Skip To Content

Your browser is out of date, please upgrade it.

SMEs looking to the future with robots and artificial intelligence

  • More than half small business owners believe they'll be employing robots by the year 2035
  • 41% think they’ll be reliant on renewable sources to power this advancement in technology
  • More than two thirds agree improving their company’s eco friendliness will help profitability
  • 33% plan to transition to hybrid/electric vehicles

Friday 25th February 2022:   

When asked what roles robots would have, more than four in 10 of those surveyed said they will be used for tidying the workplace, carrying out hazardous tasks and for entertainment reasons.  As many as 43% believe robots will be stacking shelves and making products, and a further 41% believe they will replace customer services entirely.

The research was commissioned by Smart Energy GB, the government-backed campaign on the benefits of smart meters. It explores how small businesses see themselves changing over the next 10-15 years, in both embracing future technology and adopting more environmentally friendly behaviours.

The survey also found almost eight in 10 think working from home will be normal in 2035, with male leaders are more likely to support the move to remote working (52%) than females (38 per cent).

Fflur Lawton, Head of Public Affairs, Smart Energy GB, said: "How businesses operate day to day is changing and the advancement in Robotics and AI is an exciting prospect for many.  But upgrading our energy system is key to integrating more renewable power and achieving these possibilities. Getting a smart meter installed on your business premises is a step in the right direction for Great Britain and will help your business take control of its energy use.”

In response to the research, futurologist Ian Pearson claims people may be overestimating the importance of flexible working and underestimating the importance of robots and AI when it comes to the future of work. 

He cites certain industries as being more likely to be impacted by robots and AI than others. For example, a small accountancy firm could be entirely run by AI and, in theory, we could have a robot hairdresser, which does the perfect cut with measurements and laser beams. 

Ian Pearson, Futurologist, said: “Human contact and the emotional aspect that comes with certain jobs is a vital part of their appeal, as these are jobs which are part of the ‘care economy’.  Lots of people like the experience of human contact and the emotional aspect which comes with it and that can’t be replaced.”

“When it comes to hairdressers, machines could cut your hair using lasers to make sure each part of your hair is perfectly cut.  But a robot can’t replicate the conversations which go with it.  The same goes with the care sector, like nurses and doctors, and the emotional support they provide.”

The research found business owners are expecting customers to increasingly want more ethically sourced goods and more eco-friendly practices, resulting in nearly a third opting to reduce plastic in products and have a smart meter installed.

Unsurprisingly, 52% also predict they will need to cut overheads in order to survive, and more than a third (34%) are keen to reduce energy costs and 32% be more eco-friendly.   Two thirds (65%) of those surveyed agree that improving their company’s eco friendliness will help both profitability and make a company more of an attractive proposition to investors.

So, in turn, small businesses are planning to recycle more (36%), transition to hybrid/electric vehicles (33%) and install a smart meter (32%). As many as 68% of those planning to install a smart meter want an accurate reading of their energy usage and 67% think it’s better for the planet, according to the OnePoll research.

Fflur Lawton, added: “As a nation we're finding ways to be more environmentally conscious but also better manage our bills and this is no different for businesses. Getting a smart meter installed at work is one small way to do both.”