2020 has been pretty tough on everyone, and entrepreneurs had to adjust to the new normal in order to keep their startups afloat.
The pandemic is still our reality, and social distancing accelerated the shift to online. Many employees will be working from home for the foreseeable future, which means that different business processes will have to rely on digital transformation in order to be properly carried out and executed. With a lot of spare time, this might be a great time to make some career changes.
Although we’re still not able to fully comprehend the impact of Covid-19 on the world of business, innovation is what will make startups more resilient and capable of dealing with what the crisis throws their way.
Here are some emerging tech trends that entrepreneurs should follow.
1. Artificial Intelligence
Though AI has been around for quite some time, it still hasn’t reached its full potential.
Together with its subsets such as machine learning, natural language processing, deep learning, and others, artificial intelligence will be a major business disruptor.
Its ability to automate numerous repetitive, rule-based tasks, eliminate human error, accelerate processes, and boost productivity is what makes it ideal for often understaffed startups that need all the help they can get.
According to surveys, more than 50% of businesses that implemented AI reported an increase in productivity.
But that’s not all there is. AI can process, analyze, and interpret massive amounts of data, and that will be something startups will greatly benefit from during this time of crisis. Namely, gaining valuable insights into customers’ needs and preferences that changed due to the pandemic will be crucial for business recovery.
With the help of AI, it will be possible to understand how these preferences changed, identify new business opportunities, optimize marketing and promotional efforts, and improve customer experience.
AI-powered conversational chatbots are a great example of how this technology can help startups deliver exceptional quality and minimize their operational costs at the same time. They’re available at all times, whenever customers need them, to answer questions, solve problems, schedule appointments, offer product information, or onboard new users, thus freeing up human customer reps’ time and allowing them to handle more complex queries.
2. Increased Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity has become one of the main priorities of the work-from-home model.
Namely, since people access sensitive business data from different unprotected internet connections, cybercriminals saw an opportunity to exploit potential security vulnerabilities. According to cybersecurity companies, there have been 4,000 attacks a day since the pandemic started, and that translates into an 800% surge.
The rise of the internet of things, the emergence of interconnected smart devices, and moving business-critical applications online contributed to an increase in IoT attacks, phishing, cryptojacking, and sophisticated ransomware strategies.
Using artificial intelligence can help combat these threats and make sensitive data more secure. Given that this technology is capable of analyzing millions of cyber threat intelligence reports and learning from them, it can easily identify warning signs and fraudulent behavior, thus nipping such attacks in bud.
Infographic created by Donnelley Financial Solutions, a data room provider
Data encryption and blockchain technology are becoming more readily available, thus allowing startups to add another layer of protection to their cybersecurity efforts.
3. Extended Reality
This is a combination of three technologies – virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.
At first, these were popular mainly in the entertainment industry and used for video games and movies. But now, the concept of extended reality can help engage customers and create immersive experiences, which is why it’s becoming increasingly popular among business users.
With extended reality, it will be possible for businesses to interact with their customers in exciting ways. For example, it can be used to simulate the experience of using a particular product remotely. The inability of customers to touch and feel products is one of the biggest obstacles of online shopping, which means that this technology can disrupt the entire e-commerce industry.
Similarly, extended reality can be used for employee training and onboarding. New hires will be educated and trained in safe, low-risk environments virtually. Professionals such as engineers, pilots, or surgeons will acquire valuable work experiences and see how they will handle real-life situations.
4. The As-a-Service Platforms
Thanks to fast internet connections and cloud computing, different as-a-service platforms will revolutionize the way we do business.
Practically speaking, this means startups don’t have to invest in expensive infrastructure, tools, equipment, or workforce upfront – they can have it all on a subscription basis.
NachoNacho is a platform to manage all your SaaS subscriptions and buy new subscriptions at a reduced cost.
Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google offer a range of on-demand services so that, for example, businesses can run applications and workloads in the cloud without having to invest in physical infrastructures such as servers or storage space.
Besides being scalable, so that startups can shrink and expand their resources based on their current needs, this approach is convenient because the companies providing the as-a-service model also handle the security and fixing potential issues.
Zoom is an excellent example of why this model is the future of business. The video conferencing software increased its capacity and quality of service by adding servers in order to allow its users to host meetings with up to 1,000 participants in the wake of the pandemic and social distancing regulations. Its cloud-based nature made it possible to quickly scale its offering and meet demand.
5. Robots and Co-bots
Just like chatbots are transforming customer service, robots and cobots are becoming indispensable in the manufacturing industry.
These automated machines are more intelligent than ever, meaning that they can perform their tasks with no human intervention and even be trained to respond to their environment. In other words, they can step in and take responsibility for handling tasks that are too difficult and dangerous for human workers.
Collaborative robots or co-bots share the workspace with humans and enable automation without hefty costs associated with traditional robots. That’s the reason why they’re convenient and affordable even for small-batch production.
They’re easy to set up, program, and operate so that employees with little experience can use them.
Autonomous vehicles and drones also fall under this category, and since they’re equipped with computer vision and advanced algorithms, they will play an important role in the supply chain, especially for delivering medicine and goods when there’s an increased risk of viral transmission.
In order to survive the transition to a new normal, startups will have to follow the latest tech trends and adapt quickly. Our world will never be the same, so waiting for the pandemic to end so that we can go back to the point where we were before it started isn’t an option. That’s why getting up to speed and switching to online is a must.