Well, the new year is upon us, and many business owners and managers are looking to jumpstart productivity across their organizations with the latest in business technologies. Wondering what might be in store for your business? Here’s an overview of some technology categories that are exploding with new advancements, and what you can expect in terms of benefits to your business!
To better understand what an intelligent app is, think about the Amazon Echo – a device that, on command, can help you execute tasks throughout your home (“Turn off lights” and “Shut garage doors” are just two examples). This is accomplished by syncing home devices (lights, garage door) to the Echo using a compatibility tool.
A business example of an intelligent app is the chatbot. Chatbots – computer programs designed to converse with humans – are being used more and more in customer service roles because they understand language and can reply and respond appropriately. Knowing that some people prefer to talk to a real person, companies are seeing chatbots’ value in situations where customer service reps can’t keep up with incoming calls.
One example is a power company using chatbots during power outages to answer calls from thousands of residents asking questions about the situation. A chatbot can detect the question and provide the answer, saving significant time and money.
Drones and autonomous vehicles are “intelligent things” being widely tested (with some notable failures) as economical ways to deliver people (think autonomous Uber cars that take you where you want to go) and goods (autonomous trucks delivering goods across town or across the country). Drones and autonomous cars are being refined daily and if improvements are made that satisfy the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Transportation Administration, they will become more commonplace.
One category of intelligent devices that’s already proven and in the market is smart appliances. When a clothes dryer is able, through sensors, to determine the dryness of your clothes for example, and then connect with your iPhone to alert you that it’s done, you’ve got a value-added feature customers will pay for. For businesses, intelligent things will come in the forms of smart security systems, smart infrastructure equipment and even smart office equipment. Each represents the potential to reduce costs, increase productivity, reduce waste and improve efficiencies.
Automating Manual Processes
Processes automated by machines is nothing new (Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793, a machine that automated the process of picking seeds from cotton), but processes being automated by artificial intelligence is. Did you know that today, many financial reports and sports data are actually compiled and analyzed by smart algorithms, not people? The benefit is accuracy, speed and availability (algorithms never sleep, never call in sick, and never quit their jobs). Many labor-intensive tasks around the office can also be managed this way, like gathering and analyzing prospect trends to determine best next steps for sales people.
Machine learning is being implemented on all types of equipment in multiple industries, from automobile manufacturing to wind turbines. Machine learning is just that: machines learning from themselves and other machines without being explicitly programmed to do so, with the goal of improving what they do and how they do it.
Through complex algorithms, machines are able to “understand” what’s needed in order to optimize some operation or process (workflows, inventory, speed, quality, etc.) and behave accordingly. This improves efficiency of systems (and often does it across the board rather than in silos) and reduces the time humans need to spend evaluating data/conditions and making related decisions.
Smart Office Equipment
One trend we’re going to continue seeing – one that’s growing in sophistication and delivered value – is the impact of smart office equipment. Multifunction printers, for example, can be programmed through software that connects with computers to route print jobs to the printer that’s least busy or most budget-friendly, for example. There are other tools that monitor and track print jobs and require user verification before printing, something organizations with compliance and reporting (HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley) are required. This same tool also automatically gathers compliance related data on all document output activity and generates reports.
These are just glimpses into a few of the categories of business technology, but it gives you an idea of what’s possible. Even small businesses can take advantage of some of the types of advancements we’ve discussed – certainly some technologies are best-suited for enterprise-level organizations, but most are appropriate for SMBs, too. After all, optimization isn’t restricted to big companies!
Want to know what technology can do to improve the way you do business? Our experts have a wide range of solutions that improve productivity, reduce waste, optimize workflows and more. Why not reach out today, as the new year is just getting started?