Technology is rapidly transforming the way work is done, and professionals who work in the field are embracing various tech developments to reduce costs and gain efficiency. Businesses that stay ahead of the technology curve position themselves to provide their customers better service and expand their market share. To thrive in this brave new world, field professionals should keep an eye on five technology trends particularly relevant when working outside the office.
Mobile App Proliferation
Although the use of mobile apps in the field is nothing new, their use as tech solutions for small business continues to explode, with almost half of small businesses having their own mobile apps as of 2017. Mobile apps are becoming more specialized all the time, with developers creating custom apps designed to solve particular problems that relatively few businesses encounter. If theres a problem or activity you encounter routinely in the field, there may be an app for that already. If not, consider hiring an app development firm to design one; its becoming less difficult and cheaper all the time, and there is a growing number of development firms. Many apps already on the market let you customize them yourself, and doing that is becoming easier all the time as well.
In the past, programmers and app designers typically had to write different code for each type of device or platform they were programming. HTML5 is a coding system that allows developers to design a single app thats capable of communicating with a variety of connected devices and software platforms. Widespread adoption of this new standard appears imminent and is likely to increase the use of mobile apps and their integration with all sorts of devices. Field pros will increasingly use mobile apps coded in HTML5 to perform tasks such as retrieving data from sensors and remotely controlling equipment. Apps and devices designed around HTML5 wont always be backward compatible, so they may not communicate as well with older products. When buying new products to enhance your productivity in the field, consider choosing apps and devices that function on HTML5 code to maximize compatibility. In the near future, “HTML5 compatible” is likely to be a major selling point for technology products of all kinds, advertised like “high definition” is for TVs.
Popular cloud-based apps such as DropBox, GoToMeeting, and GoPayment all provide mobile apps you can use in the field to store and share files, meet with customers and co-workers online, or take payments in the field. The cloud isn’t all that new, but its adoption by small business has been spotty in many cases, with many business owners wary of losing control of their data or simply confused about how to implement cloud solutions. With the prices of cloud services falling and a growing number of IT service firms positioned to help businesses deploy such tools, the use of cloud-based services in the field is sure to expand. Security issues that have plagued cloud-based technology are also getting resolved, with many experts believing that cloud-based services offer excellent security and benefits when implemented properly.
The Internet of Things
Commonly expressed as IoT, the Internet of Things refers to the world of connected devices of all types, from TVs to automobiles. A field pro can wear a connected camera to update a customer with real-time streaming video transmitted from a job site or accept a credit card payment using a connected card reader. Those examples are just the beginning. In coming years, entire operations will be redesigned around this new paradigm, with all sorts of equipment outfitted with sensors and actuators that provide real-time data to help field pros perform maintenance and inspections, analyze and resolve problems before they occur, manage inventory, or do just about anything they once had to do on site. Combined with the increasingly affordable and available treasure troves offered by big data, the Internet of Things could prove as revolutionary as the internet itself.
Near-Field Communications Wi-Fi
Near-Field Communications Wi-Fi transfers data between devices using wireless technology. Its potential for widespread use coupled with IoT and the advent of HTML5 ensures that the use of NFC will grow, allowing professionals to perform various functions in the field that they once did back at the office. Contactless payments are probably the first use of NFC you’re likely to use in the field. This lets your customers use an NFC-enabled smartphone and a service like Google Wallet or Venmo to pay for services or products. Later, you’ll probably use it to retrieve stored data or transmit instructions to equipment. Clearly theres a great deal of overlap with these technologies. In some cases they all work together to achieve the desired result. By knowing the terminology and basics of these five tech for small business trends, youve already taken an important first step toward adopting the technologies shaping the near future of work in the field.