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The six tech trends SMEs should focus on in 2017

Sage's chief technology officer Klaus-Michael Vogelberg predicts the top trends to face businesses

The six tech trends SMEs should focus on in 2017
Vogelberg sees six major trends that will change how businesses grow.

Cloud accounting software Sage has predicted the next big technology trends that will change the way entrepreneurs run their businesses in 2017.

Sage's chief technology officer Klaus-Michael Vogelberg foresees that chatbots, collective intelligence and blockchain are some of the trends expected this year.

He said: "As every business - big or small - is transforming more or less intensively into a tech-enabled business, today's entrepreneurs should be on the lookout for the opportunities these technological developments can bring to their business."

Vogelberg sees six major trends that will change how businesses grow.

Trend #1: Chatbots and autonomous interfaces
Vogelberg believes that autonomous interfaces, such as chatbots or digital agents will become increasingly common and will chance the way humans and computers work and interact with each other. Gradually people will begin to talk systems or use gesture control with their hands or eyes.

Trend #2: Artificial & collective intelligence
According to Vogelberg, artificial and collective intelligence is another major trend to look out for, even for smaller companies. Sage's Vogelberg therefore advises SMEs to "team up". "If small and medium-sized enterprises join forces and - while considering their corporate data protection policies and personal rights laws - share, for example, computer power and data with other companies in a structured and systematic manner, they could profit from this collaboration by receiving a better and larger data pool and superior data intelligence. Similar to crowdsourcing mechanisms, this enriched data pool would enable companies to better understand how customers behave, what they need, what to offer them and the business areas to invest in."

Trend #3: Blockchain - or how to create trust in the digital age
According to Sage, business builders should also carefully analyse if, and how, the new blockchain technology could impact their current business models. Blockchain organises transactions of digital assets between two parties in a radically new way. Instead of using middlemen or intermediaries such as banks, notaries, state authorities or trading platforms to legitimise the exchange of certain assets - such as digital properties, digital trading goods, digital contracts, or even financial transactions via digital currencies such as Bitcoins - blockchains allow individuals to transfer these assets in a direct, safe, secure, and immutable way between each other. A decentralised, distributed ledger, essentially an asset database shared across multiple participants, combined with crypto-economic algorithms serve as the technological basis of a blockchain.

Trend #4: Revolutionizing the movement of money
New solutions enable ubiquitous anytime anywhere, immediate and omni-channel payments and will be fully integrated into the financial accounting systems of tomorrow's enterprises. All parties, such as e-commerce platforms, banks, fin-techs or partners, will profit from open API standards which will be used for creating new services and enable seamless, fully-automated processing of payments and financial transactions.

Trend #5: Platform-based infrastructure
In 2017, more and more SMEs will replace their stand-alone, on-site software systems with integrated, cloud-based software solutions that operate on global cloud platforms. "The big benefit of these platforms is that they give even smaller companies access to innovative business software solutions and services which these companies would not have been able to afford five years ago.  To some extent, these types of cloud platforms are democratising the way in which companies gain access to state-of-the-art apps and smart and scalable technologies," says Klaus-Michael Vogelberg. "They allow business builders to discover new ways of working and give them the infrastructure needed to receive every kind of data from partners or the Internet of Things, analyze it, and then - in a "citizen developer" style - create something new and productive," the Sage CTO says.

Trend #6: Internet of Things will create new services and job profiles
Small and medium-sized enterprises should be on the lookout for new possibilities that emerge with the realisation of the Internet of Things. Multiple data streams originating from all sorts of sensors built into e.g. machines, cars, mobile and immobile goods, clothes or even human beings (e.g. for medical monitoring purposes) will result in a true treasure trove of data, thus creating all sorts of new services.

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