Crystal ball gazing

1. Wearable Technology such as Google glass and smart watches. As a result of these technologies, consumers have access to technology in increasingly diverse contexts and environment.Their needs will diversify and it is up to businesses to identify and develop those needs. One industry where this technology is already making waves is in healthcare. The hands-free aspect of Google glass is especially useful when performing operations and has obvious hygiene benefits as there is no need to touch the glasses. In November, Gartner (a leading tech research company) predicted that smartglasses could save the field service industry as much as $1 billion annually by 2017, money that can be invested elsewhere.

2. 3D printing: Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 98% in 2015. Out of all the technology trends identified here, 3D printing is likely to affect global enterprise the most over the next few years. When it comes to manufacturing, 3D printing has huge environmental benefits including reducing waste material. Also, production and assembly of a product can remain local which reduces transport costs. Furthermore, there will be fewer waste products as manufacturers will be able to produce any item sold as and when requested. Traditional manufacturing will be revolutionised as 3D printing technology can be used from anything like printing food to electronics. Eventually, the 3D printer will be available to purchase for use in the home which will enable people to print tools, jewellery, toys, the possibilities are endless. 3D printing has the capability to bring the developing world back into the global manufacturing loop. In areas where traditionally the infrastructure is insufficient to support a manufacturing industry, the 3D printer eliminates the problem of having to transport goods. Users will also be able to cater any equipment printed to local needs for example printing tools for local farmers and water pumps.

3. The iBeacon: A device which uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-powered 4.0 technology, the iBeacon is a transmitter which enables smart phones or other devices to perform actions when nearby. For instance, the iBeacon can help a phone show notifications of items nearby that are on sale, and enable payments at the point of sale so that customers do not have to get out their wallets to pay for items. Therefore, this product is most likely to have a positive impact on the retail industry by simplifying payments and enabling consumer offers.

4. Hoverboards such as HendoHoverboards, the Californian start-up. The technology that allows hoverboards to work is called Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA). This involves electromagnets attached to the base of the board that repel any non-ferrous (i.e. does not contain a significant amount of iron) conductive surface. Although the hoverboard itself may not have a significant impact on global enterprise, MFA technology will have uses across a variety of industries.

5. Drones: From delivering products, to important documents and even urgent medical supplies, the potential is obvious. The Bizzby app trialled its self-developed drones in London last month which saw it deliver small items between addresses via its app. Drones can also be used to conduct detailed land, forestry, peatland and agricultural surveys that would otherwise be too expensive to carry out. Real estate developers can use drones to survey potential development sites and journalists/film makers are able to film and gather information in a completely new way. The major issues holding back the use of drones is that there is a public perception that the technology on board them can be used to gather personal information and is an invasion of privacy.

6. Driverless cars: Several car manufactures are developing their technology behind driverless cars. Audi are anticipating producing a fully automatic Audi A8 to be on the market by 2017. The driverless vehicle will dramatically reduce the cost of transporting goods as there will no longer be a need to employ drivers. Additionally, there will be no obligation for the vehicle to stop on their journey resulting in a reduced transportation time of goods.

7. Open Data: Whilst open data is by no means a new idea, in recent months start-ups have begun to see the commercial potential of free-to-use data and in 2015, these ideas will gain pace. Government bodies that currently withhold or charge for their data may decide to make it public. Having Open Data encourages the circulation of research, improved education and ultimately creates opportunities for organisations to innovate and create new products and services.

8. Virtual fitting rooms: Online retailers such as Metail are enabling consumers to try on clothes virtually before buying them so that they are more confident that the clothes are likely to fit properly. This will cut down on the amount of garments people purchase when shopping online because often customers purchase more than one size of one particular garment. There will also be reduced waste as people will have less desire to throw away ill-fitting clothes.

9. Smart machines including virtual assistants: Virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa can help save a business time, particularly in small enterprises. A virtual assistant also saves on office space and saves money on hiring a full-time employee.

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