Emerging trends in technology continue to reshape how businesses operate, no matter the nature of their industry. Small businesses can now employ technology that as recently as a few years ago was available only to larger corporations with extensive technology budgets.
Small business technology trends in 2019 will make it possible for even a small business to take advantage of new technologies, allowing for an expanded consumer base, more efficient in-house processes and increased engagement by both customers and staff.
Top 10 small business technology trends
Technology trends to invest in over the next few years include applications that highlight energy efficiency while providing a more immersive experience to consumers.
The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart sensors and even smart shoes may all affect your year-end planning. With that in mind, here are the top technology trends in 2019.
1. Small businesses are incorporating the Internet of Things into their daily strategies.
Event-driven technology includes programs and applications that provide flexible responses to the actions of users and systems. A common example of event-driven technology is how video games respond to user inputs, but the tech also has business applications.
For instance, smart assistants can use event-driven technology to promote smoother workflow by improving connectivity between individual smart devices. Other devices like smart locks and cameras can improve small business security through the use of keyless doors and access permissions.
Smart technology trends in business range from the use of smartwatches to monitor an employee’s heart rate in a hazardous work environment to smart shoes to track a wearer’s location in warehouses and other large work areas.
While Google Glass never gained public acceptance, smart glasses are one of the emerging trends in technology, allowing employees to scan barcodes, quickly consult stock availability or assist in voice-directed work or training.
2. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are speeding up daily tasks.
Machine learning is one of the most exciting technology trends to invest in if you’re a small business— especially if you’re considering a form of artificial intelligence known as narrow AI. Narrow AI targets and executes specific tasks, and it is likely to be among the top technology trends in 2019.
AI is especially useful in manufacturing, where it can be combined with robotic-process automation to perform repetitive tasks. Approximately 41 percent of business organizations have adopted AI solutions, making artificial intelligence one of the most important small business technology trends.
3. Small businesses are using augmented analytics for better decision-making.
A small business’s data represents a treasure trove of information that’s all but indecipherable in its raw form. Augmented analytic applications sift through data, analyze it and convert raw data into actionable steps.
In addition to its ability to automate, augmented analytics also allows you to make well-informed decisions and base small business goals on objective data rather than guesswork.
4. Edge computing is redefining how small businesses work with data.
Edge computing is one of the more mysterious emerging trends in technology, mostly because people confuse edge applications with cloud computing. Edge computing works with IoT devices on the “edge” of a business network, such as smart sensors, actuators and security systems.
The goal of edge computing is to allow data analysis at the source of data. This allows for more rapid responses that can expedite workflows. Cloud computing, in contrast, uses remote servers to store and manage data.
As an integral part of the IoT, edge computing is one of the most rapidly developing technological trends affecting business.
5. Digital integration is transforming how small businesses work with their space.
Integrating digital practices into your office work space can improve productivity and save resources. Converting to a paperless office requires a significant cultural change in your workforce, but once it’s complete, you’ll save on both office supplies and energy—and you’ll improve your standing with an increasingly green-minded public.
In larger spaces, smart sensors and similar office productivity gadgets can be used to compile data on which areas of your work space are over- or underutilized, while smart plugs and smart thermometers monitor energy use and office climate, respectively.
6. More employees are telecommuting as remote technologies improve.
According to the New York Times, 43 percent of the American workforce spends at least a portion of the week working from remote locations.
Remote work, or telecommuting, is increasingly common, as more small businesses take advantage of new technology and services that make telecommuting more attractive and feasible.
Remote work allows valuable employees to remain with a company if a spouse or partner moves to a new job, negating the need to hire and train a replacement.
As remote workers usually operate from their home offices and use their own computers, printers and other equipment, small businesses can eliminate some of the costs associated with replacing outdated technology in the workplace.
7. Enhance any work environment by taking advantage of the digital twin.
A digital twin is a virtual model of a business’s process, product or service, and it is one of the more intriguing technological trends affecting business processes. By creating a digital twin, a company can analyze and monitor systems to predict problems and plan for the future.
Even people can have digital twins, allowing remote employees opportunity to be “physically” present at meetings and collaborate with other members of the workforce.
8. Application programming interfaces are accelerating business productivity.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) essentially allow a product, service or device to communicate with another product or service. APIs have been one of the most effective small business technology trends to invest in (particularly now that smartphones are common), and they are often used to create websites and mobile apps.
APIs also grant remote employees access to the kind of sensitive data that is usually hidden behind a firewall. Salespeople, for instance, can quickly access information on the road through APIs, improving their ability to inform and sway potential customers.
9. Small businesses are using immersive experiences for increased customer insights.
Remember when virtual reality was considered science fiction? That’s no longer the case. Immersive reality is expected to be one of the top technology trends in 2019. While often associated with video games and the entertainment industry, immersive realities have multiple business applications, including employee training and creating more enjoyable, engaging customer experiences.
Of the three types of immersive reality currently available—virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality—mixed reality is expected to be the most influential when it comes to small business technology.
Pro Tip: Mixed reality refers to a mixture of real-world and digital objects that interact through smartphones.
10. Businesses are using Customer relationship management (CRM) software to improve customer service and satisfaction.
CRM software manages, controls and builds customer relationships. Any application that interacts with customers, analyzes data or automatically recommends services or products to customers is a part of the CRM family.
Chatbots, for instance, have proven one of the more popular small business technology applications in recent years, mostly for their ability to answer customer questions without the need for real-life customer service.
Bonus! Updated cybersecurity is becoming essential for protecting company data.
While many of the top technological trends affecting business in 2019 are cutting edge, others are well established. Cybersecurity is a case in point.
As CRMs, augmented analytics and edge computing become more important, the value of a business’s data increases—as does the potential damage that could be caused should data be stolen during a digital security breach. Adopting new technology trends should not come at a cost to your cybersecurity systems.
How to determine which trends matter for your business
Most small businesses are already aware of the need to invest in smart technology but may not be sure which of the emerging trends in technology are most essential for success. It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and the answer to which technology trends to invest in depends, in large part, on the nature of your business.
A restaurant probably has no need for edge computing but may find that integrating AI into its daily processes saves time while improving efficiency. A hair salon may not wish to work with event-driven technology but might find uses for immersive reality (such as virtual tools to show customers various hairstyles).
A café might benefit from some finely tuned smart-assistant routines for lighting and music. When considering technology trends in business, always think about how the tech will affect your customers, your employees and your efficiency.