We’re only a few months into 2012, but several technology innovations are starting to show promise. Whether these trends will force you to change how you do business, or present you with entirely new opportunities depends on how willing you are to be an early adopter and take risks. You'll have to find room in your IT budget for these things, too. Whatever you do, keep these innovations on your radar:
1. Predictive technology
Several companies have started talking about their research into predictive tech. The idea is that, as computers become smarter, they can analyze historical data to make predictions. For example, Ford is using technology from Google to develop a navigation system that predicts, based on your previous routes, where you want to go at a specific time of the day. For small business, predictive tech could help in small ways: Your printer might forecast how much paper you will need next month, or help you arrange a better utility contract for heating based on trends form the past few years.
There has been buzz about HTML5 now for the past few years. The new version of HTML provides a richer framework for videos and interactive content. Steve Jobs claimed it was a better approach to dealing with this rich content than Adobe Flash. One sign that HTML5 may finally replace Flash comes from the automotive world. In the upcoming Cadillac XTS sedan, the dashboard interface uses HTML5 so developers can make new apps without being confined to a specific code base.
3. High resolution displays
The Apple iPad 3 is the first sign that mobile devices are going ultra-high-res. The iPad 3 has a 2048 x 1536 screen that looks super-sharp for videos, e-books, and apps. But the iPad 3 is not the only device to offer much higher resolution. The Samsung Series 9 desktop display uses 2560 x 1440 pixels for a screen that looks much more sharp than most monitors.
4. Social analytics
I wrote recently about Sprout Social, a tool that helps you understand your social graph: how well you are connecting with others, your reputation, your follower stats. What I’m seeing lately is an uptick in “aggregators of aggregators”—tools like thismoment that takes the data obtained from Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and others, and shows you how your company is doing on campaigns. As with any business endeavor, these super-aggregators are trying to get to the bottom line to understand whether social marketing efforts are paying off—or leading you nowhere.
5. Speech for business
One of the great features of Apple's Siri is its ability to understand context. You can add a reminder that tells your wife when you leave work. When you do, Siri sends the reminder based on your location. Lately, speech tech has shown signs of improving even more. Natural language searches will become commonplace in a few years—you will be able to walk into a conference room and say “tell everyone the meeting is cancelled” and the speech system will know what you mean and send the message.
6. Business-ready storage
Cloud storage has changed how Big Business operates—in some cases, larger companies are ditching their data centers altogether. But small companies do not even have data centers. Some of the choices for storage are making a huge impact—Dropbox is more popular than ever. But a new service called Huddle provides better reporting, security, and team accounts that is a better choice for business.