After a decade of dramatic and rapid technological advancement, it is interesting that the top five major trends in business technology for 2014, identified by both Gartner and IDC, are all extensions of existing technology rather than new or disruptive systems.
The challenge lies in identifying how these technologies will affect specific industries, and the opportunities they will create for individual companies.
Idea in brief
Businesses need to leverage emerging technology trends to gain strategic market advantage over their competitors
- Social media is increasingly being used as a recommendation engine for purchases, and experiences.
- Wearable and context-aware technology presents a significant opportunity for business in areas like sales and asset management.
- Global connectivity and computing infrastructure is enabling very large businesses to cut costs and boost efficiency.
- Data analysis is enabling more effective decision-making for organisations in diverse sectors.
- Connectivity and technological diversity is creating significant opportunities in the emerging M2M space.
Making the most of social media
Social media is a classic example. It’s 11 years since LinkedIn went live, a full decade since Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, eight years since the first Tweets were sent, yet everything that’s old is still new in the world of social networking.
Futurist and industry commentator Ross Dawson says senior executives need to be aware that people are increasingly using social media to determine their purchasing decisions before they enter a store or visit a website.
“People are also sharing their purchasing decisions with their online community,” says Dawson.
Social media is not just about getting ‘liked’ anymore, it’s about fully engaging with your customer base
Jane Huxley, managing director, Australia and New Zealand at Internet Radio service Pandora, is well aware of the power of web-based recommendations. Every new user of the Pandora service introduces a further eight new users to the web-based radio station, according to in-house calculations, resulting in explosive growth in the company’s customer base.
The next phase, according to Huxley, will see tastes and interests identified through social media extended into the real world.
“We’re seeing a massive trend towards messaging crossing over from social media and into the experiential space,” Huxley says. “Because we know a lot about what people are interested in doing and listening to we can put together really creative experiences, like combining an album launch with a car promotion.”
Wearable technology becomes a reality
There can be no doubt that mobile technology is going through a phase of rapid diversification, as mobile technologies become capable of “reading” their environment. Computers are also becoming so small and handy they can be integrated into clothes and accessories, from Nike+ shoes and Google glasses to Samsung smart watches.
The opportunity this creates for business, according to Dawson, is based around the notion of context-aware technology. These devices could automatically be set to silent in a meeting or cinema, offer a promotion to customers as they move through a retail outlet, or a discount on a slow sales day.
“The next phase is for technology to disappear into our clothes whether it’s rolled up and slipped into our pockets, or we’re wearing it on our wrists, or in our shoes,” says Dawson. “We can then use this technology to record data or control other devices, and set it so that it becomes more sensitive to our environment and to customer needs.”
Making the most of global connectivity and infrastructure
One of the key trends already emerging in 2014 is the capacity large organisations now have to access data from all over the country, or all over the world.
By taking advantage of cloud computing and global networks, large corporations are now able to ensure staff and customers around the world always have access to corporate data, regardless of sudden or seasonal spikes of demand.
“There are massive benefits in terms of efficiency for businesses that are able to access their data, and scale their infrastructure up or down according to demand,” says Dawson. “We are starting to see successful businesses making the most of this data fluidity.”
This combination between global connectivity and remote hosting is already being embraced by some of Australia’s largest companies.
Earth moving equipment supplier Komatsu has been able to connect 1800 staff in 42 different branches across Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia on a single corporate platform. At the same time, mobile staff are able to access corporate data and communications systems through laptop computers, enabling them to produce invoices on the run and dramatically reduce the time wasted travelling to and from meetings.
Unlocking the power of data
Every large organisation in Australia has a lot of raw data. A significant challenge is turning that raw data into meaningful information which can be used for decision-making.
“Information processing and analysis is a rapidly growing field,” says Dawson.
Most organisations know how to capture the data now, but the capacity to use it to automate functions, or to inform decisions is still a challenge for most
Unlocking useful information from sophisticated data analysis has resulted in both savings and business growth in projects across different sectors of the economy.
Using data analysis to automate processes in plants, drill rigs and trucks, resources company Rio Tinto has managed to save $90 million, and make mine sites safer by taking humans out of some of the more dangerous areas. The next phase of this project will see optimisation of the use of explosives in coalmines, further reducing costs and improving safety.
The internet of everything
The size, capacity and connectivity of devices is not only driving a whole new phase of wearable technology, it is also behind a dramatic increase in fixed device connectivity.
Connectivity is now so pervasive and so affordable we’re seeing a shift from the internet of things, to the internet of everything
“This means we’re able to connect a huge range of devices to the internet and control them remotely, or have them control each other.”
A significant example of this is a “machine-to-machine” implementation rolled out by Coca-Cola Amatil, which will soon see its 30,000 vending machines across Australia equipped with SIM cards. These cards capture and communicate data regarding sales and stock, allowing for highly precise ordering and restocking as well as enabling technicians to proactively service the machines.
“These technologies are providing massive opportunities to those organisations that are ready to integrate them into their processes,” says Dawson. “And we will start to see a dramatic gap emerge between these more creative companies and the ones that fail to see where this emerging technology will fit into their business.”
To see how these technologies can provide massive opportunities for you, speak to your Telstra Account Executive.