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The Business Technology Trends for 2016

Contributed by JT Ripton.

The ways in which businesses incorporate technology and software into their day-to-day activities has changed drastically over the past decade. The internet has revolutionized company-client relationships, opening-up new avenues of communication & marketing opportunities, and helping businesses of all sizes to reach their target demographics in a variety of ways their predecessors never would have dreamed possible thirty years ago.

As every successful business must look to the future, the imminent arrival of the New Year is an ideal opportunity to re-consider certain strategies, working methods, and technology-usage – particularly if new strategies can achieve better results than the business has had in the past twelve months.

Even those companies that continue to go from strength to strength may benefit from diversifying their current range of platforms and marketing techniques; as business- and leisure-focused technologies continue to evolve at an impressive rate, companies must stay on top of forthcoming trends to stand out from their competition.

Join us as we look at five technology trends set to make a big impact on business in 2016:

Digital Security will Become More Adaptive

While hackers have been a consistent threat to business security for the past twenty years, today’s cyber criminals have more sophisticated technology at their disposal. Company accounts, customers’ details, credit cards, and website architecture can all be severely disrupted by expert hackers. Security breaches can damage not only a business’s finances, but also their reputation. Customers are unlikely to feel happy using the site in the future.

Businesses relying on rule-based security and perimeter defense may need to upgrade their technology in the coming year, for maximum safety. Adaptive security is a more dynamic approach, focused on detecting and responding to incoming threats, alongside standard blocking-measures to combat attacks.

Self-protecting applications and behavior analytics (studying users’ activities) stand to improve businesses’ security. For each new innovation, however, hackers discover new techniques to get around them. Staying as up to date as possible is key to maintain the most secure infrastructure possible.

3D Printing-Plans as Paid Downloads

Once the stuff of science-fiction, the 3D printer is here to stay. In fact, according to one expert at the Gartner Symposium, enterprise-related 3D shipments will grow by 64 percent in the next year.

While still relatively expensive, 3D printers are becoming more and more commonplace – you can even buy them at Home Depot! Businesses can stand to profit from these by offering plans for specific products, parts, or supplies on their websites. By offering plans at fair prices, companies will give their customers the power to produce specific items in their own homes, offices, factories, etc. This is unlikely to work for every business, but those which try it first could tap into a major vein.

3D printing will help to reduce the costs and trouble of international delivery, enhancing the likelihood that customers will pay to download plans from a specific supplier rather than seeking a cheaper, localized alternative.

The Digital Mesh will Expand the User Experience Across Devices

Today’s customers do not simply use one device to browse, make purchases, connect with friends, or check their emails. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches, and internet connect cars and appliances provide users with links to their online accounts and networks wherever they are. This ever expanding list of internet connected devices that penetrate into every facet of our lives is what we call the “Digital Mesh”.  Applications can be interacted with via various devices, and the experience should offer the same high quality of performance across them all. Customers want to enjoy fast, personalized service – the vast range of purchase options available online ensures there is usually an alternative.

This need for cross-device access will place greater demands on computing architecture, and businesses must invest in smart machines capable of supporting an interactive experience on any device, no matter how tiny it is (such as a smartwatch). These machines feature advanced learning capabilities, allowing them to understand concepts and learn from them. Using machine learning, systems can change their behavior in the future, such as analyzing databases of customers’ histories to reveal links between buyers’ activities and product-preferences, aiding in new marketing strategies.

This area is showing fast growth, and companies must explore the potential benefits smart machines and advanced machine learning offer them.

Communications will Become Embedded

Fully integrated Real Time Communications (RTC) technologies will continue to increase in popularity, with voice and video becoming firmly embedded directly in users’ mobile application experiences. We already see this in a number of messaging platforms, including Facebook Messenger, and the next phase in 2016 will be to see this in more-and-more common applications – e-commerce, business, social and more.

Back-end Communications as a Service (CaaS) platforms are emerging to make it easier for any organization to provide their customers with integrated and convenient audio and visual communications. For example, CaaS services like Agora.io ensure a high “quality of experience” even over multiple countries, troublesome networks, and the variety of different mobile devices.

According to research, app usage counts for 89 percent of mobile-data consumption, with mobile apps significantly enhancing the overall Internet experience. Within the space of 20 years, the average user has gone from only using the Internet in very limited circumstances to being constantly connected, using the Internet hundreds of times a day for all sorts of tasks. This “anytime, anyplace” convenience will break down geographical barriers even further, allowing users to connect globally to each other and to companies just using the applications they carry in the palm of their hand.

Immersive Technology will Transform the Customer Experience

Digital technology is bringing us all closer and closer to the virtual reality so many books & movies have predicted over the years. As virtual reality and augmented reality advance and become easier to create, companies will be able to use these to engage customers on more immediate, emotional levels.

As powerful engagement is especially important to building a brand, this “ambient user experience” will also allow users to enjoy this immersive technology across multiple devices.

Multiple VR products offer businesses the means to provide users with an interactive experience, such as the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and the under-development HTC Vive VR. While these are not yet part of the average customers’ collection of devices, the technology can help to give businesses an edge during demonstrations or meetings, particularly at exhibitions.

VR allows users to explore prospective environments, handle and try out new products, and visit currently-inaccessible locations (for example, companies can showcase new venues by creating virtual tours, or present interactive product-demonstrations if physical prototypes are currently awaiting manufacture).

Augmented reality can be used in various areas of business, such as providing additional information on products in a store and marketing campaigns. While this is still in its infancy, the worldwide popularity of smartphones means AR is much more viable for businesses, accessible to most consumers through their own device. While VR still feels far-off, it certainly holds great potential, and companies with the means to invest in it as a way to boost user-engagement should pursue it.

The year 2016 brings plenty of potential. New technologies, securities, communication and marketing methods are set to bloom. Transforming the way businesses protect, interact, sell, and produce goods for their consumers. These new trends and technologies are laying the bedrock for how all future businesses will operate going forward. Which trends are you most excited for?

This post was contributed by JT Ripton. Follow him on Twitter @JTRipton.

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