Three men and a woman sitting at a desk during a business meeting.

Business collaboration tools will improve communication and efficiency in the workplace.

So, wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) tech (two device categories that have been ready to change the world for some time now) didn’t quite hit their respective zeniths last year. That doesn’t mean these super-useful, super-cool takes on business tech aren’t super-valuable to businesses, though. From business collaboration tools to customer-facing, experience-boosting goodies (and beyond), here are a few directions wearables, IoT, and other technologies could take in the very near future:

Virtual Reality

Yes, VR devices only recently started to hit the consumer market, and yes, there’s still plenty of room for the tech to grow in that space. However, ignoring these perception-altering wearables and their huge potential as business collaboration tools is a dire mistake, which many organizations are sure to discover as useful business applications for the groundbreaking tech hit the market.

For example, take Hololens, a Microsoft product primed to hit shelves in the second half of the year. For one example of the tech’s potential, architects could use it to take teams on a guided holographic tour of a proposed change to a building they’re working on. For another, surgeons could use the tech to give their colleagues and clientele a full, detailed view of the work they’ll be doing, all before a single incision is made. Imagine the headsets sitting on a workstation desk alongside desktop scanners and other peripheral tools, and you start to see the potential. It’s another way for creatives, builders, and others to share their respective visions with their companies and the world.

Data, and Tons of It

The average IoT device’s strength as a data-collection endpoint is nothing new to businesses. Indeed, metric collection undoubtedly accounts for a large amount of the annual spike in connected IoT devices, according to Statista. If nothing else, businesses love their statistics.

What does this mean for the broader world of business collaboration tools and business collaboration? In a word, everything. The team of warehouse employees trying to improve their company’s process flows could well learn from IoT beacons reporting real-time and historical employee movement. Healthcare logistics teams, on the other hand, could use IoT tools to optimize staffing, patient room placement, and pretty much anything else that requires a little logistification. If IoT-generated data was already a big deal in 2016, expect it to become revolutionary in short order.

(Even More) Unified Communications

Think about the slate of unified communications (UC) tools you probably use at the office today. You might not use every feature, but it’s nice knowing they’re all there. More, there are a few that would probably make your life really difficult if they vanished tomorrow.

To this end, expect wearable tech to slide right into its own communicative/collaborative niche soon. Here, the idea of seeing what your employees, colleagues, and teammates see tops the list. Whether you’re a real estate professional examining a property for telltale signs of damage or a code enforcer ensuring your city’s sidewalks are up to snuff (or something else altogether), the ability to quickly share what you’re seeing in real-time is highly valuable in numerous business settings. If the idea’s not something every employee in every business would use daily, it’s incredibly valuable to those who need it — the exact reason robust UC tools come with a host of features to begin with.

Efficiency Through Automation

Sometimes, promoting efficiency means looking at things employees don’t do — or wouldn’t, if they didn’t have to. Automation of rote tasks, a major focus of IoT technology, can help businesses do just that. Here, business collaboration tools can boost productivity and cut down on administrative busywork, which is certainly welcome in any team environment.

For example, a printer may automatically order ink when it’s running low or call a technician when it’s malfunctioning. Compared to watching Steve struggle with those overlong ink cartridges (and potentially losing even more productivity when he pulls the wrong tab and gets yellow ink dust all over his work clothes), that’s a lot of time saved. Going back to UC, beacon-powered presence tools that automatically update depending on your location — changing you to “busy” when you’re in the conference room, for example — further boost productivity on a subtle yet team-oriented level.

The IoT-Improved Experience

Effective CRM integration has been all the rage for a while now. IoT tech, with CRM’s remote-monitoring, data-collecting capability, has all the makings of a disruptive addition to this trend, a fact that should shine through this year and beyond.

Expect “opt-in” to be the key phrase as CRM improvements roll out and roll on. For customers, this means a chance to choose which relevant promotions (and other information) reach their eyes. On the other hand, companies can leverage this relationship to learn more about their clientele than ever before. For example, customers who opt into a digital rewards program get targeted content from wireless beacons as they walk through certain points of the store, while the store gets stronger floor-tracking and customer-movement data, helping the company create customized content that will turn window shopping into conversions.

