Making predictions about  technology is fraught with danger. Down the years, many gadgets have been labelled 'the next big thing', only to disappear without a trace.

Still, there's nothing wrong with having a go. So here are four pieces of business technology that could have a big impact on how your company does things – perhaps even within the next 12 months.

1. 3D printers

Just a couple of years ago, 3D printers were the stuff of science fiction. Yet today they're the closest we've come to Star Trek's famous 'replicator'.

Quite simply, 3D printers let you print objects. They build them up from thin layers of plastic, creating physical objects you can hold in the palm of your hand. Magic. Here's a video of a 3D printer in action.

In future, the technology could see companies printing products or parts to order. Imagine what that'll do to your supply chain! And even today, 3D printers are being used to create prototypes quickly and easily.

2. Touch screen computers

Touch screens aren't just for tablet PCs and smart phones. We're just starting to see them appear on ultrabooks, laptops and desktop computers too. In the future, reaching for the screen will be as natural as reaching for the mouse is today.

And if you reckon putting touch screens on ordinary computers is going a bit far, just think about all those toddlers out there who are growing up with smart phones and tablets. To them, it's natural that every screen should be a touch screen. And as the prices of touch screen components fall, why shouldn't it?

3. New types of card payment

Two pieces of new technology look set to rock the card payment industry. The first is mobile card payment, which allows you to take card payments using a card reader that connects to your smart phone. Pioneers like Intuit, iZettle and Payleven already offer these easy-to-use, flexible services.

The second big change in the financial world is in so-called contactless payments, which allow consumers to pay small amounts by tapping their card on a card reader.

Contactless payments have actually been around a while, but it's only now that banks are issuing compatible credit and debit cards in large numbers. Some experts reckon it could spell the end for cash.

4. 4G mobile phones 

The new 4G mobile networks promise to be much quicker than your average home broadband connection, so it's not hard to imagine how they'll change things. Suddenly we should be able to do everything faster when we're out and about – from downloading files to holding crystal-clear video conferences.

In 2013 we should see most UK mobile networks launching 4G coverage, and forward-thinking companies are sure to start thinking about what it'll do for them. With flexible working becoming increasingly common, it'd be wise to consider what it can do for you.

 

John McGarvey writes about subjects like IT security and web hosting for IT Donut.

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