A version of this article appeared on the author’s website , he can be found on twitter @SimonCocking

Future Trends event

At the Helix in DCU, early in the morning, organised as part of the Fingal Enterprise week, mc’d by Noel Davidson  there were three interesting speakers. The aim of the event to help local small and medium businesses to anticipate coming and future trends in technology.

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The speakers were:

Andy O Donoghue, @RedCert technology commentator, and tech producer for TV’s Gadget Show. This began screening in September, and you can catch up on past episodes via the 3player , in particular episode 3 which covered the use of tech in Irish education  . You can also listen to his Redcert podcasts on Soundcloud here  https://soundcloud.com/redcert

John Beckett, @johnbeckett co founder of Eirtight   Technology, winner of Entrepreneur of the year in 2006, and also invests and mentors on the Irish start up scene. He also has a blog to help start ups too 

Dave O’Mahony,  @mahony102 senior account manager for google, working in particular with Irish start ups to develop their online businesses.

What trends were identified?

Mobile Accounting Apps

Increased use of Mobile CRM apps to manage your business from the cloud

Perhaps not surprisingly mobile was the first contender. At this stage it might be more accurate rather than saying everything is going mobile, to say everything has gone mobile. However from there they did make the point that for small businesses there are already really useful Customer Relation Management apps. These do many of the tasks that can be a pain to stay on top of for a sole trader. It was clear that this was a business application of cloud based technology that was not currently being used by all of the audience, particularly for providing instant invoicing, along with easy to pay online options too. All of which can increased the likelihood of prompt payment for services delivered.

Increased use of cloud based documents – and the surprisingly low current level of usage by small businesses

Once you use shared online documents, whether in google drive, or some other software, you realise how valuable they are. They ensure everyone, (with the correct access permissions)  is working off the most recent version of the documents. Once you have missed an attachment  in a long email thread you realise how useful this is. At this event, and with numerous other clients and groups encountered it is clear that the level of uptake of online cloud based documents is still a lot lower than you might realise. Privacy issues are a natural first concern for potential users. However in general the alternatives currently used, are often no more secure. Think of lost USB sticks, pc’s with generic passwords, and also lack of multiple back ups for files.

If you’re looking for a future business opportunity, it might be in explaining the value, and selling online document systems to small businesses. Talking to Google, they still find uptake of cloud based documents in the Irish market to be 20% or less.

Simplify the on-line purchasing experience

If you are a user experience designer this is already part of your day to day  headset. Again the opportunity is here to help small businesses to achieve more streamline purchasing experiences.

Andy O'Donohue

Provide more useful, contextual information for the user

There is a massive opportunity for someone, Google or otherwise, to provide better, more intelligent relevant search results. Predicting what the user wants before they search for it may still be some way off, but better contextual understanding of the meaning of what the user is actually looking for will be really valued. Especially when you want to drill behind all the paid product placement results, to find what you want to find, rather than what a commercially influenced algorithm would like you to see.

 Be outward facing, and use the analytics data available to understand what happens on your site

Ireland, as we know is small. It makes sense to look at overseas markets, ideally immediately, or even before launching the product.  The temptation is to want to get on the road and sell to those who you know. It may seem self evident but there are Irish startups, on the high potential start up program who are not optimised for overseas sales. Helping Irish companies to achieve greater overseas sales is a definite opportunity.

From the audience’s reaction to a demonstration by Noel Davidson of what realtime analytics can show you about the impact of your site getting mentioned on radio (spikes in user visits) it was clear that many of them are not using their website analytics packages. Again there is an opportunity here,  both for small Irish businesses, to better use analytics, and also for possible third party experts to help small Irish businesses to do this.

Dave O'Mahoney

The internet of things will offer opportunities for unexpected trend spotting

Big data is a buzz word that is thrown around a lot. With the use of even existing data on business websites there is the opportunity to ask where, when, why, who? Becoming familiar with your analytics data will enable you to start forming other questions that may bring really useful, commercially beneficial insights. As sensors get cheaper and cheaper, so the opportunities for gathering more insightful information will develop.

Wearables will offer wider opportunities for more small businesses

While currently the buzz is all about sports related opportunities for wearable technology, in the near future it will create opportunities for small businesses too. They will be better able to analyse performance and customer interaction. While this could have negative implications for workers, possibly in retail, in terms of demanding workers to work faster. It also offers the opportunity for realtime feedback, and capture of best case practices to help raise performance levels. It will also enables businesses to capture more valuable video content, which can then be used to help sell the performance of the product to future users.