it can provide.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML)
What is AI and ML?
Artificial intelligence is where machines carry out tasks which involve some level of intelligence, independently of humans. Tasks could be speech recognition, decision making or image recognition for example.
Machine learning is a fundamental concept of AI, where a computer can carry out specific tasks by processing large amounts of inputted data and by identifying trends in the data. The computer algorithms can develop and improve over time (without human interaction), simply through experience. By learning, rather than being programmed to carry out specific tasks, machines can deal with far more advanced challenges that mimic the behaviour of human experts.
How will AI and ML disrupt businesses?
AI and ML provide many exciting opportunities to businesses. Here are just three ways to consider:
- Automate processes – AI can be used to automate repetitive tasks that humans would usually perform. This can help businesses reduce costs and free up time for humans to perform more advanced level tasks. Manufacturing businesses, for example, may find this beneficial. Customer service departments may also use AI-powered chatbots to help answer basic level customer questions. Or HR departments could use machine learning to more quickly sort through hundreds of CVs in order to find the right candidates for the job.
- Provide better diagnoses – AI could be used in areas such as the healthcare industry. Computers could review patient data and data from various other available sources to help make more accurate diagnoses. This could also take place far quicker than via a human analysis of patient records. This saves time and frees up doctors’ resources to provide better overall patient care.
- More personalised experiences – With AI, businesses can take control of their data and analyse it far beyond human capabilities, to better understand and serve customers. As a result, businesses can provide more effective, personalised experiences. One example of this could be personalised marketing emails. Instead of sending one blanket email to all customers, at the same time, businesses could use Big Data and AI to send more relevant emails to customers, on the products/services they want/need, at the best times.
There is a lot of distrust of AI, as many people see it as a technology that will lead to jobs being lost. However, AI will create a whole new set of jobs, such as people who can program the software or who can make decisions and act on the intelligence that machines provide.
3. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
What is VR and AR?
Virtual reality is a term that has been used for several years, but the adoption of this technology (by consumers and businesses) has been relatively slow. This could be for various reasons, such as price as well as people’s perception that it’s just for gaming. But 2019 could be the year that changes that.
With virtual reality, the real world is shut out and you are completely immersed in an experience where you’re transported (visually) into a real-world or created environment.
In comparison, augmented reality overlays digital elements onto a live view of the world. A good example of this is the popular Pokémon Go game.
How will VR and AR disrupt businesses?
VR and AR can make a huge difference in the business world, if businesses are willing to embrace it.
Here are just a few examples to consider:
- Improve learning – Virtual reality could provide huge benefits in the education sector. It’s not always possible to put your skills to the test, but with virtual reality, it becomes an opportunity. For example, trainee pilots could fly an aeroplane via a simulation, without having the reins of an actual aeroplane. This can help reduce training time, be far safer and be more cost-effective too. In the same way, surgeons could practice operations in virtual reality, so they can then practice, before operating on real humans.
- Virtual meetings – With businesses becoming increasingly global, it can be costly to meet up with employees around the world and Skype meetings or phone calls are not always as effective. However, with the help of virtual reality, we might see more virtual meetings take place. You may even be able to sit and work together with colleagues who work on the other side of the world, via virtual representations.
- Try before you buy – In some industries, businesses are trying to sell a product to customers that they may find hard to visualise. Architects, for example, could use virtual reality to provide customers with a virtual walkthrough of their potential new home. This can help to not only visualise it but to understand what works and what doesn’t, so changes can be made before anything is built in bricks and mortar.
4. The Internet of Things (IoT)
What is IoT?
The internet of things is where devices have a chip or connection to the internet, enabling them to collect data and communicate amongst each other. This could be a coffee machine which talks to your alarm clock so that it makes you a coffee as soon as you wake up. Your fridge could connect with your phone to tell you what you could make for dinner based on the ingredients you have available. Or, when you’re driving to a meeting, your car could send an email to your colleague to say you’re stuck in traffic and will be late.
How will IoT disrupt businesses?
As with any technology, it’s difficult to predict exactly how much IoT will affect businesses, but here are just some suggestions on how it can become a big part of how businesses operate:
- Help offices run smoothly – With IoT, a device such as a printer can automatically order ink when supplies get low, so you never run out. This can be applied throughout the business, for various resources, to ensure everything runs smoothly and effectively.
- Understand customers’ needs – With more connected devices, the amount of data available to businesses will rise substantially. Businesses should use this to their advantage (within the limits of data privacy and protection laws), to understand customers’ needs so the right products/services can be supplied, at the right time. This can even be tied into their marketing strategies too. For example, if a customer’s car registers that it will need new tyres soon, as a business, you could use this opportunity to send the customer a special offer, so they return to your business to buy their tyres, rather than looking elsewhere.
- Improve services – By having connected devices that are continuously collecting data, you can spot areas of your processes where improvements can be made. Problems could also be reported before they even happen. This could apply to various industries, such as the transport sector. By identifying inefficiencies and problems before they happen, services can run as smoothly as possible and any disastrous or costly issues could be avoided.
What the future holds…
With all the new and exciting tech trends and innovations, it’s hard to predict what the future looks like for businesses. However, these four disruptive technologies provide huge opportunities. If businesses want to stay ahead of the game, they cannot afford to wait and watch from the sidelines. Businesses need to take advantage of the opportunities provided by these tech trends, by embracing change.
To learn how to be highly adaptable to changes in business systems, office procedures and technology, whilst developing your skills to move up the career ladder, take a look at Open Colleges’ online course, BSB40515 Certificate IV in Business Administration.
If you would like to learn more about some of the many fascinating disruptive technologies, subscribe to our Digital Transformation Learning Library. You’ll find hundreds of digital assets, including audiobooks, eBooks and video courses, on virtual reality, artificial intelligence, blockchain and more. Assets are updated regularly too so you can be assured that you’re learning the very latest in this fast-paced industry.