Harnessing the power of tomorrow’s technologies today

When Louis Vuitton opened a pop-up shop in Sydney’s CBD in the lead-up to Christmas, its fashion collection was housed under a massive 3D-printed silvery dome. The dome was a world first and it was manufactured and installed in just two weeks by Australian start-up OMUS.

“The job was turned down by numerous companies using conventional processes because it would have taken them too long to manually produce”, says OMUS co-founder, Rob Grosso.

OMUS produces 3D-printed objects for everyone from retailers to event organisers and theatre companies. You want a life-size model giraffe? Rob’s your man. A prototype mould of a beer nozzle to be manufactured in bulk overseas? Ditto. And he can do it faster and more efficiently than conventional model-makers using fibreglass or styrene.

This is a pattern repeated across a range of new technologies, as advances in automation, robotics and artificial intelligence revolutionise the way we do business. In many ways, the future is already here. And if you think cutting-edge technology is only for the big end of town, think again.

In a small hotel in Sasebo, Japan multi-lingual robots greet you with a smile and carry your bags up to your room. Of the hotel’s 12 employees, 10 are robots. This is just one small example of the changes that are not just possible, but likely to be widespread, within the next decade.

The Australian Innovation System Report 2016 found that small to medium-sized businesses are among our most active innovators

Small businesses leading innovation

Australian businesses invested $30 billion on innovation in 2014-15. The Australian Innovation System Report 2016 found that small to medium-sized businesses are among our most active innovators, with Australia ranking 5th in the world in terms of the overall proportion of innovation-active businesses. And the trend is only going to accelerate.

It’s not so long ago that drones were the stuff of science fiction; today they are serving the needs of everyone from farmers flying them over their properties to check dam levels, to Surf Lifesaving Australia to check for sharks.

In the US, 70% of property insurers already use drones for property inspections to assess losses. Not only does this allow insurers to get the information they need 10 times faster, it also saves inspectors from the risk of physical injury from climbing onto roofs or entering disaster zones.

Drones, and robots more generally, are not just ideal candidates for dangerous jobs like climbing onto roofs, but they can also be the perfect solution for many manual or repetitive tasksm like stocking shelves in supermarkets.

Taking the drudgery out of business

And that’s where this new wave of technology begins to get exciting for time-poor small business operators. Technology can free up time for you to spend on more creative or value-added activities, like networking with funding partners or contact with clients.

Take financial advisers. When robo-advice was first introduced to Australia, advisers were worried that these automated investment services, that use algorithms and technology in place of a human financial advisor, posed a threat to their industry and their jobs. But a recent Investment Trends report found that most advisers now say robo-advice will help them to focus on strategic advice, service more clients (43%) and lower the cost of advice (41%).

The early signs are that, rather than stealing their business, robo-advice is helping advisers grow their market by reaching out to new clients. These days many Australians, regardless of age or wealth, prefer to access services via their smartphone at a time and price point that suits them.

Evolving insurance needs

Whenever your business adopts a new technology, it’s important to make sure you comply with any regulations relating to that technology. Your business insurance cover also needs to keep pace with change.

If you use a drone, for example, there are licensing requirements and rules around where and when you can fly. Your drone should be covered by public liability insurance, which can help protect you and your business from financial risk if you’re found liable for third party injury, death or property damage.

Moreover, if you offer robo-advice or any other automated online service, you may need to protect your business and your customers against hackers with cyber insurance. For these and other business insurance solutions, talk to your Steadfast insurance broker, who can offer tailored advice to help protect your business.

Technology is evolving so quickly that keeping up with new developments can seem like a burden for small businesses who are already stretched to capacity. But business owners who are open to the possibilities and willing to adapt will be on the winning side of this technology-driven revolution.

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