You might have heard of terms like "Internet of Things" or "big data", but is it even worth knowing what they are?
Here are three of the big trends in the IT world:
1. The Internet of Things
Until now, all that we've really thought about being connected to the Internet are computers (and therefore people). Over the coming years more devices will have a network connection.
Remember a few years ago when the world laughed at the idea of an Internet-connected fridge. Well, that was the start. In your factory, all your machines and tools could have a network connection. When your press's motors need maintenance, they'll automatically send an alert to the service technician. You'll get live information, in real time, telling you how well a machine is performing.
If you're a farmer you might be able to connect certain remote devices to the Internet for remote monitoring.
2. The Cloud
What is it? This one isn't new but it continues to grow. The cloud is a term that means "infrastructure and software someone else runs for you". For example, Xero is a cloud accounting service. They own and run the servers that the service runs on, instead of you spending money and time to set those things up. Some cloud services are free but commercial grade services, where there are guaranteed service levels usually have an annual or monthly subscription.
There's a good case for most small businesses to be using cloud services. If your business is just starting out or growing, the cloud offers ways to quickly get access to storage, servers or applications without the overhead of buying lots of new hardware.
If your business is well established, but you don't have much IT support, you can use cloud-based services as a way of reducing their dependence on IT support. As long as you have a working web browser, you can access the application without installing any programs on your computer. Whenever there's an update to application, you get it automatically as part of your subscription.
Some of the most popular cloud services are accounting applications and file sync/storage services.
3 – Big Data
In our view, this is one of the most hyped terms. Most definitions of big data boil down to three things:
- Velocity – data is being produced faster than ever before.
- Volume – We are producing and accessing more data than ever before.
- Variation – there are more data sources than ever before.
How is this relevant for your business? It's hard to make a general statement as it depends on your specific business. However, at a practical level it means that you probably have access to a lot more data about your specific market and the actions of your competitors than ever before. You'll be able to analyse and understand customer behaviour, particularly from your website and online store, better than ever before.
It also means that, over time, managing your business will become more complex as you need to learn how to source data, process and make decisions. Some of the data you may end up using might include metrics from social media. By listening to what customers and potential customers are talking about you'll be able to anticipate trends and adjust your actions so that you keep in step with the market.
It’s not just that there's a lot of data but it's that the data is coming from so many different places that putting it together is difficult. Already, cloud-based services are coming to the fore that pull together the data you're interested in and using artificial intelligence, carrying out analysis.