Just how important is technology going to be for small business as the years tick forward? There’s absolutely no doubt that the future’s going to be increasingly digitally focussed. Think paperless offices, e-invoicing. High-technology is going to be important, or even crucial for some sectors such as retail.
The Government is already investing heavily in digital infrastructure and is making much of fibre optic broadband. Its aim is to achieve around 93% ‘superfast’ capable network coverage by 2015.
It believes superfast technology will help firms grow faster, attract foreign investment, and also encourage more businesses to start-up outside of the more usual town and city locations and help drive growth in the rural economy thanks to a network that’ll be the envy of Europe.
The jury is still out on whether this will happen as they see it.
Mobile phone operators Everything Everywhere have just started the rollout of fourth generation mobile broadband too – or 4G if you’re a techie.
EE – formerly Orange – are now offering superfast mobile phone services in 10 hub cities. Coverage is expected across most of the country by Q4, 2014 as more mobile operators begin their own offerings next year. Expect to hear a lot on this right through 2013 on this subject.
It’s highly likely that we are also going to hear a lot more about mobile payments next year. This is using smart phones to actually pay for something in place of cash, cheque, or credit/debit card. The technology is called NFC – that’s Near Field Communications – and most top end mobile phones ship with it now – strangely though none of Apple’s i-Phone series offer it. Touch the phone to a special chip, and the payment is made in to the chip-owner's bank account.
Most people who’ve bought a phone this year already have the kit required for this, and it’ll be down to traders to provide the chip reading technology to properly implement it. So you’ll no longer be reaching for your purse or wallet to pay the plumber, or the shop assistant for the groceries, you’ll be going for your phone.
This could mean savings over time for those businesses traditionally used to dealing with cards and/or cash. There's also the benefit for traders not having to deal in cash.
So can we expect to see a race for access to this type of technology? If nothing else it spells the end of the cheque in the not too distant.