May 22, 2019

How Technology Will Transform Small Businesses

From the California Business Journal News Wire.

Many businesses are already implementing virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), and 3D printing in their day-to-day operations. These types of technology have yet to be widely used as they are still in their infancy, but this will change as these tech innovations improve and are better integrated into our everyday lives. Below are several ways that these innovations in technology will change small businesses.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is proving to have more applications than we ever imagined. For small businesses, one of those applications will be to train employees. This technology will be particularly useful in industries that require highly-specialized training for situations that would be difficult or impossible to replicate otherwise, such as in medical training or flight training. VR thus will allow for faster onboarding because it will allow trainees to experience simulated situations that will better prepare them for a job. VR training also will be a more efficient way to train employees, because it will be less disruptive to a company. It will allow employees to focus on their usual tasks, or more pressing tasks, instead of training new employees.

Small businesses will also be able to use VR to hold simulated meetings and conferences with global clients or employees. This option will be more cost-effective for small businesses than traveling internationally, while also allowing them to be competitive with larger companies on a global scale. Another way businesses will be able to use this technology is in presenting design, product, and project plans to customers or investors, which is much faster to produce (and more affordable) than alternative methods.

Artificial Intelligence

AI technology has already seeped into our lives in a number of ways, from Siri and Alexa to smart compose features in text messages and email. For small businesses, we’ll soon start to see the wider implementation of this technology in the form of AI assistants. Like VR training, AI assistants will help to improve the efficiency of business operations, and allow employees to better focus their time and energy on other tasks.

This type of AI assistant is best demonstrated by Google’s latest AI assistant project, Duplex, which accomplishes basic real-world tasks over the phone. This AI assistant sounds and acts less robotic than many of the AI assistants or robots we’re currently used to conversing with. So far, this assistant is able to schedule appointments, book a reservation, and accomplish other necessary tasks for a business. Soon, we may see this type of assistant be able to seamlessly engage in a wider range of conversations over the phone, more like a real-life secretary.

But although this technology is great for businesses, it’s less celebrated by workers due to the displacement that automation will create. Despite this fear, many tech experts and news sources are reporting that, although automation will replace many jobs, automation will also create a significant number of new jobs. As a result, many people, particularly those in professions threatened by automation, are calling for a greater investment on retraining programs.

3D Printing

Similar to virtual reality, 3D printing has many more applications than many of us anticipated, from printing products like braces, jewelry, food, or shoes, to printing actual homes. Also like VR, 3D printing offers a cheaper and faster way to visualize and produce products, and reduce waste. So when it comes to 3D printing, the possibilities are seemingly endless.

To delve into a more specific example of how 3D printing can aid small businesses, small bakeries could invest in a 3D sugar printer to aid them in making intricate decorations for wedding cakes and other baked goods. This method is far less time-consuming than doing everything by hand, less burdensome than outsourcing designs, and cheaper than hiring a new employee to handle this task.

In the near future, all of these technologies will completely transform how small businesses function. These innovations will help them to be more competitive with larger businesses despite their physical location, budget constraints, or their smaller workforce. Ultimately, small businesses will have no choice but to take advantage of these technologies if they want to survive in the digital age.

 

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