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'Innovation' is Hot, Hot, Hot! Expect More of It in the Small Business Sector in 2019. Innovation, evolution and regulation, this contributor predicts, will be the three major themes to carry small businesses and startups forward into 2019.

By Ed Cowle

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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This past year, 2018, has been a very good one for innovation. We've seen the blockchain boom, the increase in low-code and no-code app development, the start of the rollout of 5G technology and AI and AR: All came into their own with countless programs and applications for both business and consumer life.

Related: 5 Things Every Retailer -- Including You -- Should Know Going Into 2019

On the coattails of such a year, I believe that 2019 has the opportunity to show even more promise. Here are the trends I predict we will see in small businesses and across the industry as a whole:

University technology transfers will become an integral part of the startup community.

The innovation economy is always looking ahead toward "the next big thing." It should come as no surprise, then, that often the new generation of the best and brightest can be found in colleges and universities across the country.

The spark for this was the 1980 Bayh-Doyle Act, which enabled universities, nonprofit research institutions and small businesses to own, patent and commercialize inventions developed under federally funded research programs within their organizations. As a result, corporations and investors in the years since have been turning to colleges for research and development.

Gatorade, Facebook, Remicade: No shortage of household names have come out of college and university research and development. In fact, according to an infographic from AUTM, from 1996 to 2015, tech transfer supported 4.3 million jobs, forming 11,000-plus startups.

Examples? My own company, Sports Engineering Inc., partnered with Worcester Polytechnic Institute to create a unique sole technology, Orca Pharmaceuticals. AstraZeneca announced a partnership with New York University to develop novel drugs for autoimmune disease. The Northwestern University spin-off Naurex Inc. was acquired by Allergan. And there are more ...

Technology will become more prevalent in everyday consumer products.

According to Consumer Technology Association, the U.S. consumer technology sector is set to reach a record $351 billion in retail revenues in 2018. "Technology is improving our lives in more ways than ever -- and consumer enthusiasm is growing just as quickly as companies can bring their innovations to market," Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CTA, told BusinessWire.

In 2019, I believe that technology will embed itself even further in our everyday lives -- often without our even noticing.

Related: 3 Bold Predictions for Women in Corporate America This Year

Fitness, for example, will continue its shift from scheduled studio classes and gyms to on-demand apps and streaming services, which are already part of the $30 billion live-streaming industry (projected by MarketsandMarkets research to grow to $70 billion by 2021). Technology advancements to promote safety among professional and amateur athletes will also increase, whether through the technology in a ZERO1 football helmet designed to reduce concussions, or in the sole of a sneaker aimed at minimizing ACL and ankle injuries.

Even our pets will get into the game, with Amazon expected to launch a pet tracker that can be attached to a dog or cat collar. This will be part of a wide trend for pet-specific technology products, which already represent a huge market, given the more than 1.5 billion dogs and cats worldwide.

"Work" will change, both in terms of how we show up and who's there when we do.

As startups look to cut costs and keep employees happy, the traditional office model will continue to evolve. In fact, 70 percent of professionals globally already work remotely at least once a week, according to a recent report by IWG.

Add to this the fact that a recent study, led by Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom and his graduate student James Liang, demonstrated that remote workers they surveyed were not only happier, but also more efficient: You can see a clear argument for a new model.

Additionally, the remote office model also allows companies with the increased freedom to pursue the talent they desire, rather than restricting themselves to only a handful of candidates in their local area. I believe that this is actually part of an even larger trend -- whereby companies will use different methods to measure the "desirability" of a candidate, and it won't always be the obvious.

As Jeremy Auger, co-founder and chief strategy officer at D2L told Inc., "The rise of A.I. and automation means employees are increasingly tasked with jobs that only humans can do: thinking creatively, using judgment, employing empathy, etc. Adaptability will be the most durable skill in the years to come, as the ability to learn and adjust becomes more important than any one skill."

Further, a "traditional" education won't be as necessary, due to the rise of coding boot camps and other intensive programs that provide students with skills that are immediately applicable for the workspace. These new education models are comprised largely of adults -- people who either chose majors that didn't funnel into a good career path or recognized that they weren't qualified for the job they wanted.

These people then returned to school in a non-traditional way to obtain skills, thus joining the other pioneers out there in the new-collar work force.

Cryptocurrency will no longer be the "Wild West."

Regulation can be difficult when it comes to just about any emerging technology. After all, when something hasn't existed before, how can you possibly control it? In 2019, however, that is going to change. While crypto's trading volume will likely grow by over 50 percent in 2019, according to a Satis Group prediction, it will also become far more regulated. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) announced that it will get one step closer to creating international standards for cryptocurrency when it launches its first set of rules in June of 2019.

Some people say such regulation is overdue: A report by the Wall Street Journal in September said that nearly $90 million worth of criminal proceeds had gone through crypto intermediaries in the previous two-year period. According to the WSJ analysis, which it said included only "a narrow slice of suspected criminal behavior," $88.6 million worth of funds was laundered via 46 exchanges.

According to Reuters, jurisdictions around the world will be required to license and regulate cryptocurrency exchanges, as well as select firms providing encrypted wallets, and firms providing financial services for ICOs.

One thing is clear: With these regulatory improvements coming down the pike, cryptocurrency and the inovation it introduces to all sorts of transactions will be here to stay.

Related: A Look Into the Future of Cryptocurrencies – 3 Predictions for the Cryptocurrency Market

And as entrepreneurs look to the year ahead, innovation, evolution and regulation will serve as the three major themes to carry small businesses and startups forward into 2019.

Ed Cowle

CEO and Founder, Sports Engineering Inc.

Ed Cowle is founder and CEO of Sports Engineering Inc. Following a ten-year career on Wall Street, he has been starting, financing and advising small businesses for the past 20 years. He is founder and drector of Zero Gravity Solutions, Laser Technology, Inc, Biophan Technologies, Inc, Golf Technologies, Inc. and U.S. Rare Earths. Cowle has an extensive background in licensing various technologies from universities and government agencies.  He has licensed technology from NYU, Temple University, Johns Hopkins University and NASA.

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