Remember when businesses relied on rotary phones, typewriters and snail mail, when sales were done face to face and clients paid by cash or check? Today’s essential work tools are a cellphone, laptop or tablet and the Internet. We have e-mail, videoconferencing, telecommuting, e-tail, PayPal, apps and so much more.
“There are so many technologies to choose from,” said Dave Archer, president and CEO of the Nevada Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. NCET is a nonprofit organization that helps Nevadans start businesses by connecting them to resources.
New and emerging technologies have transformed how Nevada conducts business.
They’ve accelerated the speed at which we can communicate and carry out business, said Mike Gardineer, president of Technology Business Alliance of Nevada (TBAN), a nonprofit trade organization for people with some connection to technology. For example, rather than filling out, printing and mailing forms to the Nevada Secretary of State for appropriate licenses or to file articles of incorporation, Nevada businesses now can conduct all transactions with that office electronically, and therefore, immediately and quickly. What once took days now takes minutes.
Technology also has bridged the distance gap between parties, Gardineer said, reducing or even eliminating travel for companies. For instance, meetings can be conducted via videoconference, training can be accomplished through webinars.
Obviously, the Internet and associated technologies, like wireless networks and Web 2.0 and 3.0, are largely responsible for the operational shifts that have taken place. Recently, however, cloud computing has had and continues to have an impact. Businesses have been moving away from applications on their office computers and toward cloud-based services, which include software as a service (Saas) or on-demand software, data management, data access, storage and more.
“The fact that WiFi is ubiquitous now means you can access that stuff anywhere,” Archer said.
One company in Nevada offering data storage cloud services is the data center Switch, in Las Vegas. It also offers cloud services in addition to co-location services and connectivity, to Fortune 1000 corporations, mid-sized enterprises, government agencies and other businesses.
Smartphones and tablets, too, have been revolutionary when it comes to doing business. Primarily, they allow you to stay connected and in communication while on the go, wherever you are, all the time. And with new apps emerging all the time, their capabilities continue to expand. For example, in a few weeks, the Office of the Secretary of State (SOS) will unveil a tool that allows people to search the state’s business entity database via their tablet or cellphone.
“A smartphone is the ultimate thumb drive or microprocessor with a little screen on it,” Archer said.
Adoption of certain technologies, like smartphones and cloud-based services, is increasing because they’re affordable. You can get a smartphone for free with a two-year contract. Cloud-based services are available for a low monthly fee vs. the hundreds to thousands of dollars spent in the past for software and licenses for individual users. The prices of Internet and laptops are affordable, too.
“The barriers to entry don’t exist anymore,” Archer said. “Even small businesses are keeping up with the new technologies because it’s so inexpensive to keep up.”
Advances in telecommunications have afforded businesses convenience and greater accessibility, Archer said. For instance, your telephone provider may notify you via e-mail if you have a new voice mail message and allow you to click on a link to listen to it via your cellphone or laptop. Today, Gardineer said, businesses have options when it comes to who they buy their connectivity from and are able to get much faster Internet speeds.
“More and more people don’t have a big phone switch sitting in their office,” Archer added. “Ultimately, we’re going to see the smartphone become the core device.”
Non-cash payment technologies, like debit, credit, prepaid cards along with PayPal and online bill pay, have moved companies away from cash and checks. The next generation of smartphones will be equipped with near field communication, which would allow you to pay for purchases by scanning your cellphone. (With only a touch, they’d also let you connect with and exchange digital content between other electronic devices.)
What the immediate futures holds for technology used in the workplace essentially is more of the same.
“I think you’ll have instant and very easy access to everything you need, everywhere you are,” Archer said.
The demonstrated interest in getting WiFi in the downtown areas of Reno and Las Vegas speaks to that trend continuing.
New Technologies Created Here
Technology also is changing the types of business that Nevada does. The state is a hotbed of technological innovations. More and more technology companies are starting, and the new and old are launching a myriad of products and services.
