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Business owners and executives could be forgiven for thinking that they don’t matter to technology companies. While consumer-facing brands like Apple have claimed in the spotlight over the last decade, enterprise firms like IBM have received more attention for their failings than innovative new products or services.

That’s set to change says Robert Nardi, National Leader in Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) at Deloitte Canada. “In the past, if you look at when PCs and cellular phones came out, the adoption was primarily by enterprise and then by consumers,” said Nardi, speaking at the PROFIT Executive Breakfast: Opportunity Outlook 2015 held in Toronto on March 4. “Then came tablets and smartphones, and those were more consumer plays. We now thing that the shift is coming back to enterprise.”

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The “re-enterprization of IT” is one of Deloitte’s 2015 Canadian Technology Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions. The consulting company’s annual forecast is in it’s 14th year and draws on interviews with professionals, industry experts and entrepreneurs. Nardi says many of the most promising technologies and solutions likely to break into the mainstream this year are aimed at business customers.

One much-hyped innovation that has failed in the consumer market is 3D printing. Nardi illustrated the problem with a commonly-touted benefit of owning a personal 3D printer: designing and building toys for your children from your own garage. “How many of you have children aged 5–6? Do you have a lack of little plastic toys and Lego lying around on the floor? Are you interested in having more of those?” he asked.

While consumers have found little use for the technology, there’s huge opportunity on the enterprise side. Nardi cited a jeweller who uses 3D printing to construct models for wedding ring fittings. If the customer doesn’t like the design or the fit, a new model can be printed almost instantly, cutting down the time from order to delivery and the cost of production considerably. Deloitte predicts there will be 220,000 3D printers sold in 2015.

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The Internet of Things is another segment that has proved underwhelming for customers, but could provide significant cost savings to business users. Consider smart devices that monitor electricity usage and advise homeowners when to operate their power-intensive appliances accordingly. “If you look at the cost of running a clothes dryer at off-peak, mid-peak, and on-peak, there’s not much of a difference in terms of savings,” explained Nardi. “But picture a $15 million plant connected to all these devices, and all the savings you could get there.”

Smart devices could also help meet regulatory and compliance requirements that currently require hours of tedious documentation and measurement. Nardi highlighted a Montreal company selling a tracking device to transport companies. “When you’re travelling in the U.S., you actually need to track fuel consumption in each state because the fuel tax differs,” he explained. “This device tracks the number of kilometres or miles you’ve travelled in every state. It also tracks the behaviour of the driver: is he aggressive on the brakes, is he pressing the gas pedal, is he going at speeds that are too high?”

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Drones could also assist with monitoring and information-gathering. Drone-based delivery of the type Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has touted will have a hard time meeting strict flight regulations and seems more like a novelty than a legitimate form of logistics. But for localized use when you need an eye in the sky, drones are a cheap alternative to existing solutions. Nardi used the example of a conducting visual inspections of an industrial smokestack. “What you’d normally do is rent a helicopter, fly it over the smokestack and take pictures. That’s quite expensive,” he said. “Now consider going to a hardware store, renting a drone, and accomplishing the same thing for a cheaper price.”

The opportunities to advance your business and save money doing it are set to expand as technology companies once again focus on enterprise customers. Now might be the right time to buy that 3D printer.

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