The world of technology changes quickly. New ideas come and go. And while some have the potential to transform how you do business, pursuing others can be a waste of time and effort. Just ask the people who chose HD-DVD instead of Blu-Ray discs back in 2008.
So, as it's impossible to evaluate every new technology for your business, what are the key areas to focus on? Here are three trends with the potential to change how you do things in the months and years ahead.
1. Cashless payment
The cashless society has been a dream ever since the first credit cards came onto the market. But now, finally, we may be getting close to it - and that's down to some emerging payment technologies.
To begin with, the barriers that stop the smallest businesses accepting card payments are coming down. Mobile payment solutions like Intuit GoPayment and Square are quick and easy to sign up for and don't tie companies in to long, expensive contracts like traditional card payment suppliers.
Then there's the innovation of 'pay and wave', where you can pay for small purchases by waving your credit card over a sensor. With no need to swipe a card or sign a receipt, it's arguably more efficient and simple than paying by cash.
Small retailers, food vendors and other similar companies could get a significant competitive advantage from these technologies.
2. Touch screens everywhere
Since the first iPhone hit the market back in 2007, touch screens have exploded in popularity. Every serious smart phone has one. So does every single tablet computer.
In fact, we're starting to see a generation of children growing up who've never know screens that aren't touch screens. They're simple to use and the latest models are responsive and fool proof.
What's more, they're now starting to pop up in all sorts of places. Self-service points in supermarkets, ATMs, vending machines, airline entertainment systems and more all make use of this intuitive technology. A growing number of laptop and desktop computers also have touch screens.
Quite simple, touch screens are becoming the standard. And that's going to have an impact if you work in an environment or with products that have screens with which you want people to interact.
3. Printing objects to order
What would your supply chain look like if you had a machine on your premises that could create products as customers order them?
Such a groundbreaking technology wouldn't just change your supply chain. It could alter your entire business. In fact, it could trigger a seismic change in all sorts of industries.
Well, 3D printing isn't science fiction any longer. You can buy 3D printers today, from companies like Makerbot. They're still pretty basic, but they exist and they work. As the technology improves (and it certainly will), there's barely a sector 3D printing isn't going to change.