“Everything that technology encompasses is a viable option for helping Nevada and continuing its efforts to diversify the economy,” Gardineer said.
Northern Nevada, for example, is home to ShortStack, which builds apps for Facebook, and 3G Studios, an app and video game developer with titles on Facebook, Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, iPhone and Android.
“We are finding businesses here doing things we had no idea about,” Archer said.
Research developed at the state’s universities has resulted in some startups and new research and development projects for local companies. Reno-based Nevada Nanotech Systems Inc. was founded in 2004 to commercialize a sensor technology developed at the University of Nevada, Reno. Today, the company develops and manufactures micro-electromechanical systems-based sensor modules and subsystems for various governmental and commercial applications.
Optim, also in Reno, provides the petroleum, geothermal and geotechnical industries with economic and accurate velocity analyses within laterally complex geologic environments.
In Southern Nevada, WinTech LLC has developed and launched ALICE, a virtual office receptionist that allows businesses to present live customer service video agents on kiosks, video displays and other digital signage devices. This then enables one- or two-way video interaction with customers.
Another firm, Romotive, in Las Vegas, builds flexible robotic platforms that interact with humans. One of its products is Romo, a smartphone robot. Also based in Las Vegas are the creators of Rumgr, an iPhone app that brings the garage sale experience to the palm of your hand.
“The opportunities for people to build businesses around creating apps for other people and build businesses using apps created by other people are incredible,” Archer said.
To facilitate business startups and collaborations, the SOS plans to debut this spring digital formation software, technology that would allow businesses to create operating agreements online. It would guide users through series of questions then publish the contract to govern the company.
“It’s feasible that through the software, developers who have never met but maybe want to collaborate on something as simple as an iPhone app, could meet via chat room, agree to the terms through our digital formation software on how to set their business up, form that entity online and run the company without having met,” Secretary of State Ross Miller said.
National Security Technologies (NSTec), a company created in 2006 to run the Nevada National Security Site (formerly the Nevada Test Site), has since been developing, evaluating and testing technologies for national security purposes. Its censor technology can detect radiation from afar and determine its type. NSTec has created techniques for negating multiple detonating devices simultaneously, a technology helpful to our troops overseas. It’s also developing the mathematical models to decipher seismic signals to determine whether an explosion is nuclear, conventional or earthquake.
“Except in the areas where the information or things are classified, we routinely transfer the technology to the civilian world,” said Mike Butchko, National Security Technologies’ chief operating officer.
The characteristics of the newer technologies in NSTec’s industry are trending more and more toward miniaturization, high speed and high sensitivity, he said.
Looking to the Future
One downside to all the capabilities technologies have afforded businesses is the need for increasing bandwidth to support them. Satellite, phone and cable operators are struggling now to keep up with providing enough capacity to meet demand.
“With all this technology, the risk that we’re going to face as a society, as consumers and as businesses is endless demand for bandwidth,” Archer said. “Connecting a myriad of devices to a myriad of things that reside in the cloud requires bandwidth.”
Also, Nevada may see more technologies coming out of the universities that are congruent with the needs of Nevada industry. Currently, much of the transferred research goes to out-of-state companies because large amounts of capital are needed to fund continued research and development to get to the commercialization stage. Ultimately, a greater focus on economic development could lead to more Nevada startups, collaborations with area businesses and ultimately employment of additional people, said Dr. Ryan Heck, patent counsel and director of the UNR-DRI Technology Transfer Office (TTO). The TTO aims to protect and commercialize the intellectual property produced via research activities at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the Desert Research Institute. (Technology transfer refers to transferring research to the outside business community for commercialization.) To facilitate this, the TTO is inviting members of the business and general communities to share their knowledge. Anyone interested may sign up on the TTO’s website.
“I really feel strongly that if we want to have technology transfer succeed and want to create more opportunities for industry to work with UNR, we need to start getting more people on board to help us make those kinds of connections,” Heck said. “We’ll see more changes dramatically if we can start building bridges.”