Technology is constantly developing and growing, so it’s important to keep on top of the trends to make sure your business is thriving. We’ve curated a list of three technologies to enhance your small business in 2020.
Table of Contents:
Click the links below to navigate through the article quickly:
- What is Cloud Computing?
- Why use Cloud Computing for my small business?
- What is AI?
- Why use AI for my small business?
- What is 3D printing?
- Why use 3D printing for my small business?
What is Cloud Computing?
You’ve probably heard of “the cloud”. The term is often used as a metaphor for the Internet, but it more specifically refers to the software and services that run through the Internet instead of directly through your computer (eg. iCloud or Microsoft Office). Cloud computing is the delivery of different computing services and resources through the Internet, including data storage.
One benefit of the cloud is that your files, information, and history can be accessed from almost any device that is connected to the Internet. You can choose to keep these files personal (eg. photos you backup to your personal cloud) or share them with others (eg. marketing materials or documents to share with colleagues or clients).
Why Use Cloud Computing for My Small Business
- Security—Cloud storage security vendors ensure that your data and information are as safe and secure as possible, using advanced firewalls, intrusion detection, event logging, encryption, and other security methods. By also including multi-factor authentication for users, your business’s data will remain safe.
- Accessibility—Affordable mainstream devices offer limited storage space making the switch an ideal solution. Information and data can be accessed from around the world, so long as an internet connection is available, meaning that teams, businesses, and clients can easily collaborate regardless of location.
- Customisability—All individuals and businesses are different, meaning that software needs to adapt to your needs, not vice versa. Cloud computing is customisable and easy to understand, ensuring that you’re getting more bang for your buck. Create groups or teams, give access to people of your choosing, and customise the cloud so it’s right for you and your small business.
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science which focuses on machines working and responding like humans (eg. Siri, self-driving cars). Some versions of AI are programmed with scripted responses which can only apply to certain questions or situations. However, machine learning is an application within AI where a machine can learn and respond without being it being explicitly programmed.
Chatbots are a feature of AI which simulates human conversation through text-based or voice-based means. Some chatbots are programmed to only answer exact questions using a script, though the constantly developing realm of AI and machine learning allows chatbots to differ their responses to simulate human conversation. With technology developing quickly, chatbots are only growing in popularity, becoming an ideal solution to mundane and routine tasks.
Why Use AI for My Small Business?
- Marketing—It can be difficult to gather or understand insights about your clients, customers, or website visitors when there’s a constant workflow and limited staff. Chatbots can automatically gather information and insights about your customers and provide personalised marketing to fit their interests and needs. Staff aren’t always available to answer questions or monitor social media, but chatbots are able to respond to questions instantly while monitoring the brand feedback and adapting the way in which they respond to queries.
- Human Resources—Chatbots can help to make the hiring process easier by gathering details of applicants and submitting the information to your systems for various background checks. They can pull information from your company’s handbooks to answer any simple questions, or they can help your employees to schedule leave or give feedback.
- Finance—Instead of repeating monotonous financial tasks day after day, chatbots can help process and scan new documents and automatically follow-up outstanding invoices. Chatbots can work with employees to fill out forms using audio cues, ensuring that no time is wasted.
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing (3DP) or additive manufacturing is the process of printing three-dimensional objects layer-by-layer based off digital blueprints or files. A wide range of materials can be used in 3DP, including steel, wax, ABS plastic, and PLA, making it ideal for rapid prototyping. In previous years, 3DP has grown and developed quickly, with its uses ranging from architecture and engineering to food, jewellery, and footwear.
Since 2010, 3DP has become cheaper, faster, and more accurate. In 2010, a 3D printer could cost up to $20,000. However, in the last 10 years, the price has now dropped considerably—you can now pick up a high-quality 3D printer for well under $500. This drastic price drop and jump in quality makes the 3D printer much more accessible for consumers and small businesses alike.
Why Use 3D for My Small Business?
- Rapid Prototyping—If you need to create scale models of physical parts quickly, rapid prototyping using 3DP may be ideal for your small business. Prototyping is an essential part of the design process, and 3DP allows you to customise, iterate, and print your designs quickly and accurately at low costs.
- Marketing—Have a business conference or trade show coming up? Impress people with simple and cost-effective prototypes or create physical merchandise to leave a lasting impression. Additionally, having a physical sample of your product will allow clients and customers gain a better understanding of your business and your goals.
- Print as You Need—If you’re struggling for storage space or you don’t have time to wait for shipping, 3DP is a great solution. Print moulds or parts as you need them and customise them to fit your exact specifications.
Multinational car manufacturer and automaker, Ford Motor Company, has been using 3D printing since the 1980s. Initially, the company had used 3DP for prototypes, though they’re now using the technology to print parts for working vehicles and are exploring ways to include the technology into its production lines. Ford has partnered with 10 additive manufacturing companies and is running 23 3D printers, allowing them to print cheaper-lightweight parts in a number of materials, including sand, nylon, and carbon fibre composites.
Earlier this year, Ford additively manufactured what they call “the largest 3D metal-printed part for a working vehicle in automotive history.” The aluminium manifold inlet has a web-like structure that traditional manufacturing couldn’t produce. Despite the complexities, it took only five days to print. While Ford has been leading the way in automotive additive manufacturing for years, other companies like BMW, Audi, and Porsche are following closely behind.