How will global technology trends at CES 2018 impact your business?
From the 9th to the 12th of January, over 170,000 people and 3,900 companies, from more than 150 countries, descend on Las Vegas for the enormous technology trade show, CES 2018.
While its intention is to give companies a platform for presenting their latest innovations, it’s a good barometer for the direction that all things digital will take in the coming years.
The robots, drones and quirkier creations might grab the headlines but behind the talking toilets and robotic pillows, SMEs can get an indication of how technology might change the way they do business in the future.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that some of the more outlandish, wide-reaching or pricier tech trends that appear at CES aren’t likely to have much impact on small-to-medium businesses, but these broader trends give a genuine insight into the changing needs of consumers.
With this in mind, we’re going to take a look at the trends appearing at CES 2018 and how they might change the way companies interact and communicate with their customers and clients in an increasingly digital world.
Unleashed Technology: Wireless charging and convertibles
When it comes to the way that we interact with digital devices nowadays, mobility has been a key driver in their design and functionality.
There was a brief period when reducing the size of smartphones was a focus. Since they’re now essentially portable PCs, other factors are a lot more important.
Anyone who uses a mobile or tablet device on a regular basis will know that battery life can be massively frustrating. While wireless charging isn’t a new concept, most current chargers require a mat or surface to place the device on. The next phase is truly wireless charging, which would allow bursts of energy to be beamed through the air directly to devices.
Image source: Lenovo.com
Another trend relating to improved mobility was the proliferation of “convertibles”.
After Apple launched the iPad in 2009, you couldn’t move for similar tablet devices. These are being replaced with devices like the Lenovo X1 Yoga. It has a keyboard that, rather than detaching, folds behind the device when it’s in tablet mode.
In both cases, flexibility and mobility are key.
What does ‘Unleashed Technology’ mean to your business?
Basically, these device trends pose a significant impact on any business with a website.
It’s a clear indication that people are no longer tied to a desktop when searching for products and services. Any website that hasn’t been built with a responsive design is likely to lose out on potential customers. As the name suggests, responsive website design means that the layout of a site will respond and adapt according to the device that it’s being viewed on.
While it’s important to know that your website looks good on any device, there are other factors that make responsive design a must for businesses’ websites.
Google now prioritise mobile-friendly sites when someone searches on a mobile device. As a result, any websites that aren’t mobile-friendly won’t appear at the top of the search results.
Our advice: If your business doesn’t have a responsive website design, it needs one... and soon!
Intuitive Technology: AI, machine learning and voice activation
Everyone’s talking about artificial intelligence and machine learning but the sci-fi scaremongering of sentient robots taking over the workplace is covering up the genuine benefits that this is already bringing to the technology that we use every day.
For the most part, AI is being used as a marketing tool. Strictly speaking, devices with smarter processing and improved algorithms can’t really be described as having AI.
Despite this, at CES 2018 it was being used to describe everything from TVs and toilets to smartphones. If we’re going to be pedantic (and we are), many of the products at CES were actually using natural language processing (NLP) rather than AI. This is when software recognises objects in photos or human speech and can speak or write a reply.
Based on that description, you can see that tech like this is already here thanks to virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana.
With voice activation appearing in the vast majority of products on display in Vegas, you can expect to see this kind of functionality appearing in more devices on the High Street.
What does ‘Intuitive Technology’ mean to your business?
It’s all too easy to dismiss all of this talk about artificial intelligence as futuristic daydreaming that has little to do with the day-to-day running of a business. But there’s a fundamental element to this that is a lot simpler than voice activation and machine learning. People want answers.
The technology might mean that it can happen faster but ultimately, any consumer just wants to find an answer to their problem. So long as a company can offer that answer simply and quickly, a potential customer is more likely to want to do business with them.
Whether someone is looking for answers through a website, bespoke web application or on social media, businesses should ensure that it’s easy for them to find what they want.
Our advice: Get a clear understanding of your clients’ needs and create content that answers their questions. Then make it easy for them to find this content with a website design that focuses on user experience.
Integrated Technology: Smart cities and the Internet of Things
Finally, CES 2018 looked at two trends that, again, while no longer new, are getting closer to appearing in the mainstream world.
The concept of smart cities relates to architecture and infrastructure that can collect data. For example, lighting and heating systems that can monitor employee activity and use the data to alter the environment within a room based on its usage.
The Internet of Things has also been around for a while but it’s usually mentioned in respect to the latest internet-connected product (from fridges and mirrors to doorbells and toothbrushes) or the next piece of wearable technology.
Through the use of sensors, this also means that anything within the supply chain of a business can potentially be used to collect information. At CES, Panasonic showed one example where wine bottles could be fitted with sensors that tracked their own purchase data.
With cars becoming smarter (and perhaps, eventually, driving themselves), our homes filling up with interconnected gadgets and the ability to control more and more things through our mobile phones, the way that we interact with the companies that offer us their products and services is bound to change.
For us, the concepts of smart cities and IoT highlight two vital areas that businesses need to focus on; the importance of data and the significance of connectivity.
What does ‘Integrated Technology’ mean to your business?
While CES 2018 looked at the broader implications of entire communities becoming more connected, the same approach can be taken on a smaller scale in most if not all businesses.
When you break a company down into its constituent departments, systems and processes, you’ll start to see that there are probably a lot of disparate elements that aren’t quite as connected as they could be.
Improving the integration of any digital platforms that are being used could potentially improve efficiency and increase productivity.
By joining up the content management system of your website with your customer relationship management software, you can start to analyse data more effectively and improve customer service.
Whether it means developing a bespoke web application that makes it easier to collect and evaluate data or something as specific as an online booking system or eCommerce solution, connecting together the digital elements of a business can bring real and measurable benefits.
Our advice: Take a look at the digital platforms that your business uses. If they don’t all “talk” to each other, find a way to make that happen.
If you’d like to talk more about any of the technology trends that we’ve highlighted, give us a call.