To put that another way, the relationship aspect of CRM will be a big thing in the near future and beyond — and it all starts with customers determining that they want the relationship. If you work in a relevant space, now is the time to start the dialogue.

Let Vonage Business show you what a unified communications platform can do.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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A smartphone and tablet on a desk, along with a pair of glasses and pens.

Enterprise business solutions have come a long way in a short time.

Communication is key, so they say. The business world has clearly taken that advice to heart, if trends in modern enterprise business solutions are any indication. From carrier pigeons to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), enterprise communications has come an awfully long way.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane and remember how innovative the past few decades have been. Better yet, let’s also flex those Nostradamus impressions and hypothesize what the future holds for business communications.

Bell Bottoms, Lava Lamps, and the Mighty Fax Machine

Office communication in the ’70s was a bit more involved than today’s digital wonderland. The vast majority of communications revolved around telephones tethered to a base station. Need to get ahold of someone? Voice or sneakernet were just about the only options.

It comes as no surprise, then, that data sharing was also a largely manual process. Remember, computers at the time were prohibitively expensive and cumbersome, so pens and typewriters were the name of the game. Sharing information required heavy use of transcription and snail mail. Fortunately, in the latter part of the decade came a revolution called the fax machine. With it, data could be shared over telephone lines with unrivaled speed, making enterprise communications much more efficient.

Computing in the ’80s

In the ’80s, telephones still ruled the enterprise communications roost. Carbon paper made copying information a relative breeze, while typewriters were the go-to device well before hipsters had a chance to make them cool. However, as the decade wore on, all of this was about to change.

The birth of the computer may have happened many years prior, but the late ’80s lays claim to its coming of age in the enterprise world. From the venerable Apple IIe and its lifelike 80-column monochrome text, highlighted in Popular Mechanics, to the Franklin ACE 2000 series and its gargantuan 128k RAM, the typewriter’s days were officially numbered. Now, if only there was a better alternative to the fax machine …

‘You’ve Got Mail!’

If the ’80s were a revolution in how people created data for communication, the ’90s ushered in the next era in transmitting it. With the advent of local and wide-area networks, as well as the proliferation of the internet as it’s now known, ‘the 90s was a golden era for enterprise communications.

No longer did you have to wait days for mail to be delivered. No longer did you have to make the arduous walk down exactly two flights of stairs to talk to Nancy in accounting. Things were going so well, in fact, that people didn’t mind the alien sounds emanating from their computers’ modems as they connected to the World Wide Web. From email and instant messaging to 28-Kbps modems, it was quite the time to be alive and online.

Welcome to the Present Future

After emerging from the scourge of Y2K unscathed, the new millennium continued upon the successes of the previous decade. As internet speeds exploded, the bandwidth for enterprise communications ballooned. The result was enterprise business solutions that could communicate far more than simple emails.

Voice, data, and rich media now fill the bulk of enterprise communication. From web conferencing to the virtual mailbox, nearly every form of physical communication the business world once relied on now has a digital counterpart. With as much innovation as the past couple decades has unveiled, what could the future possibly hold?

For starters, no one has yet perfected the droid-delivered hologram. Alternatively, augmented and virtual reality will likely position themselves as suitable stopgaps in the near future. Immersive technologies like this will help make enterprise communications more efficient and effective. They say a picture is worth a thousand words — imagine being there in person!

The other technology likely to make a big splash as the future of communication unfolds is artificial intelligence. This will likely take the form of behind-the-scenes analytics platforms rather than walking, talking androids. Nevertheless, these platforms will facilitate streamlined communications, allowing organizations to better understand what truly effective communication looks like.

When you think about it, the leap from carbon paper to virtual reality is pretty substantial. However, enterprise communications has come this far in just a few quick decades. In light of this scorching progress, you might just find a quirky R2 unit delivering holograms sooner than you think!

Speak to a Vonage Business consultant to learn more about the future of business phone systems.

About Joe Hewitson

With a degree in applied computing technology and over a decade of experience in the IT and software development industries, Joe Hewitson has his finger on the pulse of cloud technology. From developing communication applications for the cloud to deploying VoIP solutions in enterprise environments, he’s seen it all. The one thing Joe loves more than staying on the cutting edge of cloud and VoIP technology? Writing about it.

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