Horizon Scanning

What is Horizon Scanning?

In the HSKT Horizon Scanning service we concentrate on:

  • Harvesting business knowledge including information about technology, economy, economic forecasting, policy and markets.
  • Interpreting these for SMEs and develop tools for SMEs to innovate, grow and increase productivity: How can an SME position itself to take advantage of such changes? How will such changes impact on markets, supply chains, business processes, investment?

Although the titles may seem to be about things that are distant from you and your company, that’s the whole point of producing them. It is like saying to someone in 1992, have you heard about the internet (which became available for everyone from about 1994)? Or, in 1994, telling people about something called an e-mail was on its way and might make a few differences. Or In 1995, saying that social networking would change the way we do things.

What we are doing is taking a look at changes we can foresee and asking how these can affect companies like yours. And it doesn’t just stop there with Futures by Design. What we then offer is expertise via the FbD team to help you work on the changes you may need to make to help you face the future better.



artificial-intelligence (1)

For many, AI is bound to change the world as we know it and most people marvel at how governments and large corporations are using the technology. For SMEs, AI seems to be far removed from their daily activities. Moreover, AI seems to be portrayed mainly as a threat to their existence. But AI-models provide ample opportunities for SMEs to add value to their business.

AI is developing fast and becoming more and more something that creates tools for all to use…you don’t any longer have to be Amazon to make AI work for you. And your competitors may already be getting involved.

Drones are also referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), where the first part of its name already indicates why drones have such a vast number of possible use cases. Apart from the awesome shopping experience, it could save companies a lot of money as the delivery using an average diesel truck costs about 1 dollar a mile while a drone only costs 3 cents a mile. This makes the concept highly interesting for SMEs when the technology becomes public knowledge, which is likely to happen in the future as Google and DHL are also already researching it.


Web scraping is the systematic and automated extraction of data from websites. By means of web scraping, companies can tap into one of the most significant data sources in existence: the internet.

On the internet, customers and competitors leave data on their behaviour, insights and interactions which can be useful for particular decisions a company is facing. It is a perfect data source for SMEs as it allows for efficient and cost-effective data acquisition.


Clustering methods create groups out of the data points in your data, based on their similarity. This process finds structure in data that doesn’t have much structure by itself. That means that we could use it on almost any data that a small or big company has already lying around. 

You can use the clustering results to ask valuable, pointed questions about the patterns and groups it has uncovered. This can have tremendous value for growing your business with actual data driven insights.


‘Bitcoin’ is a word becoming more familiar. It is a toe of digital currency. Digital currencies are expanding very fast – they are ready to displace the currency systems we have been sued to for centuries.

It may be the bigger companies that move first – but in their wake will have to come their customers and supply chains. So if there is a massive change ahead, it is better to know what it is all about as soon as you can. To begin to think of the way the changes will affect you.


The Internet of Things (IoT) is continuously proving to enhance accessibility, competitiveness, and resilience of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). IoT paves the way towards the improvement of industrial operations and the digital transformation of traditionally analogue companies. As such, it is a key priority of the European Commission’s plan for the “twin transition” to a green and digital economy. Nonetheless, digital transformation and IoT adoption are still complex and costly.

Not all SMEs can afford or have the necessary requirements to make the leap. The Small Business Standards guide is an effort to provide small businesses with a lightweight guide to adopting industrial IoT solutions to digitalise and improve their operations.


Quantum computing is here: it is already having a massive impact on the speed at which things can be calculated. Take a simple idea like investing in a company, selling goods, finding customers. With no computers this is, today, hard to imagine doing. With ordinary computers and search engines we can get a lot further. But what if we could gather almost all available data and then ask the question we want answered? Well, that’s where quantum computing begins to get you. So it is thought we will see much faster development of drugs as we examine data about diseases and remedies; make better investment decisions, revolutionise the way we run transport systems.

Because more and more of your competitors, suppliers, clients, customers will be either developing tools and processes benefitting for quantum computing, or being affected  by those used by their competitors, suppliers, clients, customers, quantum computing is also a topic you should consider.


In the middle of the twentieth century, virtual and augmented reality were seemingly far-fetched, futuristic technologies. By the 1970s, rudimentary virtual reality was available for a limited number of sectors. Today, in 2022, the future is here. Immersive reality has become mainstream in almost every sector, from entertainment, to medicine, maintenance, and even fashion. One simply has to put on virtual reality goggles to enter a virtual world or point a mobile device and see objects or information inserted into their real environment.  From expensive, coding-heavy simulators to simple augmented business cards, the potential of virtual and augmented reality for SMEs is promising.

Data Strategies


It may not sound helpful to say that “Tech-savvy leadership helped set top performers apart—and will be even more valuable in the future” – as the report does, but it is the case that the levels are not fantastic and at this stage it is certainly not too late too start.

And the statement that: “The time is now for companies to make bold investments in technology and capabilities that will equip their businesses to outperform others” is reassuring – the time was not yesterday, but it won’ really be tomorrow, either. Acting now to establish what is ‘tech savvy’ leadership for you is a good next step.


There are lots of ways to create a digital business strategy. This is a guide that helps manager to develop a strategy that will work in their set of circumstances.

Because the who of your industry is busy making steps in digitising every day and competitors will gain on those who are left behind.

There is a lot for a business to consider – technologies available, stakeholder needs, skills of staff and finance being among them. These will all play a part in the art of the possible and how to devise a digital strategy – that is, a way to cope with changes in tech that impact on businesses. This guide is very helpful as it assumes everyone is starting at their own pint – so whoever you are, it will have some handy advice gained from research about SMEs and digital strategy.

The resulting framework supports an open dialogue with primary stakeholders to develop a shared understanding of the project characteristics and match them with an appropriate strategy.

SME self help


There is a change in the way data is helping drive new approaches to marketing, sales and growth. Therefore this topic matters because data driven marketing delivers competitive edge and more customers.

The big reset: Data-driven marketing in the next normal” does use examples of big companies accessing large amounts of (big) data, but the lessons are plain for all. The key ones are that any company:

    • has data – to be useful it needs to be stored, searched, clean
    • can develop its use of data from its own unique starting point
    • should be asking – what drives our customers’ decisions?
    • Can then better answer – what kinds of data might help us predict these decisions?

Big Data means what it says – using vast amounts of data to work out and shape customer demand. Big companies can and do afford to sue it: and they shape the markets in which all companies operate. So, like it or not, big data is shaping your world.

Companies using big data gather information every time anyone does anything of interest to them – on their social media , via their APPs, through purchase and so on and so on. But big data starts as small data and the key is not really how much data, but how useful? Any company can start at its own level. Think: how many local cafes and pubs have been using social media cleverly during lockdowns to enable their business to thrive rather than die?


Developing digital roadmaps help managers to explore and determine the direction of digital transformation for their organisations.

Digital transformation is a risky and uncertain journey, full of unexpected events, where important decisions rely on imperfect information.  

Developing a systematic digital roadmap helps create understanding:

  1. of the purpose of digitalisation
  2. how to attain digital skills
  3. of the resources needed to attain the digital transformation goals
  4. how to drove change.



It’s been over three years since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced. Since then, there have been plenty of headlines devoted to enterprise-level data breaches but very little on how SMEs have been fairing.

Do they understand the GDPR and are they interpreting the legislation in the correct way?

More than that, what is the quality of the data they hold and indeed, how do they store it?

Security and Compliance

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