Technologies that were once interesting hypotheticals are now maturing, and that could mean problems for your company if you’re not on top of what’s new. Technologies like natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are becoming key tools for business. We look at what’s coming up in 2018 in a variety of industries to identify the technologies that could disrupt your business, and how you can incorporate them.
1. Videoconferencing, VR, and Video
You probably already have access to video via the amazing device in your pocket. You may even have a video strategy for how to market your business. Yet, even if you know all of this, video could still do more for your company.
Kristine Dery, a research scientist at MIT’s Sloan Center for Information Systems Research, told CIO, “We see firms investing significantly in interactive video technologies particularly as they spread the use of agile methodology beyond their software development teams to the rest of the business.” In a methodology that highly favors face-to-face interactions, video has become the bedrock for collaborating effectively even when you’re not collocated. VR stands to one-up this even further and offers an even more in-depth interaction.
2. Remote Workers
Increasingly, millennials value the ability to work from home. The flexibility to work from home, or even to work while traveling, creates a lot of appeal for your company when you’re looking to hire the best and the brightest.
Digital collaboration tools that enable remote work can help you take advantage of this. “Online workplaces” like Sococo and Walkabout Workplace mix a variety of tools to create a smooth working experience. They combine chat, video, screen sharing, and a visual representation of who is “in” the office and what they’re up to at any given moment—the best parts of collocated working with the benefits of working from home.
Relying on at least a few remote workers also benefits you from a hiring perspective. Rather than limiting yourself to qualified people who live near you or can relocate and leave their homes, you open up your pool of potential applicants by making a job a remote position. For example, someone who has to stay home to care for a child or a sick loved one can still apply and work for you, thanks to the extra flexibility that remote work allows.
Chatbots continue to grow in their capabilities, but what’s even more important is that customers are getting used to them. Fifteen percent of customers have communicated with a chatbot in the last 12 months, according to a study by Drift, SurveyMonkey Audience, Salesforce, and myclever.
It’s easier than ever before to create your own chatbot without any programming skills. Chatbots are accessible to businesses large and small, and they can help you improve customer service if you deploy them for the right use cases. Some basic rules of thumb are to make sure that they identify themselves as bots, and that the problems they solve fall under the three or four most common questions your business gets that can be resolved simply.
4. Medical Technology
Chatbots, high-quality video streams that can be broadcast from a cell phone, and artificial intelligence-powered data analysis are all driving a revolution in the way technology interacts with the healthcare industry. A doctor can easily make a housecall without ever leaving the office thanks to 4G video streaming.
One of the most promising technologies popping up in the healthcare space is machine learning. By its nature, medicine and healthcare generate a staggering amount of data. It’s hard enough to code a claim so that an insurance company can process it correctly, let alone use that data to make new predictions. However, AI-powered data analysis is making an appearance in everything from drug discovery to image analysis.
5. Virtual Assistants
As we move further into 2018, we’ll see voice assistants and voice commands become even more prominent as a means of interacting with complicated technology. These interfaces are useful because they are hands-free, and a bit more flexible depending on where you are and what you’re doing when you want to interact with your computer. Alexa Skills, for example, offers a wide variety of ways to supercharge your voice assistant, helping Alexa do it all—from scheduling to call forwarding.
6. Key Broadband Assets
No matter what technology you’re using, the key factor in whether your business will be able to adapt is a solid broadband connection that can support any number of new technologies. A faster connection will help your employees leverage these tools to get more done. If you’re waiting around for screens to load, it might be time to bump up your connection with an eye towards the future.
What You Can Do Right Now
Startup culture has taught us to live in fear of “disruption” in a general sense. You might wonder, “What if there’s an Uber or Lyft in my industry, and I’m the taxi cab driver?” The good news is that you can also use these new technologies to help your business stand out, regardless of whatever disruptions lie on the horizon.
- Use video and VR to improve collaboration within your team.
- Consider offering a remote work option to broaden your hiring pool.
- Use chatbots to engage users where they’re most likely to hang out.
- Take advantage of virtual assistants to accomplish anything you don’t need a computer to do.