It’s mid-December: by now, most people in the business world had to look back the year behind them so many times it made their necks ache. If you are one of them, let us take it over from here. The most important digital innovations of 2018, according to Scolvo.
High five for 5G
The new service, the speedy 5G connection, is already out in the US as a pre-standard network by Verizon. However, standards-based networks of both Verizon and AT&T are so close to launching that we can already call 2018 a breakthrough year for the technology. 5G-capable smartphones from Samsung and other vendors (not Apple, though) are also in the pipeline for next year.
The EU takes a slower approach but it has just accepted new measures that would help the rollout of 5G in Europe. Industry body GSMA estimates 1.3bn 5G-connections by 2025, covering 40% of the world’s population. When in full swing, the new networks will allow for the rise of IoT and faster and safer connections to everyone.
We’ve seen the robots before but never in such an abundance. Chatbots flooded the whole internet, taking over simpler customer service tasks, answering plain questions and, in case of more complex queries, they redirect the visitor to a human assistant. And those are only the robots hiding behind websites and only showing a set of characters of themselves.
Others get a physical body and come out to the limelight, though. SoftBank Robotics’ humanoid robot named Pepper made its first appearance already in 2014 but it has grown up: it now responds to human emotions and can answer questions about products or services. Two of its German versions, Luna and Monaco Pepper, take their role one step further. They have a permanent home in one of Bremen’s Sparkasse bank branches and keep regular contact with clients. They can even tell jokes! But, in the hindsight, there is more than that: by learning every day, they have the potential to take over more complex tasks as well.
Artificial or Virtual, Both a Reality Already
Smart glasses creating an augmented reality (AR) have found their way to the offices this year. At the Consumer Electronics Week in the summer in New York, ThirdEye Gen presented its X1 glasses: workers who wear them in the office can make remote colleagues see exactly what they see. These advantages can also be translated into serious savings in operational costs: according to Forbes’ report, as much as 40% can be achieved using AR or VR-technology in certain industries. One of the businesses in the know, French banking giant BNP Paribas, has also announced the rollout of a VR-based app and a set of new services for its retail customers last year. It allows the clients to manage their accounts in a different way or make decisions easier but it also allows the bank to create a new type of operation.
California-based Royole and Samsung announced their own foldable mobile phone models almost simultaneously. Both can transform into tablets when unfolded – arguably the most genuine announcements this year. Creating a totally new product category, it has the potential to create a new definition of work as well.
Royole’s Flexpai phone, when folded, works as a dual screen with both screens operating independently or in interaction with each other as needed. It works on the Flexpai+ platform that can be integrated into other devices or applications as well, giving the California startup quite a growth potential. Meanwhile, Samsung has also presented its foldable phone, though only available commercially from 2019. The company calls the display technology Infinity Flex Display and Android has already announced to support it.
Hybrids Going One Step Further
Lenovo didn’t sit on its laurels, either, and came up with an innovation in the laptop-tablet hybrid category. The Yoga Book C930, presented at the IFA trade show in Berlin this year, has dual-screen with a 10.8-inch size, with the secondary display being an e-ink one that can also morph into a virtual keyboard. Actually, this second screen has three functions: keyboard, notepad, and e-reader. The first screen is a Windows-based regular display. Despite the many features of the device, Lenovo might still have a hard time selling it given the non-exceptional nature of either function but it is still an interesting product worth mentioning.
AI in CRM
AI being the winning technology in the field is a claim also made by CRM market leader Salesforce and IDC, based on a recent joint study. According to them, 28% of the respondent companies already have AI in place, while 41% plan to have it in the next two years.
Salesforce itself has upgraded its Einstein software this year, giving it a new feature that integrates customer service tasks in the regular service offering and allows Einstein to handle routine requests building on customer history, natural language processing, and machine learning. one of the other major announcements of this summer was Microsoft committing to AI-based analytics. The tools to provide this experience include chatbots, predictive lead scoring based on communication traffic patterns, and automated welcome emails, among others.
Newcomers to the market already have AI in their initial offerings and investors are keen to support such projects. One of the latest announcements is of Spiro Technologies that claims downright the title of “the first AI-powered CRM”: it has raised USD 1.5mn in seed funding that will be used to add even more AI features to the product.
Fast Finance with Apps
Let’s not forget about mobile app innovations, some true delicacies for an enterprise mobility vendor like us. Our favorite this year was also awarded a Mobie Award by Enterprise Mobility Exchange as the most effective mobile app integration: financing solution specialist DLL’s Express Finance. It is a sales tool that helps sales reps quote financing payments to customers, a complex task with many scenarios with a process that is just as confusing for the clients as it is for the sales workers.
The new app, Express Finance, is a user-facing app that simplified the pricing process by offering a real-time pricing service, proposal generation, and POS closings. The reps can find all the relevant information they need to quote a payment in the app, no other information source needed. As a result, they managed to achieve a 90% reduction in their time-to-quote rates. DLL calls it an amazing success and it’s hard to think otherwise – we are glad to see the direction enterprise app development is going!