As we approach the end of the year, it’s the perfect time for MSPs to think carefully about the solutions and services they’re going to promote in 2018. With this in mind, here are some of the hottest technologies attracting end users in two popular verticals: healthcare and retail.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is garnering heightened attention in the healthcare sector, where its prognosis is anything but grim. In fact, P&S Market Research predicts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37.6% in the healthcare IoT industry between 2015 and 2020.
One of the most popular applications on this front—and one that should be easy for managed service providers (MSPs) to sell given healthcare providers’ focus on cost containment—is the use of IoT to track devices like wheelchairs, scales, defibrillators, nebulizers, pumps, and monitoring equipment. All of these assets can be difficult to find because they are often stored in out-of-sight areas until they are needed. With an IoT-enabled solution, they can be tagged with sensors and then easily located by tapping into the internet.
Remote patient monitoring applications made possible by IoT are gaining ground here as well, especially in light of the push toward value-based care. Applications of this type comprise devices fitted with sensors that facilitate the collection of patient data and let providers know when an analysis of the data indicates a patient’s condition has changed and attention is warranted. Collected patient data is stored in the cloud and analyzed via complex algorithms.
Meanwhile, from network access control and anti-malware solutions to encrypted data storage options, demand for technology and services intended to address cybersecurity challenges is also on an upswing in healthcare. Chalk it up to increased IoT deployment, coupled with an increase in employees’ use of their own mobile devices to access work-related apps and data, and an ever-growing concern about data security in the wake of multiple data breaches. The ongoing transition to electronic health records (EHRs) is fueling the fire as well.
According to the 2017 Thales Data Security Report, Healthcare Edition (issued in tandem with analyst firm 451 Research), 81% of US healthcare organizations had plans to up their information security spending this year. Next year looks much the same.
Healthcare isn’t the only vertical market that has caught IoT fever; the retail segment has also jumped aboard the train. According to a study by Juniper Research, retailers, including those in the SMB category, will have spent about $2.5 billion on IoT-related technologies by 2020. Another survey, The 2017 Retail Vision Study, by Zebra Technologies, indicates that a whopping 70% of retailers are ready to adopt IoT technology, if they haven’t already.
For some retailers, IoT technology is being or will be leveraged in the form of beacons that inform them when customers are in a certain area or within close proximity of their stores, then push personalized, targeted offers to these customers’ cell phones. However, other applications of IoT-enabled technology are catching on. For example, some stores now feature interactive fitting rooms with “smart” mirrors that can automatically recognize merchandise through RFID tags or barcodes. Customers can push a button on these smart mirrors to request that another style or size of any item they are trying on be brought to them.
What’s more, retailers are gravitating toward using IoT to automate previously manual functions. This includes the use of sensors to facilitate inventory tracking to “smart tag” applications that allow prices to be adjusted in real time.
Also on the retail technology hit parade: options whose use has, as a result of cost or related constraints, traditionally been limited to large chains. Cloud-based point of sale (POS) solutions fall into this category; research firm Gartner predicts that most SMB business, including retailers, will have migrated to cloud technology or be prepared to do so before the year 2017 is out. For SMB retailers, the appeal of cloud POS lies in the enhanced control and sharper competitive edge that come from “anytime, anywhere” access to POS and other mission-critical data.
Additionally, SMB retailers are attempting to cultivate increased customer loyalty and equalize the competitive playing field by deploying the same type of payment acceptance solutions as their larger counterparts. Such solutions encompass contactless (near-field communications, or NFC) and mobile (tablet-based and mobile wallet) options, along with POS equipment that complies with the Europay MasterCard® Visa® (EMV/chip card) payment technology standard.
The next 12 to 14 months will doubtless see moves into other technologies by players in the healthcare and retail verticals alike. However, MSPs serious about attracting and retaining customers that fall into either bucket should keep the above mentioned hot technologies high on their list of offerings.
Julie Ritzer Ross has been covering technology and its application in multiple vertical markets for more than 25 years. Her work has appeared in a variety of vertically focused publications, including Transaction Trends, Hospitality Technology, Consumer Goods Technology, Integrated Solutions, Integrated Solutions for Retailers, Government Technology, RIS News and Vertical Systems Reseller (formerly Retail Systems Reseller).
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