Emerging Technologies for Business

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Embracing new and cutting-edge technologies ensures businesses can stay ahead of the curve and are prepared for the challenges ahead.

Smarter knowledge-sharing

For businesses of all sizes, from start-ups to multinationals, making sure all employees are on the same page when working on a project is imperative. But this can be difficult, especially if a team is spread across several departments and offices – or even work remotely. According to the Regional Business Barometer 2016 – Phase 1 carried out by Amárach Research, 59% of the 540 businesses surveyed from across the country had staff working from home, and 52% had employees working on the road.

A team collaboration tool such as Slack is becoming an increasingly popular way for employees to stay connected and bring their communication into one place. Like other cloud-based tools, Slack can be accessed any time and anywhere, meaning employees don’t need to be chained to a certain computer or desk.

“It’s changing how businesses communicate internally and could eventually make those emails redundant,” says Ronan Leonard, a senior writer for Irish Tech News. “The two main problems with email are that internal and external mail are often not separated, so clutter your inbox and certain files such as jpegs and pdfs can end up being blocked by the company’s firewall. With Slack, this doesn’t happen and you can also organise messages by subject or with hashtags.”

Bigger and better big data analysis

The cloud offers flexibility and security when it comes to storing data. And thanks to software on the market today that is continually improving, businesses have the opportunity to collate vast amounts of data that is both structured and unstructured.

“The challenge isn’t how to get hold of it, but how to get value from it,” says Eugene Hillery, director of international operations at US software firm Tableau’s Dublin office. “However, for SMEs where resources are strained and employees end up being pulled in many directions, unlocking this value isn’t always the top priority. But it needs to be.

“Investing in the latest visual analysis technology makes it possible to quickly explore data and find its value and insights.”

A better understanding of data can be used to increase operating margins and help clients make informed business decisions.

AI-powered customer experience

In 2016, revenues at Irish e-commerce sites grew 45%, according to the Online Economy Report 2016 conducted by Wolfgang Digital. As online shopping continues to surge, customers will be demanding a more seamless experience. While smartphones make it easier to buy at the press of a couple of buttons, and chatbots enable customers to get answers to simple queries in a matter of seconds, another technology that is expected to have an impact is AI-powered voice recognition.

 

“Investing in the latest visual analysis technology makes it possible to quickly explore data and find its value and insights”

Eugene Hillery, director of international operations, Tableau
 

“It not only provides a means of convenience, but it can also deliver a more accurate and efficient user experience,” says Eric Bisceglia, vice president of go-to-market at Voysis, an AI platform that is building language processing and understanding into consumer-facing applications. “When shopping online, customers who look for products using their voice will get from search to cart 10 times faster than they do currently. And in e-commerce, where the more products are in the cart the better, speed is one of the biggest drivers of conversion.”

Augmenting reality for winning clients

While there’s a lot of noise around virtual reality (VR), its sister technologies augmented reality (AR; the overlaying of digital data and information onto the real world) and mixed reality (MR; a combination of VR and AR that anchors virtual objects into the real world) could have the more significant impact at business level. They can help companies pitch proposals to clients and bring blueprints to life.

“You could be an architectural firm viewing a scale model of a building, displayed on a boardroom table, through a headset, and then you simply use a voice command to step inside a life-size version of it,” says Max Doelle, founder of Kazendi, a start-up using Microsoft HoloLens to provide companies with commercial MR solutions. Doelle recently presented and exhibited at the fourth ARVR Innovate expo, held in Dublin in May.

With Ireland’s construction sector growing by 15% last year and expected to grow a further 20% in 2017, commercial property developers are likely to want to speed up their time to market. But designs are becoming more complex, and buildings are being assembled in new ways. This is where technology can help businesses keep clients updated on the progress of construction work.

AR can also be used to identify potential problems on site, such as cracked pipes. Doelle adds that another obvious sector likely to benefit is insurance, as companies will be able to use AR and MR to assess buildings and ensure they comply with regulations.

A sense of touch and 5G

Despite having been around for years, there’s been an increased interest in haptic technology in the last decade and the industry is now set to be worth $19.55bn (€16.51bn) worldwide by 2022. Haptics allows users to feel, manipulate and control 3D objects in a virtual environment and receive haptic feedback, which gives the sensation of having physically touched something. The impending arrival of 5G is expected to facilitate the creation of something called the ‘tactile internet’, which will enable critical tasks, from servicing vehicles to inspecting industrial plants, to be performed remotely using haptics.

It’s anticipated that the technology will help optimise the manufacturing process, including assembly. Ireland’s manufacturing sector is currently the country’s second-largest employer, according to Ibec, with more than 4,000 manufacturers across the country employing 159,000 staff. If the sector is to sustain itself, haptic technology could be key to innovation and R&D.

Other technologies to consider

Internet of things: this part of the internet can facilitate the exchange and flow of data between connected devices, such as wearables, smart equipment and sensors. This can be used to monitor employees and warehouse operations, boosting efficiency.

Drones: well known for their use in delivering goods, drones could also become mainstream in the agriculture and energy industries. They can help the former monitor crops and enable the latter to assess pipeline damages and wind farms for potential problems.

3D printing: thanks to relentless innovation, the face of technology is continually changing. In order to meet increasing demand and new tastes in products, businesses can use 3D printing to increase production speed and modify existing products or prototype new ones quickly.

Blockchain: as a digital ledger of information that is secure and accessible to everyone, blockchain could replace traditional contracts and paperwork. It can also be used to register and track assets through the supply chain.

 

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