5 Emerging Technologies for Rapid Digital Transformation
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Physics has a principle that applies to business - the bigger the object, the more time it takes to move. In other words, the bigger the business, the more difficult it is to transform.
This rule still holds true, but organizations, both big and small, are now desperate to change. No one wants to be the next Kodak or Blackberry. So this is where the game becomes interesting for smaller businesses.
The online media is quick to dismiss promising technologies like Blockchain, Big Data Analytics, AI, IoT, and Virtual Reality. This might be because their job is to sensationalize the rise and fall of trends, not take care of your business. These technologies are just the tip of the iceberg!
An increase in computational power, data storage facilities, and the millennial demand have made technology a dynamic field. It is changing every day; is your business coping with these changes? Here are the top technologies for rapid digital transformation:
Blockchain is predicted to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 61.5% between 2016 and 2021. Bitcoin has been riding the waves of investor speculation for some time; with its notable ups and downs, it was definitely a conversation starter for many. Although many are still heavily skeptical of cryptocurrencies and blockchain.
The finance industry, however, will be the biggest benefactor of blockchain, but that does not mean it is not relevant to small businesses. Blockchain can be used by businesses in multiple areas, starting with data security. Since blockchain ensures that everyone has a copy of the core data, even if a hacker breaks into one data point and tries to manipulate that data, the original core data is still untouched and available. Additionally, data is protected by multiple layers of encryption with each update, hence, if hackers want to break into it, they will have to get through all those layers, going as far back as the very first database update -- which is practically impossible.
In addition, any small business can add smart contracts to raise invoices and collect payments when blockchain is at the center of the business. Operational efficiency, transparency, data security, and reduced maintenance costs - all in one.
2. Artificial Intelligence for everyone:
Contrary to popular belief, AI is not a new field of study. Its humble beginnings were with the Neural Networks in the 1950s. As computational power increased, interest shifted to Machine Learning in the 80s. Finally, with the data storage, analysis, and computing power that is available today, Deep Learning came into focus. Basically, AI helps an algorithm leverage data and make more accurate decisions, even if they are not uniform; as the algorithm gathers more data, it can learn more and make better decisions, thus, replacing the human element.
For the most part, AI was only available to large organizations possessing greater technological resources. However, it has now become accessible to smaller businesses as well, even those without a lot of available resources. AI has grown tremendously in cognition and speech recognition, and with the combination of the two, artificial intelligence has now reached small businesses. The simplest and most effective application of AI is exemplified in chatbots.
Chatbots, which originally were just an extension of customer service helplines, have now increased the efficiency of the entire process. With AI-powered chatbots like Acquire, customers can get an immediate response to their generic or most frequently asked questions. Additionally, if the chatbot does not have a readily available solution, it will automatically redirect the customer to a human representative.
With the usage of RFID tags, AI will be able to manage end-to-end inventory, conduct product quality tests, and work on new product formations. It is now available to smaller businesses, and tools like Microsoft's Azure, Amazon's AWS, and Google's TensorFlow library have extremely accessible AI applications for the cloud.
3. Big Data & Predictive Analytics:
The sheer growth in computing power and data storage capacity have made the computers in cars today almost as sophisticated as an entire data center was a few years ago. Big data is about collecting and processing huge quantities of data using multifaceted sensors. Predictive analytics deals with sorting this data with statistical models to come up with possible outcomes.
The combination of big data and predictive analytics can help a business in multiple ways. Now, the entire customer journey can be recorded with Google Analytics, as well as other analytical tools. With the help of predictive analytics, businesses can micro-analyse what works for a specific set of customers and more accurately foresee customer behaviour.
Additionally, big data can be used to create multiple strategies that utilize these insights, and predictive analysis can then be used to stress-test these strategies and provide the best possible course of action for the business.
IoT is expected to grow exponentially because the computing power of microprocessors is increasing every day, RFID technology is being upgraded, and internet costs are decreasing. These advancements will help IoT expand and become more accessible to small businesses. IoT is bound to have a direct impact on inventory management, store merchandising, customer engagement, office management automation, and more efficient security.
5. Virtual Reality:
Virtual Reality is creating an experience of being present in a state or place without being physically there, all with the help of audio, visual, and environmental cues. VR has proven to be a great tool for data visualization and is increasingly being utilized by the fashion, real estate, and hospitality industries. VR, besides being an experience in itself, has also branched out into Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. The viral game Pokemon Go was a fine example of Augmented Reality, where virtual elements were juxtaposed to real perception with the help of either a screen or a wearable device. MR, or Mixed Reality, is an extension of Augmented Reality, where virtual elements interact with real ones in real time. As an example, a neurosurgeon is able to place a patient's MRI report on his patient while performing surgery, using something like Microsoft's HoloLens.
The initial buzz about these technological trends was full of speculation, which soon led to over inflated expectations. Skeptics dismissed these technological trends when those unrealistic expectations were not met. However, the presence of tech giants, like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, in these trends just indicates that they are here to stay. And they are becoming more accessible, open, and cost effective for businesses every day.