While small businesses can’t afford to over-invest in technology, there is one new technology project that should be on the radar for Australian small businesses this year – indoor navigation.

Just like GPS, indoor navigation is set to transform the way we interact with the world in the next couple of years.

Outdoor satelite navigation and the digitisaton of street maps have revolutionised how people and objects are located and guided. Deloitte in the US predicts that indoor navigation will have a similar effect to GPS, which was signficant (some estimates indicate GPS acounted for an impact equivalent to 0.4% of US GDP).

C0W3YN Navigation SphereBut satelites have a blind spot: the indoors. We all spend over 90% of our time indoors and we use millions of objects under a roof each year. So tracking people and objects, whether in a home aged care capacity, or from a real-time stock and logistics point of view, has signficant potential to make small businesses’ and their customers’ lives much easier.

The 2017 Deloitte Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions Report says by 2022, at least a quarter of all human and machine uses of precision digital navigation will include an indoor leg or will be for an entirely indoor journey. Less than 5% of all uses in 2017 have an indoor leg.

So why is this year a likely turning point for the application of indoor navigation? Over the past 12 months, we have seen a rise in the adoption of new technologies, including beacons, wifi routers and an array of positioning data and improved analytical tools.

Retail is a good example of how indoor navigation will change the way we interact with customers. Australian retailers and shopping centre owners have been quick to adopt a range of new indoor technologies. The new retail outlet in the US, Amazon Go, uses computer vision, sensor fusion and deep (machine) learning technologies to remove the need for their customers to use a checkout.[1]

An example of how this machine learning can work for small businesses is Cube Online Australia, part of the global Cube Online group, which is helping SMEs and large corporations enhance their online presence and visibility to customers through a 360° virtual tours that takes people inside the business’s premises.

In the past year, Cube Online Australia has published thousands of virtual tours on Google, where stores and retailers have the ability to show their potential customers inside their businesses from the comfort of their couch. According to Google research, four in five people use Google to find local businesses, and 18% of all local searches lead to a purchase within 24 hours.

We expect innovative small businesses to start harnessing these technologies in order to improve customer shopping experiences, send messages to passers by or improve real-time logistics.

However, while there’s the potential for small businesses to really reap the benefits of new technologies such as indoor navigation, the Deloitte report also points out that our increasingly digitised world is also bringing cyber security issues to the fore for small businesses. It also predicts that cyber-attacks will become more sophisticated, harder to combat and more frequent in the coming year.

This increase in intensity can be attributed largely because of faster internet speeds, more interconnection of a range of home devices through the internet and the proliferation of publicly-available code to mischievous hackers. Small manufacturers with products connected to the internet should be exploring how mechanisms can be built into their products to protect themselves and their customers from attack.

There’s no question that small businesses, particuarly those in the Australian healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, automotive and retail industries, should focus on re-imagining the indoor digital customer experience as the opportunities are immense – so long as they have the right cyber security measures in place.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/b?node=16008589011