Is your company set up to compete in the technological landscape of the future, or is it facing obsolescence? This is something that interested buyers will want to know when it comes time to sell your business.
Like it or not, technological progress is inevitable. You can be one of three different characters in this story:
1. reluctant/late adopter
2. early adopter
Pioneers and early adopters see disruptive technologies as opportunities. Reluctant adopters see it as a necessity — an expense that they must surrender to, in order to remain competitive. It’s entirely up to you to which you are. But know this: you don’t have to become an expert in new technologies to be an early adopter or pioneer.
There are always experts out there to help you adopt new tech. But it’s your job to learn enough that you understand how new tech can change your industry. The only alternative is waiting around to find out that it already has, and you’re among the last out of the gate.
There are three major themes in the way technology is shaping our world: data, decentralization and automation. You’ll see these themes present in all of the categories below.
Blockchain and digital assets
Blockchain tech promises improved efficiency, security, and the removal of intermediaries. A blockchain is a distributed ledger that allows for the exchange of data and digital assets.
Blockchain protocols create their own “ecosystem”. The Ethereum protocol, for example, has created the Ether token. The protocol also allows for the development of smart contracts. Smart contracts are programs that communicate with the main blockchain.
The early adopters of blockchain are already building applications and using Ethereum as a medium of exchange. In a basic example, you can program a smart contract to move Ether from one user’s wallet to the next after the smart contract realizes that certain conditions have been met.
Essentially, holders of Ether have an ownership stake in the Ethereum ecosystem that can be traded or held in hopes of appreciation. As adoption spreads, the value will increase.
The status of blockchain tech
Blockhain is in widespread but selective use. There are certain limitations that new use-cases for blockchain always face. For Ethereum, there are limits in how many updates to the ledger can be processed in a given time frame. This is an issue that the developers are working on. The buzz among early adopters is that it’s a matter of when, not if. In the meantime, competing blockchains like Cardano, Tezos and Binance Smartchain are locked in a race with Ethereum to see who can be first to solve the limitations that Ethereum is facing — and become the major blockchain protocol of the future.
You can trade hundreds of cryptos on platforms like Coinbase, Gemini and Binance. Platforms like BitPay make it easy for businesses to accept Bitcoin and Ethereum as payment. Any user with a good crypto wallet can send/receive crypto to/from another user.
Major players like Amazon and IBM are offering blockchain services. And a new generation of app developers is emerging in our midst, learning the in and outs of blockchain so that forward-thinking businesses are able to adopt it as use cases emerge.
How to get started
It may or may not be time to integrate blockchain into your business, but it’s definitely time to start learning. And the best way is to dive right in. You can get crypto wallets like Exodus for free and start acquiring/exchanging cryptos today. If you’re interested in other business use cases, you can hire a blockchain programmer to develop distributed ledger applications for you.
Internet of Things (IoT)
This term refers to the changing infrastructure of connectivity. One of the defining characteristics of IoT is that networks are wireless. This makes them easy to install. Devices with processing power and wireless connectivity are becoming cheaper to manufacture, and more specialized in function. This brings in new ways to automate, and to capture data.
The use of sensors will increase, as will the number of smart devices in general. This creates a dense network of connected nodes that all work in sync with some or all of the nodes around them. Each node can serve any or all of the following functions:
1) be an entry point for data input (IE sensors)
2) be a liason/relay between other network nodes
3) be a localized “micro server” to process data (see edge computing)
4) be a computer to control other devices or machinery.
Status of the IoT
The IoT is already expanding. Household appliances, smart phones, assistants like Alexa, Smart TVs, PC’s, smart watches, and all the connected devices inside modern vehicles are all part of the network we call the IoT. Enthusiasts envision a future where households are heavily automated, and where every appliance and machine is its own node in a localized network that is run by a virtual assistant.
This model can be applied to cars, businesses, cities, and civil infrastructure as well as homes. The major challenge is that this will requires loads of data to be sorted, stored and processed.
