Changing technology always requires SMEs to stop and reconsider the way to move forward. Will they buy-in to the latest market advancements? Or, simply continue to operate with existing working structures? Whatever the case may be, this is the right time of the year to assess the evolving landscape and plan for the future. SME Advisor presents the following snapshot of technology trends in the New Year to aid SMEs with their decision making process…

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  1. Cloud gets bigger – and better

Looking to 2016, there seems to be a lot of buzz around the emergence of hybrid cloud as a popular choice – offering the best of both worlds i.e. private and public cloud. On one hand, it gives you the security that private cloud offers, while on the other hand providing the economies of scale of public cloud. A hybrid solution is said to be more flexible and adaptable, and this is the very reason why it will be adopted by a large number of SMEs in the coming year. The hybrid cloud is also an attractive solution because it is great for a company that is considering scaling up; allowing for cost savings and increased efficiency.

In terms of the MENA region, Gartner predicted that public cloud services market will grow to total US$ 880 million in 2016 and the cloud management & security services market is projected to enjoy a growth rate of 29.3 per cent year-on-year in 2016.

Finally, on a legal front, there will be an increasing number of formal policies encouraging certain best practices with cloud computing and further tightening security and privacy of data.

  1. Algorithms dictate much of what we do

Algorithms are increasingly being used to study behavioural patterns – data which is then used to design products, news, promotions and almost everything that we experience online. Moreover, algorithms help organisations predict future trends, and this is something that is going to gain further traction in 2016.

Businesses will get smarter in the way they approach consumers, and more importantly who they approach for their products and services. An excerpt on Gartner.com by Heather Levy explains: “Making sense of all the data about how customers behave, and what connected things tell an organisation, will require algorithms to define business processes and create a differentiated customer experience. Algorithms will evaluate suppliers, define how our cars operate, and even determine the right mix of drugs for a patient. In the purely digital world, agents will act independently based on our algorithms, in the cloud. In the 2020s, we’ll move away from using apps to rely on virtual assistants – basically, algorithms in the cloud – to guide us through our daily tasks.”

A great example of the power of algorithms is Facebook, which uses them to customise the content that appears on your newsfeed; so you only see updates and posts that will engage you. It doesn’t there! It is said that many financial institutions will soon be using sophisticated algorithms to analyse and predict future transactions of their clients.

  1. Video content

A lot has been said about video content in 2015 but it appears that we are still only scratching the surface. Cisco predicts that video will account for 69 per cent of all consumer internet traffic by 2017.

While 2015 was a great year for video content as a whole, 2016 will see the rise of personalised and interactive videos, further driving video marketing. Personalised videos will be created by cleverly integrating the user’s image, company logo and other basic information in the video – enhancing the overall user experience. Interactive videos, on the other hand, will be especially useful to convert leads to customers within the B2B industry. These will make up a large proportion of advertising and marketing budgets, giving better return on investment than traditional videos.

But something that will be specifically big in 2016 is mobile video content. Marketers have noted the sharp rise in mobile video consumption and will look to capitalise this opportunity by creating customised video content for mobile.

  1. Winning big with big data

The next year will continue to see businesses exploiting the opportunities that big data presents. The industry will see advancement in terms of collaboration between companies, allowing them to take innovation to the next level. However, security and privacy will take centre stage, and there will new technologies evolving in order to protect sensitive data and manage individual privacy.

  1. Quantum computing

This is a field that has been around for quite some time now, but was never considered as a real possibility in the near future. The use of quantum mechanics to process complex information is essentially what quantum computing is all about. Some of the world’s leading scientists as well as tech giants are currently working on creating quantum computers that could be the most powerful computers in the world. To put it into perspective, a quantum computer is capable of solving a problem 100 million times faster than a traditional computer. While there are quantum computers in existence today, none of them are still fully ready to replace traditional computers. 2016 will see the further advancement – and possible commercialisation – of this technology.

An excerpt from uwaterloo.ca explains: “Although a fully functioning quantum computer is a longer-term goal, many fundamental and practical discoveries have been made in the name of quantum computing. Quantum sensors and actuators will allow scientists to navigate the nano-scale world with remarkable precision and sensitivity. Such tools will be invaluable to the development of true quantum information processors. The quantum revolution is already under way, and the possibilities that lie ahead are limitless.”

  1. Security continues to be a top priority

An increasing number of countries are reassessing and strengthening their data sharing and protection laws. Moreover, security companies will also be seen raising the bar, as hackers and cybercriminals get smarter with their attacks.

In 2016, organisations will need to come to terms with the fact that cybercrime is now easier and more professional than ever before, and it is imperative to undertake a proactive approach to security. Experts suggest that security in the cloud computing arena is extremely important, and this is reinforced by an online article on streetinsider.com that says, “Widespread transition to the cloud continues and new operating models are arising, but companies and the public sector remain responsible for keeping their business and customer data secure. It is therefore essential to integrate robust incident response structures into the cloud strategy. Part of the answer will be encryption, ensuring data is encrypted before it enters the cloud and, that the accountable-organisation, not the cloud provider, manages the encryption keys for themselves. Solid IT governance practices will be required to ensure that, during the transition, an organisation’s IT infrastructure continues to support and enable the achievement of its corporate strategies and objectives.”

  1. Mobile payments will dominate

Juniper Research predicts that there will be 450 million mobile payment consumers by 2017. An article on emarketer.com sets the scene, “The divide between digital and physical commerce will be further bridged in 2016, as mobile wallets become a standard feature on newer smartphones and more retailers accept proximity payments from systems like Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and others. But simply swapping cash and credit or debit cards with a tap or scan of a smartphone won’t be enough to convince the majority of consumers to change decades of ingrained payment behavior. Connecting more of the retail commerce experience to mobile wallets, especially when it comes to offers, coupons, rewards and loyalty, will be critical to getting more people to pay with their phones.”

To successfully create a mobile payment gateway, businesses will have to bear in mind that the key is the seamless integration of couponing and loyalty programmes with payments. Also, the primary reason why mobile payments is appealing to consumers is because it’s simple and instantaneous. So, ensure to keep your interface user friendly – with not more than two taps to checkout.

Are you ready to ride the wave of new technology?

Goodluck!

 

Rushika Bhatia Editor

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.

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