Small firms struggling to keep up with the pace of technological change should brace for the new "industrial revolution", a futurist says.

Artificial intelligence (AI), nanobots, the internet of things, cryptocurrencies and blockchain are part of the next wave of technological disruption but 22 per cent of businesses do not believe such technology will impact their industry in the next few years - a stark contrast to what futurists believe.

In addition to the 22 per cent, a further 26 per cent said they did not know if such technology would impact their business or industry.

About 10 per cent of the finance and insurance sector said no future technology would affect their business and 32 per cent in the trades sector said the same.


Research by accounting software firm MYOB reveals most businesses are not able to keep up with evolving technology, even as their businesses are disrupted by it.

According to a survey of about 1000 small and medium-sized businesses, conducted for MYOB's Future of Business report, just 14 per cent of businesses who anticipate technological disruption expect AI and robotics to have an impact on their industry, and just 6 per cent expect machine learning and 3D printing to do the same.

But Keran McKenzie, a futurist at MYOB, says AI, robots and blockchain will have an
impact on New Zealand businesses.

"If we compare current technology like the internet and cloud computing to that expected in the next three to five years, the so-called 'transformative' paper-to-desktop era of the last 20 years was simply the beginning of our technology journey," McKenzie said.

"The dawn of general AI, nanobots, the internet-of-things, big data and the blockchain is imminent, and is set to change everything we know about technology and the role it plays in business."

McKenzie says the impact of new technology could be compared to the industrial revolution, and businesses should expect the same amount of disruption in the next three to five years.

Most businesses are expecting improvements in connectivity and internet-of-things to change their industry in the next three years. 3D printing, big data and machine learning are said to be the least likely to disrupt local industries.

While small businesses appear to be oblivious to the impact new technologies will have on their industries, when it comes to adopting new technology they are doing so relatively quickly.


One in five SME owners integrate a new system or service within a year of hearing about it, according to figures in the report.

The next 12 to 36 months are going to be a phenomenal time for Kiwi businesses embracing technology.

"Small businesses are on one hand wanting to adopt technology faster but I was completely surprised by the 22 per cent of companies saying they don't think any technology will impact their business in the next three years," McKenzie says.

"Are they unaware of what's coming? Or are they actually not thinking that certain things are technology? Are they thinking technology only impacts the big things; AI, machine learning, robots versus better ways to pay or simple things like Google Maps offering a faster route from A to B, [perhaps] they are seeing these things as day-to-day life versus big technological impacts."

McKenzie says big technology will revolutionise the way small business does business.

"These things used to be big and heavy and cumbersome and are now becoming more digestible and simple.

"The next 12 to 36 months are going to be a phenomenal time for Kiwi businesses embracing technology," he says.

"This new technology, we've democratised it, we've made it easier and I'm already seeing the next generations of businesses using IBM Watson, Google Natural Language, Amazon's computer vision ... the power that traditionally has been around the big companies is now in the hands of anybody."