5G and fiber optics
Fiber optics is the backbone of the internet, and it offers incredible bandwidth for those who have direct access to it. But the speed of any network is limited by its slowest points. Additionally, automation —by both software and robotics — requires tons of data processing. So businesses need ways to process data faster.
5G deployment promises to help with this, but deployment is moving slowly. Like fiber optics, service is being deployed to the areas that host the most subscribers. For businesses in less populated areas, this means that data-heavy processes are harder to handle.
And even with the large amounts of bandwidth that 5G and fiber offer, there are are still limitations. Processes that are reliant on real time data are slowed down by network latency. The fact is, bandwidth this still a limitation.
It’s also worth noting that the rosy IoT picture is heavily dependent on the deployment of 5G. Wireless connectivity makes it easier to sophisticate your private networks by installing new nodes/devices. It also offers a new channel to lighten the load on your last-mile cabling/fiber.
Access to 5G and fiber should be a factor in deciding the location of business facilities and hubs. This year could be the year that your competitors adopt a data-heavy new system that leaves you in the dust. For businesses in need of a telecoms network upgrade, consider fiber over copper. Copper is still in use, but fiber might be your best long term option. Your telecoms design experts can advise you on that.
This is a somewhat vague term that doesn’t really seem to mark any sort of breakthrough, per se. Rather, it seems to indicate a renewed focus in how data networks are structured.
Cloud computing has gone a long ways in increasing the amounts of data that businesses can afford to store and process. But there’s still a big problem with data-heavy processes: latency. This is especially true for processes that need real-time data.
Edge computing can be seen as a family of solutions that limits the “distance” that time-sensitive data has to travel. When you offload all of your data processing to cloud servers immediately, all of the data travels the same “distance” in cyberspace. So to speed up data processing, the distance needs to be shortened for some or all of the data.
The whole point of a centralized cloud is to provide servers at a manageable cost. Edge computing refers to moving computing services closer to the customer’s network, so that time-sensitive data can be processed with less latency.
The “edge” refers to the edge of the service provider’s (IE the cloud provider’s) network —specifically, the furthest edge of the cloud, which is obviously the closest edge to the customer/user. Edge solutions can’t handle as much data as a large, centralized cloud. So a big part of edge computing is coming up with ways to efficiently sort data and provide solutions at the edge, specifically for data that is top priority.
Data, decentralization and automation
In the modern world, data is power. The tech giants (Google, Amazon, Facebook) have become the biggest corporations on the planet because of their ability to harvest and use data.
Businesses who understand the power of data will be the early adopters of new tech. This is crucial to remaining competitive. And the data-driven future goes hand in hand with decentralization and automation. AI relies on input data to carry out it’s own purposes. At the same time, AI can also make processing, sorting and storing high volumes of data more cost-effective.
Different forms of decentralization are being used to improve data processing, as well. Logistically speaking, IoT, edge computing, and blockchain all move activity away from a concentrated central source. In the case of edge computing, many of the solutions will still be provided by major corporations — the same ones who run clouds. But it illustrates the point that decentralization can be more efficient.
IoT can be seen as a mirror to edge computing. As IoT smart devices become more affordable, private networks will be able to handle more computing on their own end. They may also find ways to push their edge outward, so that they can reduce the distance between the provider’s network edge and their own.
This all leads to expanded networks with a higher density of nodes. That means that more and more computing is being done by smaller and more local computers. The advantage of this is reduced latency, more user control, and higher functionality.
And the major selling point of blockchain is a decentralized web. Peer-to-peer computing relies on nodes (user devices) to support the network and process/store information. This is similar to the node-to-node structure of IoT. In fact, they ought to play very nicely with each other. The more devices there are supporting a blockchain ledger, the better it will run.
New tech is not FVA’s expertise. Making your business more competitive is. Our goal is to help companies like yours fetch the highest market value out there. For more on how to improve your business for your eventual exit, see our blog. To partner with FVA in selling or building you business, you can fill out one of our contact forms.