There are certain industries that have been quicker than others to embrace new technologies. Whether it’s the Internet of Things (IoT), live streaming, automation, or artificial intelligence (AI), these 21st-century technologies each have the ability to take established businesses to the next level and futureproof their respective offerings. Within this article, we’ll explore the innovations that have been adopted early by pioneering brands across the globe and assess the pros and cons of being an early adopter. We’ll also weigh up how much room for innovation exists in today’s world of commerce.

Sectors that have taken the early plunge in new technology

In terms of online entertainment, the online casino sector has been one of the leading early adopters of new technology in recent years. The proliferation of fast and reliable fiber broadband connectivity has made it possible for online casino operators to embrace the concept of live-streamed table games, managed in real-time by professionally trained dealers. 888casino is one such early adopter that’s partnered with innovators Evolution Gaming, who have created their own live casino studios from which they stream live table games in realistic casino environments. These live-streamed games have brought new levels of authenticity and immersion to playing at a casino online. At the EGR B2B Awards in 2020, Evolution Gaming won the Live Casino Supplier of the Year award for the 11th successive year, underlining its superiority as a live casino innovator.

Automation has also been a considerable source of intrigue among early adopters. The manufacturing sector has proven particularly interested in utilizing algorithmic robots to overhaul and optimize supply chains. In 2017, an online report by Deloitte revealed that autonomous robots would be particularly useful in handling “lower-value, potentially dangerous or high-risk tasks”. Mike Saslavsky, senior director of high tech at Oracle, said in 2018 that robots equipped with haptic sensors could handle fragile objects and parts ideal for safe and efficient product assembly. Indeed, Saslavsky insisted that this kind of automation was merely “brushing the surface” of a robot’s “autonomous capabilities”.

The healthcare industry has also become an early adopter of semi-autonomous technology in a bid to streamline processes and internal efficiencies. AI-powered chatbots are being increasingly deployed by healthcare providers and surgeries to take some of the strain from administrative and clerical departments. For example, chatbots can be used to book patient appointments and source relevant information about treating mild medical conditions. Some healthcare providers have even adopted devices to give to patients to monitor their conditions remotely. These devices, which rely heavily on the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT), transmit real-time data back to GPs for routine analysis. All of which helps to improve clinical outcomes for both patients and clinicians alike.

Even some of the least likely sectors to be tech-savvy are embracing the IoT. Modern agriculture companies are utilizing a mixed bag of IoT-powered sensors to improve the efficiency and automation of large-scale farming. These sophisticated sensors and systems are capable of monitoring levels of nitrogen in the soil. Manx Tech Group, which specializes in IoT infrastructure, said that probes with electrodes can also be fitted within the soil to measure its moisture content to monitor issues such as plant growth and groundwater recharge. IoT-driven weather stations can also help agriculture businesses to make better informed real-time decisions with weather patterns and data that give businesses a 360-degree perspective of their everyday farming operations.

In the world of eCommerce and logistics, Amazon has been one of the earliest adopters of automation, operating as a fusion of humans and machinery. Nine years ago, Amazon invested a staggering $775m in robotics start-up Kiva Systems. In doing so, Amazon acquired next-generation mobile robot technology capable of transporting shelves of goods between warehouse workers by relying on barcodes for directions. These barcodes and mobile robots have been the bedrock of Amazon’s warehouse robotics that have well and truly cemented the firm as a global retail powerhouse. Their investment in French warehouse robotics firm Balyo has also enabled Amazon to test drive and roll out self-driving forklifts throughout their warehouses. Taking the early risks has really paid off for Amazon.

What does it mean to be an ‘Early Adopter’?

An early adopter is a business that recognizes the commercial benefits of emerging technology and can marry the two together to engineer a competitive advantage over their industry counterparts. An early adopter is an operator or brand that’s prepared to accept an element of risk. The risk is that the technology may not be embraced by the mainstream, resulting in a wasted investment. The mainstream market is much less likely to be prepared to take risks like early adopters and initial innovators, instead, taking a more pragmatic “wait and see” approach to new technologies. Mainstream markets will wait for innovators and early adopters to prove the benefits of new technologies once they are fully developed.

Many believe it pays to be an early adopter of new technologies in the 21st century. Early adopters can also steal a march on mainstream markets by working collaboratively with the technology’s innovators to influence the direction in which it goes. Early adopters can therefore get a leg up on their risk-averse competitors and cement themselves as thought leaders in emerging fields.

Is there still room for innovation in 2021?

The reality is that innovation is all around us. It never stops. The biggest global brands are those that can pivot and adapt to the changing needs of their market. Those who are too slow to innovate invariably get left behind. There are several models for innovation that the biggest brands have adopted in recent years. Amazon employs the “two pizza” model – utilizing departments and teams small enough to be fed with just two pizzas. Amazon’s view is that smaller teams generate more effective collaboration – simplifying workflows and slashing the time it takes to design, build, and test new concepts.

One of the most effective ways that businesses look to innovate in 2021 is to encourage diversity within their workforces. Cultivating diverse teams and departments can foster new ways of thinking and out-of-the-box ideas. Diverse cohorts are also more likely to challenge one another and disrupt the “norm”.