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UK SMEs in the on-demand age


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In Amazon’s promotional video for its Prime Air drone delivery service, Jeremy Clarkson enthuses about delivery times of “thirty minutes, or less”. While the service is yet to officially launch, its proposed speed and ease epitomise the on-demand economy. And in 2016, this economy is only going to get bigger. 

On-demand comprises digitally-based marketplaces that offer fast and easy access to goods and services. In this respect it overlaps with the sharing economy, and start-ups like CouchSurfing, or JustPark. It also encompasses what has, in the US, been coined the ‘gig economy’ where small tasks and jobs are outsourced via online market places such as TaskRabbit.

Uber, Airbnb, and more recently Deliveroo – which came top in our recent blog: Which E-commerce SME has raised the most in 2015? – are well-publicised on-demand success stories. But as on-demand goes hand-in-hand with mobile apps and mobile commerce, we expect the number of fast-growing on-demand SMEs to increase significantly in 2016.

On-demand service has been likened to “scratching an itch’’. And soon we could find ourselves in a future where the itch has already been dealt with – services or products may be automatically dispatched before we even know we need them.

This is where on-demand will integrate with Internet of Things (IoT) technology, and the bigger picture still of smart cities. Smart devices in our homes could soon be programmed to alert delivery services when we are out of everyday household products – like milk, for instance.

We track a number of UK SMEs developing IoT technology. Big data company Flexeye partners with industry to develop smart systems for use across a wide range of sectors. In March the company, which has offices in the UK and India, completed a £3m equity fundraising with KPMG Capital.

Not dissimilar to Kano’s Raspberry Pi, SAM Labs has designed IoT development kits for creatives, students, and inventors. The start-up raised £126k through Kickstarter in 2014.

On-demand will play a crucial part in the development of IoT technology and smart cities in 2016. Stay up to date with the Beauhurst Bulletin.