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Small business IT predictions for 2016
Artificial intelligence could be a factor in 2016 technology for small companies

Andy Hinxman discusses what he feels will be hot in IT this year. 

So we’ve kicked off January with some snow, strong winds and floods. I bet those of you who couldn’t get into the office were glad you could jump on the cloud this month, and not the fluffy kind.

It is tough trying to keep things going as a small business when there are so many things we can’t control, like the weather. We simply can’t predict it and the Met Office doesn’t always get it right either.

However I am going to make some predictions; only mine will be IT related. Things are changing all the time when it comes to technology. That makes it hard for businesses like yours. What should you be spending money on? What is the most cost-effective way of updating your IT systems? Is this the time to upgrade to Windows 10 or can you continue with Windows 8 or 8.1?

All of this takes time as well as money, so don’t feel you have to do all of it at once. We tend to ask clients why they want to make a change, what they want to achieve and how it will help their business, then work backwards from there.

Anyway, here is what I think will be hot in IT in 2016:

Bluetooth-powered beacons

These are a new market research tool also known as 'lighthouses.' They can track the exact location of the smartphones or devices of potential customers and send them real time notifications. For example; this might take the form of vouchers if you pass a shop. It is a great way of targeting potential customers. Think about it. While you are walking down your local high street you get a message to say there is an offer on at the local sandwich shop. Do you go there or to your usual lunchtime haunt?  

Big data

In 2015 this started to become big news. Basically it is the large volume of data, both asked for and not asked for, that inundates businesses every day, which has exploded thanks to more businesses taking advantage of the cloud and cloud tools. Reports show just under half of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (47 per cent) are now using at least one cloud business software tool and this figure is set to increase. With train fares going up, constant delays and strikes, it’s no wonder more businesses are opting for flexible working options for their employees.

As more businesses sign up to the cloud and use cloud tools such as Google Drive and Dropbox, we can expect even bigger data. We wouldn’t be surprised if this gets given a shiny new name; Extremely Large Data anyone?

Tougher security

This is the age of digital attacks. We look after security for some of our clients. Security monitoring really does need to be proactive and adaptive. The Volatile Cedar malware which originated in the Middle East attacked at least ten countries including the UK. This malware sat on the host machine harvesting data but was able to avoid detection from simple scans. Sadly, we can expect many more of such attacks. In 2016 I think we will start to use Artificial Intelligence security which can spot these issues before you do and can take action against them.

Better synchronisation

As more devices are launched to the market, such as the new wearable devices, the demand for synchronising our data across devices increases. Windows blessed us with some brilliant updates last year, including Continuum. With Continuum, you can connect your phone to a monitor, mouse and keyboard to use your Windows 10 phone like a PC. Continuum is currently only available on select mobiles but we expect this to increase over the next year. We’re waiting to see if Apple has their own developments to their iCloud up their sleeves. Watch this space!

Artificial intelligence

If you are a fan of films involving human-like robots then prepare to get excited and a little scared… technology  thinking for itself. However, it isn’t as sinister as it sounds. For small businesses it is surely good news that devices know where to look, without you having to tell them exactly where to search. You’ve probably already noticed this when searching for things like hotels; your phone will anticipate where you would like to go based on previously booked hotels. In 2016 I think this predicting, adaptable and learning environment will replace the reactionary.

Better connectivity

Faster, faster. Sounds like my daughter on a swing. It is what we all want now; better connections, faster connections and everywhere! We want it inside and outside. Even for those of us who remember dial up (that is where you had to connect your phone to a modem) are not satisfied by the speed until we have megabytes per second to stream videos, Skype and do emails…and that is in the park in our lunch hour! More and more places are setting up Wi-Fi zones and Bluetooth areas to increase internet access. Network infrastructure will also change and more people will be using Wi-Fi instead of cabled connections. This opens up some security risks and can act as a way of tracking locations of users and understanding patterns. 

Andy Hinxman is founder of Keybridge IT Solutions

Further reading on IT trends

See also: How to start building a website

Related topics: Computer & IT business

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