Cannabis technology opportunities will continue to grow in the coming years with Gartner reporting that current technology trends across all industries fall under three unique themes: people centricity, location independence, and resilient delivery. In other words, technology of the future must digitize processes so people can work and interact in the current environment regardless of disruptions (e.g., a global pandemic) or their locations.
Forrester’s Top Trends and Emerging Technologies, Q3 2020, echoes some of the same technology predictions as the Gartner report. Key trends identified by Forrester include:
- Rising demand for ethical artificial intelligence
- Changing automation roadmaps to back-office processes and business resilience
- Moving toward hyperlocal business operations while retaining centralized technology management benefits
- Driving innovation everywhere using cloud-native technologies in more locations than just the public cloud
- Shifting cloud strategies to include more edge computing services from more vendors, which will challenge the market dominance of public cloud vendors
- Improving employee experience to address what Forrester predicts will become a permanent increase in remote work (leveling off at a 300% increase from pre-pandemic levels) by introducing new automation and HR tech
These trends are extremely important for the cannabis industry where technology affects every part of the supply chain from big data and cultivation to sales, delivery, and everything in between.
As marijuana laws continue to loosen in states across the country, new business opportunities will continue to open. This includes opportunities for new cannabis technology to transform the industry and existing technology to evolve and expand.
The biggest opportunities for cannabis technology this decade focus on three critical areas:
- Solving industry problems
- Meeting consumer needs
- Streamlining business operations and boosting ROI
With the predictions from Forrester and Garner in mind and considering the unique opportunities for the cannabis industry, let’s take a closer look at some of the most significant technology trends to watch for in the future.
Extraction and Delivery Methods
Cannabis consumer preferences are changing as the stigmas associated with marijuana fade and broader audiences become active users. For example, both the senior and female consumer markets for cannabis products are growing, and these consumers have different preferences for how they consume marijuana. As a result, the demand for delivery methods other than smoking, vaping, and dabbing is increasing.
With a growing demand for new delivery methods comes an opportunity to develop cannabis technology that will transform extraction. Nano-encapsulation technology has been a hot topic in the cannabis industry for some time now, and with the skyrocketing popularity of CBD products, developing this technology in order to provide new ways to consume cannabinoids in a safe and consistent manner should be a priority.
Cannabis extraction technology will also play an important part in new product development – particularly for edibles and new forms of delivery – to meet the growing consumer demand for quick onset, predictable dosing.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence
Technology could help the cash flow problem that has impacted many cannabis companies in a variety of ways. Data shows that automation can have a significant effect on a company’s bottom-line. This is true across the supply chain. For example, cultivation automation can decrease manual labor hours by as much as 80% in a grow facility.
Today, cannabis growth can be monitored using automated grow apps. This technology integrates artificial intelligence to improve harvests and reduce costs.
From a sales perspective, artificial intelligence has been built into mobile apps, chatbots, websites, and more. Even cannabis vending machines with built-in artificial intelligence are helping to reduce labor costs at dispensaries while improving customer experiences.
Cannabiz Media has added a variety of automation and artificial intelligence features to the Cannabiz Media License Database and email marketing platform to make it even more powerful and effective for subscribers who want to connect with cannabis license holders to build their businesses.
However, the growth of artificial intelligence has brought new concerns as well as positive effects according to both the Forrester and Gartner reports.
Today, both consumers and employees expect companies to use artificial intelligence responsibly. There is an increasing call for ethical artificial intelligence, and companies will need to commit to ethical and responsible data collection, handling, and sharing, which includes only working with partners that share the same ethical commitments.
Scaling and Integration
As the cannabis industry continues to grow, companies need to adapt and be prepared to scale – sometimes very rapidly. That means savvy tech leaders will be forward-thinking and put the pieces in place now to accommodate rapid scaling in order to seize new opportunities as they arise.
Furthermore, with the growth of the cannabis industry comes more opportunities for the best technology providers to rise to the top of the pack. Integration across technology platforms will become the norm as employees and consumers will expect software and processes to connect seamlessly.
Many cannabis technology companies are already aware of the need to scale and integrate in order to gain a competitive advantage and meet user needs. Karen Mayberry, co-founder and CMO of cannabis technology company Trym, explains, “Technology solutions are getting more and more sophisticated. The Trym platform is now really, really scalable, and I think integrations are going to be really exciting. We want to integrate with a ton of partners.”
RELATED READING: Cannabiz Media Client Spotlight Interview with Karen Mayberry of Trym
Environment and Sustainability
The environment, sustainability, and both water and electricity conservation have long been sources of discussion in the cannabis industry. Fortunately, cannabis technology has solved some of the problems, but there are still opportunities for technology to do more.
For example, using LED lighting at grow facilities has definitely helped reduce some electricity consumption, but there is a significant opportunity for new technology like electricity storage.
Similarly, there have been technological innovations around cannabis product packaging with a number of eco-friendly packaging solutions available today, but the reality is that massive amounts of paper and plastic are wasted across the cannabis supply chain every day. Again, a big opportunity is waiting for an affordable technological solution.
First we had GDPR, and then, we had CCPA with many more privacy regulations to come.
The European Union implemented new privacy regulations in May 2018 called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and by the end of 2019, the law generated $126 million in fines. Under the new laws, companies that met specific criteria related to doing business in the European Union had to start complying with strict privacy rules.
In 2020, enhanced privacy rules debuted in multiple states across the U.S. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was passed in 2018 and went into effect on January 1, 2020. Enforcement of the new law began on July 1, 2020, so companies had to quickly put processes in place to ensure they were compliant.
CCPA set strict rules around how companies can use people’s personal information, and it’s expected that more states will follow with their own enhanced privacy laws in the future. It’s also expected that some of those laws will be even more comprehensive than California’s law.
Companies in the cannabis industry will need technology to help them map customer data, manage third-party relationships, develop compliant tracking processes, and automate those processes. At this point, the opportunity for a technology solution is wide open.
Key Takeaways about Cannabis Technology Coming This Decade
This decade will be filled with new cannabis technology launches. There are certainly problems to solve and needs to fulfill. We’re already seeing technologies from other industries transition into the cannabis industry, and innovative cannabis technology debuts all the time. The best, most agile technology will have the greatest chance to succeed and stay in this industry for the long-term.
To learn more about the technology that powers the Cannabiz Media License Database and see how it can help your business connect with cannabis and hemp license holders in the U.S. and international markets, schedule a demo.
Originally published 2/18/20. Updated 12/18/20.
Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.