As everyone’s lives return to normal after a busy holiday season, it’s a good time to take a moment to look at the most important IT trends that will affect small businesses in the new year.
In this blog post, we have identified nine significant IT trends that will impact small businesses in the coming year and beyond. It is important for your company to be aware of these trends and respond to them appropriately in order to gain an advantage over your competitors and more effectively achieve your objectives.
AI and Machine Learning Continue Their Progress
Advancements in AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology revolve around the growing ability of machines and applications to perform tasks that are characteristic of human intelligence. Some tasks that machines are increasingly more adept at performing include the recognition of images, speech, and behavioral patterns, and the ability to make decisions. Key ways this will impact small businesses include the enhanced ability to schedule tasks and services, monitor and perform maintenance, and improve energy efficiency.
Technology experts predict that the key trend in AI in 2020 will be developments that continue to simplify the human user interface with AI. AI-powered solutions are also enabling programmers to more easily develop advanced and customized business applications.
Linked with the growth of AI, is the concept of Machine Learning (ML), which was defined by Arthur Samuel in 1959 as “the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed.” This independent learning ability is a way to increase a machine or application’s artificial intelligence. In 2020, small business should take advantage of this technology’s rapid advance by using machine learning applications for data analytics, data mining, and pattern recognition.
Robotic Process Automation Becomes More Common
A related fast-growing IT trend is the technology known as Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA is the use of software to automate repetitive business activities such as processing transactions, interpreting applications, handling data, and even responding to customer emails. This technology is increasingly moving away from menial work to more advanced tasks including some of the repetitive work done by financial and other business managers as well as medical professionals.
Although the advancement in AI, ML, and RPA will inevitably result in the loss of significant jobs in various industries, it is also driving job growth in high-paid fields such as project managers, developers, business analysts, and consultants.
Edge Computing Fills in Gaps of the Cloud
As the cloud continues its steady advancement to mainstream use by the majority of companies, the latest emerging technology called Edge computing will be increasingly used to fill in the gaps of the cloud. Edge computing is designed to overcome the latency issues of the cloud and to provide an alternative for rural and other locations without easy access to data centers. The development of specialized AI chips that feature miniature sensors and enhanced functionality, which will enable distributed devices to perform advanced analytics in real-time on the edge of cloud-based data centers or networks.
5G Slowly Becomes a Reality
The long-anticipated development of 5G networks for increased mobile internet connectivity will become more of a reality in 2020. The power of 5G has a transmission speed that is far superior to 4G and is even faster than most home broadband options. The increase in speed and capability offered by 5G will vastly improve the operation of smart devices and IoT equipment, which will more easily be able to interconnect with similar devices. What used to be only done by laptops and computers, will now be more easily achieved on phones and tablets. This technology will also make more complex operations possible such as drones, self-driving cars, and utility management by businesses and cities.
5G does present some significant concerns because of the potential negative impact of higher degrees of radioactivity on nature and humans and the need to build more infrastructure to support its bandwidth requirements.
The Use of Immersive Technologies Expands
Immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR) will continue to become more advanced and widespread in many industries with a wide variety of applications. These technologies have significant potential in sectors such as training, education, entertainment, and in healthcare, where it can assist in rehabilitation efforts. Businesses will continue to invest heavily in these areas to enhance a potential customer’s interactive and sensory experience with their products and solutions and optimize their sales and marketing activities.
Blockchain Technology Focuses on Interoperability
Blockchain technology, which combines a decentralized and distributed ledger and cryptography to ensure safe transactions and other functions, will move away from the idea of one central type of blockchain technology. Instead, technology is being developed and implemented to enable interoperability between various types of blockchains with the protection of shared security for all users. Companies and organizations of all sizes will have the ability to quickly create customized blockchains that can work together with other organizations’ blockchains with ensured security for all transactions and services.
IoT Advances Steadily
The rapid advance of the Internet of Things (IoT) will accelerate in 2020. As of 2019, experts estimated that there were about 26 billion IoT devices around the world and they now predict that this number will soon grow to a mind-boggling 75 billion. In 2020, the average person in the modern world will have four connected devices, which is expected to rise to twenty by 2030. Currently this technology mainly exists in the form of connected smart devices such as refrigerators and home heating and lighting systems, but there is an increasing trend toward wearable technologies such as activity trackers and smart glasses. Experts see the most promising use of these technologies for utilities and smart cities that can improve their services in waste management, water and power distribution, and traffic management.
IoT’s main drawback is that increased interconnectivity presents the threat of more network portals potentially accessible by cybercriminals. Overcoming these security challenges presents concerns as well as opportunities for small businesses.
Cybersecurity Becomes More Challenging
As noted in some of the sections above, with enhanced technology and the greater spread of interconnected devices, the challenge of cybersecurity will continue to grow in 2020. According to Verizon, 61% of cyberattacks are focused on companies with less than a thousand employees. This percentage will continue to rise as larger companies continue to invest heavily in protection. Another glaring statistic that companies must take notice of is that 60% of small businesses go out of business within six months of a successful cyberattack.
On the positive side, small businesses will have access to improved technology to more effectively prevent data breaches on multiple levels through tools such as enhanced anti-virus protection, password management, two-factor authentication (2FA), and network monitoring. There are also useful applications available that test employee susceptibility to phishing and other malware and provide helpful training materials. In addition, there are a variety of valuable offerings to help companies in the event of an infection such as cloud backups and cybersecurity insurance.
Another Year toward Technology Convergence
The heated race to find ways to best utilize all these technology trends will continue in earnest in 2020. Most of these technologies have made great advances in the last few years but have remained mostly isolated in their own sectors. Technology companies are working hard to merge and enhance the many benefits that these technologies provide. The results of this technology convergence will lead to companies becoming more productive, flexible, automated, and smarter.
Consult with an IT Expert to Best Understand and Incorporate New Technologies
In the face of these significant technology trends, the most important recommendation we can give any small business is to take the time to consult and work with a trusted IT Support partner, such as Network Depot. Your IT partner will help your organization understand how to best respond to and incorporate these important technology developments so that you can most effectively achieve your unique business goals.