Businesses have been at the forefront of technology for ages. Whatever can speed production will draw in more business. As computers emerged in the 20th century, they promised a new age of information technology. But in order to reap the benefits, businesses needed to adapt and change their infrastructure [source: McKenney]. For example, American Airlines started using a computerized flight booking system, and Bank of America took on an automated check-processing system.
Obviously, now, most business is conducted over personal computers or communication devices. Computers offer companies a way to organize dense databases, personal schedules and various other forms of essential information.
As information travels faster and faster and more reliably, barriers of distance disappear, and businesses are realizing how easy it is to outsource jobs overseas. Outsourcing refers to the practice of hiring employees who work outside the company or remotely -- and even halfway across the world. Companies can outsource duties such as computer programming and telephone customer service. They can even outsource fast-food restuarant service -- don't be surprised if you're putting in your hamburger order with a fast-food employee working in a different country entirely. Outsourcing is a controversial practice, and many believe that U.S. companies who take part are hurting the job market in their own country. Nonetheless, from a business perspective, it seems like the wisest route, saving companies between 30 and 70 percent [source: Otterman].
Another technology that's starting to revolutionize business is actually not very new -- it's just cheaper these days. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is infiltrating and changing business significantly in a few ways. Microchips that store information (such as a number equivalent of a barcode and even an up-to-date history of the chip's travels) can be attached to product, and this helps companies keep track of their inventory.
Some businesses have even begun to use RFID chip implants in humans to tighten security. An access control reader detects the chip's signal and permits the employee access to the door. But many people are concerned about privacy issues if this were to become widespread practice.
On the next page, we'll take a deeper look at the Internet in particular and its affect on business.