Small business technology in 2016

2016 is the 25th anniversary of the first website; what lies ahead for business technology now?


2016 is the 25th anniversary of the first website; what lies ahead for business technology now?

In 2016, 25 years after the first website became publicly accessible, the web continues to gather momentum as being critical to businesses, nations and individuals worldwide. There has been a revolution in how we gather and utilise data. This is in part enabled by access to information and the expectation to have insight and information available at our fingertips. But what on earth do we do with all this information and how do we turn this data into meaningful business intelligence?

Is the Internet of Things evolving into the Internet of Me? In 2015 a typical online business model consisted of collecting personal data and ‘monetising’ it (ie selling it to advertisers). In 2016 people will push for control of their data to be able to use it for their own benefit. This is quite a change. This will challenge existing business models, creating an exciting market for new products.

‘The Internet of Me’ is changing the way people around the world interact through technology, placing the end user at the center of every digital experience. Applications will integrate data from many aspects of life; financial, medical, home automation, but will also allow individuals to control what to share with whom. In 2016 health apps will begin to work similarly, aggregating data from doctors you visit and monitoring devices and providing a platform for in-depth analysis of your overall wellbeing.

As people assert control over their data, the web will ‘re-decentralise’, reducing dependency on technology giants, returning power to individuals and businesses, and allowing developers a rich space for innovation. As innovation drives onwards, we are seeing enterprise technology get smarter, enabling businesses to reach new levels of operational efficiency and streamline the customer experience.

Wearable revolution

Wearable technology has been on most trend-spotters’ lists for a few years now, however in 2016 this tech will evolve from ‘smart’ glasses, watches and Fitbits, to powerful threads hidden in our clothing and even ‘wearables for your brain’. This gives us greater insight into what are customers and colleagues are doing when and what drives them.

Since 2009, investors have poured over half a billion US dollars into wearable tech start-ups. This isn’t surprising when you consider that wearable tech (including smart glasses, watches, and fitness bands) is still an early adopter market and already estimated to be worth US$9 billion in 2016. In 2016, estimates from IHS suggest that 225 million wearable tech devices will be shipped. This is creating a plethora not only of new technologies informing our lives, but of data on how people are evolving their lives.

Technology is omnipresent

Growth in personal technology will stem from a number of factors: firstly, we’ll see the market expand to embrace a whole new breed of wearables from all sorts of companies, not just the tech giants. Household, fashion and sports brands will join heavyweights such as Apple, Microsoft and Google, and specialists such as Fitbit and Jawbone, to offer their own Internet of Things-enabled technologies, making wearables more accessible to the masses.

However, this level of demand won’t just come from consumers. A huge portion of the anticipated growth will be from the business world. In the most obvious sense, the wearables explosion will make the most important device we carry – our smartphone – even more significant. The smartphone will expand its role as our personal hub, acting as a proxy for our wearable tech and the primary way that we’ll consume the information our wearable tech is providing.

New laws for a new age cybersecurity is another issue garnering a huge amount of attention as we have borne witness to a number of high profile hacks in 2015.The threat of cyber-crime and cyber-warfare has become very real. The attack on TalkTalk that put the personal and financial details of four million customers at jeopardy is a serious wake-up call for British businesses to improve their security standards. 2016 will see increased demand for data security and encryption, as people realise the extent and value of their ‘data trails’.

Law-enforcement agencies are pushing back against encryption, fearing that this technology allows communication beyond the law’s reach. Yet strong encryption is essential for many industries, financial services in particular. A blanket ban is unworkable, while creating ‘back doors’ exposes weaknesses for criminals to attack. Faced with such knotty problems, countries will seek new legal frameworks for the internet. But will these be transparent and democratic, and preserve an open internet?

A raft of poorly-conceived cybercrime laws are emerging, authorising everything from politically motivated censorship to indiscriminate surveillance, while at the same time leaving engineers with good intentions and a little curiosity open to overly harsh punishment. Also of concern are efforts in America and elsewhere to make companies voluntarily share user information with security agencies, without a legal process. However, forward-thinking governments are developing national internet Bills of Rights based upon broad public participation, which entrench human rights and safeguard space for innovation, while recognising the legitimate needs of companies to make profits and of governments to fight crime.

To resolve the hard questions ahead and ensure that the vast amounts of data we create become tools for personal empowerment and economic innovation, we need policies made in the open, with informed debate. The web’s true potential for democracy, economic growth and human creativity is only just beginning to be glimpsed. In 2016 all of us must protect and enhance this public space for the benefit of all humankind.

Steve Haworth is CEO of TeleWare

Further reading on tech trends

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