The explosion of the internet and broadband access has transformed both business and the way we live. For businesses, new technological solutions can support competitive advantage, enhance efficiency, and minimise operating costs. From trends in telephone systems to smartphones and cloud computing, it appears that the trends that drove 2010 will continue to dominate in 2011 and beyond.
VoIP Continues Growing Market Share
Voice over Internet Protocol (‘VoIP’) continues to grow its market share around the world. More and more businesses are switching over to VoIP to take advantage of its low setup and operational costs, as well as the flexibility associated with VoIP based business phone systems such as integration, no contract periods, and scalability of these systems.
The Growth of 4G
In the US, the use of 4G continues to grow. 4G is the next generation of fast wireless internet access that promises to provide coverage that’s level with the Web access associated with wired broadband connections.
Most of the major telecommunications providers in the US have begun offering 4G to customers, as well as some cable TV and start up companies. However, the cost of 4G can be prohibitively high for some. Australian providers have yet to announce their plans for 4G though several have indicated that 4G services may start in late 2011.
Cloud computing is much talked about and it continues to make headway in 2011. Private data centres are shrinking, particular in the US, as increasing numbers of companies continue shifting to cloud computing. As a consequence, it may become increasingly common for businesses to eliminate private data centres altogether and rent all their server capacity needs on demand.
In conjunction with the growth of cloud computing is the popularity of hybrid technology. This trend sees companies use a combination of desktop and cloud computing based business data solutions, balancing flexibility, mobility, and security. Hybrid technology means firms can continue using the packaged applications around which existing systems are based.
While virtualisation, as a final step to cloud computing, is yet to be very widely adopted in Australia, it is increasingly available to businesses. Mathew Boon, a managing VP at Gartner, has suggested that many local businesses are looking to at least part virtualisation, especially application consolidation and using blade-server technology. The security associated with moving physical servers to virtual servers can lead to significant cost savings, reduced need for hardware and energy costs. Saving can also arise from the need for less physical space.
Led by Apple’s iPad, tablet computers have been added to the gadget armoury of both corporate and other users. Rather than replacing the notebook or the smartphone, tablet computers quite possibly fulfil a separate usage niche – reading content, using social media, and accessing services while on the move.
Smartphones have been a dominant trend for a few years but increasingly they will become an avenue for making internet purchases. Studies have shown that around 40 per cent of all smartphone users (including iPhone users) shopped on the internet via their smart phone in 2010 and over 60 per cent sought more information about a product online via their smartphone while in store. More businesses are introducing their own apps to facilitate product information sharing on the phone.
More businesses are leveraging social media tools to connected with potential customers and develop relationships with existing ones. Social media is a dynamic and multifaceted tool that supports businesses in both informing customers about products and obtaining feedback.
An interesting trend is the growth of biometrics for retail and internal use by businesses. Banks, such as the National Australian Bank, have launched voiceprints for authenticating customers to improve security measures. Biometrics will continue to be widely used in the coming years.
More companies are supporting worker-owned hardware use at work. Decisions about purchases – for both computers, applications, and peripherals – are increasingly being made by employees instead of the IT department. Businesses save costs on maintenance and workers report a sense of improved productivity when using their own hardware.