Future-tech from cyber-currencies making headlines, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things are steadily moving into the mainstream.
In 2017 the two companies launched a platform that will enable their business customers throughout Africa to deliver IoT services. These include home automation – making homes more efficient, secure and responsive to their customers’ needs; and vehicle tracking to services that will allow car makers to monitor your car’s performance and proactively fix any issues before they become a headache.
These advancements are particularly significant for SMEs because with every change comes the potential for huge opportunities. But only if you are able to keep up.
Here are 2017’s biggest tech trends and how they are likely to change how you do business in 2018.
South Africans this year started to embrace Bitcoin and cyber-currencies, says Dominique Collett, senior investment executive at Rand Merchant Investment and the head of AlphaCode, a Rand Merchant Investment club for fintech startup entrepreneurs, in an SME South Africa article.
An example of bitcoin’s headway in the country is the bitcoin payment pilot that retail giant Pick n Pay ran this year, that was declared an overall success, according to Richard van Rensburg, deputy CEO of Pick n Pay, in an article on SME South Africa.
“I think banks will soon see that blockchain doesn’t really make sense and there will be a move back to Bitcoin – the largest and original application of the blockchain. The move to Bitcoin will be helped along by increased instability in governments. It is still far from becoming mainstream, but I expect to see more of Bitcoin locally. Expect to see more of local companies like Luno (BitX),” Collett says.
Following the completion of the Pick n Pay trial, van Rensburg, in a Fin24 interview said he is optimistic that the cryptocurrency technology would be adopted in the future.
This is a trend that is expected to grow further in the coming year. Charles Pittaway, managing director of Sage Pay, a division of Sage says in that mobile payments solutions such as digital wallets (which also encompass bitcoin) are enjoying explosive growth as South Africans look for more secure, convenient and easy ways to pay.
The Internet of Things (IoT), which has been on many trends lists for a few years, is maturing and can now be found in almost any industry.
The growth of scalable and cross-industry IoT deployments was the technology’s biggest success this year according to a report, Predictions 2018: IoT Moves From Experimentation To Business Scale, Forrester Research which predicts that IoT will become the backbone of future customer value.
“Everything is becoming ‘smart'”, says Andy Karuza, founder of FenSens, the world’s first smart wireless parking sensor, in tech publication, NextWeb. “Whether you’re in your car, at home, in the office or shopping, you’re likely interacting with smart technology,” he says.
“I believe this trend will continue to become more pervasive in 2018 as the proven technology moves from popular segments, like the home, into other areas,” predicts Karuza.
Artificial intelligence (AI) continues to be at the forefront of tech discussions, conferences and development, says Daniel Wesley of Quote.com in the NextWeb article. I believe there will be a major AI breakthrough in 2018 that could change how businesses evolve and interact with customers.
Locally we saw companies and startups like OUTvest, MyTreasury, FinChatBot and DigiBot highlight some of the ways AI is facilitating collaboration between human and machine in financial services today, and the potential of technologies such as chatbots, robo-advice and speech and facial recognition to answer customer needs, improve customer experience and ultimately transform how they do business.
Companies such as Apple launched machine learning for iOS apps and according to Piyush Jain of SIMpalm in the NextWeb article, all platforms are adding it to make life and software more intelligent and advanced.
“It will take over mindless, repetitive and time-consuming tasks. It can make drivers better drivers, doctors better doctors and students better educated. We will not be able to avoid it in 2018,” he says.
Robo-advisors became more mainstream this year as big players launched their own robo-advisors. One of these was financial services giant OUTsurance, who this year launched OUTvest, a direct-to-consumer, hybrid, robo-advisor platform that uses AI and chatbot technology to allow customers to bypass the middle-man and invest on their own.
Collett says in the SME South Africa article that a surprising number of institutions already have this in advanced planning stages.
“It won’t disrupt the industry; it will merely become a new distribution channel,” she says.
3D printing is expected to have a huge effect on the SME sector in the coming year. Tatjana Dzambazova, an architect from Autodesk, said during her talk at this year’s Autodesk University South Africa Conference held in Cape Town, that the technology is expected to save businesses both time and money due to its additive manufacturing approach (a printing method which deposits layers of material on top of each other, and therefore uses only as much materials as needed).
Where a business would have previously needed a factory floor full of equipment to build a product, 3D printing will soon allow businesses to do so with much fewer machinery and at a much quicker turnaround time.
“Currently more than 75 materials are used in 3D printing. This includes stone, glass, plastic, fabric and metal. It can also print the entire mechanism at once, eliminating the need to assemble different parts. Besides being used in conservation, cars and low-cost houses have also been 3D printed.
“It is also extensively employed in the medical field to repair fractured body parts and to develop prosthetics for amputees. Customised products can now be manufactured, such as hearing aids and wheelchairs that fit the body of the person using them,” explains Dzambazova. Beyond that, the possibilities are endless, she says.