Tech trends for business in 2018
Three topics that should be on your radar this year
These talked-about technology trends could change the way you and your team work in the coming year. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning
Read any list of tech predictions for 2018 and you’re likely to find AI near the top. It’s piqued the business world’s interest, though how to implement it is often unclear.
Many people use “AI” and “machine learning” interchangeably to refer to computers’ ability to learn from, and emulate, human behaviour (machine learning is actually a subset of AI). Speech recognition and facial recognition are just two examples of AI in action. Tech experts believe it will increasingly permeate day-to-day life; Gartner, a U.S.-based research and advisory company, predicts that within a few years, “every app, application and service will incorporate AI at some level.”
Businesses are exploring how AI can help them engage with buyers (for example, chatbots for customer service). They’re also discovering a wide range of applications for the workplace, such as using digital assistants, analyzing large volumes of complex documents (such as contracts), and creating profiles of job candidates.
More and more industries are exploring the possibilities of blockchain technology. A blockchain is a shared database or electronic ledger that permanently records blocks of data. It’s “distributed,” or replicated, among a network of computers, so that all users have the same information. Updating the blockchain requires consensus, and if users make an error, they can’t undo it – they must make another transaction to fix it.
Businesses can use blockchains for transactions, tracking or agreements. Because they’re verifiable and unchangeable, blockchains can improve security and transparency, reduce errors, speed up transactions and lower overhead costs.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies rely on blockchain networks, and businesses in healthcare, financial services, shipping, entertainment and other sectors are delving into the technology. In healthcare, for example, startups are using blockchain to improve the security of patient data or track pharmaceutical supply chains. In entertainment, blockchain can automate royalty payments or prevent counterfeit ticket scams. Global shipping firms hope the technology will improve efficiency and transparency. Indeed, blockchain is such a buzzy word these days that companies are adding it to their names just to boost their stock value.
3. Voice-activated search
Canadians spend more than 60% of their digital time on mobile devices, so optimizing your business’s website for smartphones and tablets is a must. To get ahead of the curve, though, you should also optimize for voice search.
As AI gets smarter and voice recognition becomes more accurate, consumers are embracing virtual assistants like Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri, as well as smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. ComScore, a U.S.-based media measurement company, predicts that by 2020, half of all searches will be done by voice, and Gartner predicts that by the same year, 30% of searches will be done without a screen.
Major brands have already started to build voice search into their sales channels and marketing. Amazon Prime members can order products with Alexa, and Walmart shoppers in the U.S. can buy using Google Assistant, for example. Consumers think voice search is easier and faster than typing (especially on small screens), so it’s just a matter of time before voice optimization is as critical for small businesses as mobile optimization.