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Disruptive Technology: Should Business Pay Attention?

1
May

Very often phrases become part of business or pop language without background understanding. As our language evolves, so do the words that describe our environment. While it’s not necessary for business to understand the epistemology of certain frequently used phrases, such as “things on my plate,” it’s important for business to have a basic understanding of some terms. Disruptive Technology is a term with which businesses should become familiar.

So, what is disruptive technology?

It depends on who is defining. The phrase, termed by Clayton M. Christianson in 1997, is a brand-new technology that often lacks refinement, has not yet proven its application, and appeals to limited individuals such as research scientists and hobbyists. In contrast, sustaining technology is based on improvements to an already established technology.

In application to business, disruptive technology has come to mean an innovation that creates a new market and upsets the existing market. Namely, the customers change.

In truth, true disruptive technologies have very little to offer business. Since it often lacks refinement, has yet to proven itself, and has limited appeal, business rarely needs to pay attention. Thus, the variation of definition for business application.

Yet when a disruptive technology turns a corner, business needs adapt quickly or risk being left behind. So what disruptive technologies are about to see an increase in uptake?

IoT

Internet of Things is not a new concept. The disruptive technology has been around for a time, meaning the bugs have been worked out and adaptation is beginning to occur much more rapidly.

The disruption is not necessarily the mobile/smart phone, or GPS units, or other IoT items we’ve seen to date. The disruption will come as home hubs become more reliable, more secure, and more capable of handling every item an individual might need. As Google and Amazon push their virtual assistants further into home hub territory, IoT can change  consumer behavior.

Smart houses will become standard, which will change utility usage, home purchases, and even communication with the outside world. Just as social media, and email before that, changed how humans communicate with each other, IoT has the potential to change how humans interact, communicate, and purchase.

Artificial Intelligence

Just as IoT is not a new concept, neither is artificial intelligence. The theory of artificial intelligence has been around longer than the computers capable of handling the processes. However, the newest children of artificial intelligence are about to change the entire landscape of business.

Namely, machine learning and deep learning.

Retailers who have already applied machine learning via chatbots understand how this technology is changing business. AI is already disrupting customer service, call centers, and IT helpdesks. And the pace will only quicken in the coming years as scientists push processing capabilities, and companies continue to gather data to provide information to both algorithm driven concepts.

As artificial intelligence becomes more human like in it’s capacity for critical thinking, the business environment will change rapidly.

Blockchain

In 1983 a group of scientists began a network of computers, starting the world on a path that would change how humans think and interact forever. Since that time, other technologies have been built upon the internet. Social media, email, and even operating systems have changed the landscape of humanity including business.

Also, since that time, there has been no formative changes to the network of networks. Instead, standardization has occurred, and mass amounts of information flood privately held servers around the world.

Blockchain, a technology introduced by Bitcoin in 2009, introduces the first peer-to-peer, transparent yet fully secure, method of information sharing. While the internet was originally a decentralized system, lack of 2nd generation plans meant businesses could set about centralizing all the information in databases (think Facebook).

With the introduction of blockchain, information can be verified without requiring a centralized system.

Blockchain is not a disruptive technology, in the true sense; rather, blockchain is a foundational technology. Like the internet before it, blockchain has the potential to completely change social and economic systems.

The reason we are including it in an article about business disruptive technologies is that, although possibly decades away from it’s true potential and still in a very young infancy, blockchain has the potential to change the entire world. Like the internet before it. Businesses who plan for and capitalize on this change will be in the same field as social media and cell phone giants.

Disruptive technology: the true worth to business

A business, in it’s nature, is designed to be close to it’s consumer and function on standardized processes to increase efficiencies. Disruptive technologies in early phases are not functional for businesses.

Namely, there are too many bugs to work through and not enough consumers/adopters to give a good return on investment.

However, businesses who keep an eye on what scientists and hobbyists are doing have the potential for massive growth and opportunity. A well framed long-term strategy will include disruptive technology.