While B2B entrepreneurs have always geeked out about new ventures, today’s entrepreneurs get to geek out about both new ventures and mind-blowing technologies. Whether you’re an app developer, service provider, or physical products entrepreneur, it’s smart to keep up with technological developments that are disrupting businesses and economies across the world.

The options can be dizzying, so we’ve broken our top emerging technologies down into four main categories — along with examples of how businesses are using these innovations today.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The “internet of things” is a network of items embedded with sensors, software, and other devices designed to exchange data with one another. Here’s a simple example: a customer in a retail store picks up a product from a display case, where a sensor indicates to a computer which product the customer has touched. The computer triggers a video on a nearby screen that shares details about that product. Further, a store associate is notified that this customer is interested in Product XYZ, informing their sales process.

But the IoT is not just an innovative solution for B2Cs, it’s making waves in the B2B sector as well. A B2B IoT system can include objects such as printers, switches, and televisions or unconventional, industry-specific items like biochips on farm animals, manufacturing equipment,  medical devices and deeper insights into product usage.

Blockchain Technology

Cryptocurrency has been all over the news in 2018, so you’re likely to have heard about blockchain, the technology that makes Bitcoin trading possible. But did you know that blockchain technology is having an enormous impact on far more than banking?

If you’re unsure of how it works, here’s a refresher: the blockchain cuts out the middleman (a central authority) when two entities exchange value with one another. For example, when you make a purchase from a store with your debit card, the card and your bank serve an important role. They verify that you are who you say you are, that you have enough money in your account to cover the purchase. They also often help protect you from purchasing a fraudulent product or service.

Traditionally, having a central authority like this was necessary for trust between the two parties. This need for trust is even greater when digital transactions take place, considering the ease and prevalence of digital identity theft and fraud.

In the case of Bitcoin, blockchain technology uses encrypted ledgers for each user that prove, instantly and anonymously, that any given user has the money that they claim to have — without the need to involve a third party.

Blockchains are far more difficult to hack than conventional banking systems, and there are implications for its use far beyond finance. Blockchain could make it possible to institute a reliable digital voting system for government elections, or for marketers to better analyze customer behavior. Here are other potential uses for blockchain technology:

  • Passports, driver’s licenses, and other identification
  • B2B contracts
  • Tracking medical patient health records
  • Emergence of a global currency

Imagine any situation in which identity verification (or a lack of trust) provides a major hangup to a transaction, and blockchain may be the solution.

Alternate Reality

No, we’re not talking about alternative facts and the state of U.S. government — alternate reality refers to augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technology. Here’s a breakdown of each:

  • Augmented reality is an overlay on your actual reality, displayed through a headset, tablet, mobile phone, or another device. Think Pokemon Go! In which various critters pop up in your house, at the grocery store, or at the park.
  • Virtual reality presents an entirely different reality from the one around you, through the use of a headset — riding a rollercoaster or swimming with dolphins on your living room couch. There’s a third type of
  • Mixed reality combines virtual reality with the real world around you. Digital objects (viewed from a headset) overlap with real objects, allowing you to interact with both your physical and virtual worlds at the same time.

The B2B applications of alternate realities are exciting — especially in businesses or industries where being able to visualize a project is key to a successful sales meeting.

AI Technology

As of 2018, artificial intelligence is empowering entrepreneurs in a variety of forms — most notably from a customer service, sales, and marketing perspective. Artificial intelligence includes everything from human-like robots (think voice-activated bots like Siri and Alexa) to apps and machine learning systems.

Chatbots can dramatically expand the reach of your customer service and sales teams, answering your customers’ frequently asked questions around the clock or scheduling calls with your sales team. However, a subtle but possibly more effective use of AI in B2B business is machine learning.

Machine learning algorithms help to better manage, structure, and utilize big data to make informed decisions across all aspects of business — and plenty of startups have caught on to the demand for machine learning. Machine learning as a service (MLaas) offers cloud-based predictive analytics, voice and face recognition, and more for businesses in a variety of industries.

It is a data-driven world these days, and tech innovations are occurring at a record pace. As an entrepreneur of a B2B organization, it’s more important than ever to leverage cutting-edge automation technologies like AI, blockchain and IoT to scale your business into 2019 and beyond.