With Microsoft taking its HoloLens holographic goggles on the road this month, it seems like the future is here. With access to concepts such as interactive holographic computers and 3D printing, small-business owners can take advantage of futuristic technologies that were merely fantasy just a few short years ago.
“Of course, small businesses may not have the deep pockets to experiment with new technologies or [have] the relationships with government agencies where many new technologies are birthed, but they can certainly be fast followers and adopters of technology—more so than large businesses,” believes Patrick J. Stroh, owner of Mercury Business Advisors.
Understanding that the only constant is change can be a key to success, notes Mayur Ramgir, developer of business management platform Clintra. “We have never really been able to predict where the future will go, but we have always known that it will be different from where we are right now,” he says. “This isn’t a new phenomenon. Businesses have had to deal with the influx of new technology for centuries. What has changed is the pace of development.”
—Patrick J. Stroh, owner, Mercury Business Advisors
Changes in technology are the new constant, agrees Stroh. “Expect technological changes and learn how to systematically monitor and manage those changes and their applications on a regular basis. Otherwise you are likely to fall behind.”
Embrace technological changes, and you may be able to get ahead of the game, believes Christian Cordoba, a founding partner at California Retirement Advisors. “The key is to evaluate what is happening and apply what we learn to change along with it and keep moving forward.”
Here are some promising new technologies that are changing or will soon change the small-business landscape.
Teleconferences from across town or across the world are becoming more common, and holographic technology may be an integral part of these meetings in the not-too-distant future. The technology can be used to project lifelike images of people, as well as objects like products and prototypes.
Large data sets known as big data have been analyzed by large companies in order to look for trends, patterns and associations in business for some time now. “The recent rise of cloud services has made big data analytics and processing available to small businesses,” says Ragmir. “Technologies like Microsoft’s Cortana and IBM’s Watson can now be accessed by anyone through cloud platforms at moderate costs. This will help small businesses make better marketing decisions in the future.”
“3D printing has been on the horizon for more than a decade, but the technology is finally reaching a phase of maturity,” says Ramgir. “The availability of 3D printers has vastly improved and the cost of the printing materials has gone down as well. 3D printers will open a whole new industry for small businesses.”
Stroh believes that 3D printing levels the playing field between large and small businesses. “This type of printing allows for hyper-fast prototype development and multiple scenario tests that would have taken months and thousands of dollars in the past and now just a day,” he says. “When you link this with getting instantaneous feedback via social media on product development and new feature additions to your products, you can get very fast and inexpensive feedback on your developments without wasting precious resources.”
Short for financial technology, fintech along with the internet of things, which refers to the integration or networking of various tools and products, continues to provide the largest advancement opportunity for business owners, believes Cordoba. “The regulatory rules in the financial world are changing and so are the demands by consumers, especially within the millennial generation. Faster, more seamless access to financial resources is evolving without the inconvenience and waste of time that comes from physically getting yourself to a brick and mortar location. We’re seeing the beginning of the S-curve slope already with crowdfunding and lending, but will continue to see it change more mainstream with banking, insurance and other areas.”
The Sharing Economy
“Uber, Airbnb and Lyft are all companies that have become successful focusing on the ‘sharing economy,’” says Ramgir. “Consumers today are much more comfortable with renting things instead of owning them, and this can work with pretty much every non-consumable product out there.”
For more tips on expanding your business, access Business Growth: How to Survive and Thrive, from MSNBC’s Your Business.
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