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7 business technology trends to watch for in 2017

Modern auto assembly line using extensive robotics.

For businesses looking to compete in a digital world, staying ahead of innovations in data, connectivity and operational systems that drive performance is crucial. Here, business tech experts predict seven trends and tools that will shape how we do business in 2017.

Tech trend #1: The increasing expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT, or the connectivity of physical devices that communicate with similar devices, allows businesses to collect specific data key to business processes, including tracking how customers use products and equipment. Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, founder and CEO of Connecthings, sees this trend expanding even more in the coming year. "The Internet of Things makes a link between the real world and the digital world, and that can really help a small business owner create new operations for added revenue," she says. "Expect to see more retailers integrating the trend into brick-and-mortar stores - something we saw in 2016 with beacon technology."

Tech trend #2: The integration of artificial intelligence (AI). There's no doubt that anything related to AI - software that comes close to mimicking human intelligence, like self-driving cars and factory robots - is hot in multiple industries right now. "Major players like Google, Salesforce and Microsoft drove the acquisition trend in 2016," says Ramon Chen, chief marketing officer of Reltio. "AI technology needs a consistent foundation of reliable data to help solve tough problems or develop new products in areas like shipping, so expect more aggressive advancements in this field in 2017."

Tech trend #3: The proliferation of DIY business apps. Instead of waiting for a quarterly report from an accountant, entrepreneurs likely will do it themselves with new apps like Businest. It's a platform that uses AI to examine a company's financial statements to offer a road map to boost cash flow.

The trend #4: The rise of platforms. Successful data-driven businesses have shifted their mindset from a product-oriented strategy to a platform strategy. According to Outsell Information Industry Outlook 2017, at their core, platforms are data collection mechanisms that attract a unique audience, enable a desired interaction and forge powerful communities that help businesses monetize content and scale. From booming companies like Bloomberg to smaller ones like MyCase, platforms are becoming part of a business's ecosystem to support customers and optimize growth.

Tech trend #5: The popularity of standalone credit card machines. Small business owners are mobile and want the ability to get paid anywhere they go. "The popularity of dedicated credit card readers such as Paypal Here and SumUp is growing because they cost less than $100 and don't require long-term contracts or expensive merchant accounts," says Ian Wright, founder of Merchant Machine.

Tech trend #6: Advancements in big data. For companies looking to streamline operations, experts are betting on big data. In inventory management, big data gives companies more specific insights about who their customers are, what products are most efficient and how they can increase brand awareness. While it means deciphering more facts and figures, the end result will lead to a more effective inventory process.

Tech trend #7: The revolution of chatbots. Collaboration tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams exploded in 2016, a trend expected to evolve in the coming year. "In 2017, I expect the AI technology that powers these chatbots to become even more powerful," says Leo Welder, founder of ChooseWhat.com. "The technology, which identifies team members who have the capacity or skill to tackle specific problems and ranks the strength and quality of relationships between employees, is expected to become even better."

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