Here are ten things in technology that happened last month and how they affect your business and your clients. Did you miss them?
A technician operates a control unit to fly a SteadiDrone EI8GHT Octocopter in a field outside the headquarters of Mensuro Ltd., a distributor for SteadiDrone Ltd. products, in Pilsen, Czech Republic.
1. Amazon delivers its first package via drone. The delivery of a Fire TV stick and a bag of popcorn was made from a fulfillment center in Cambridge, England. Amazon hopes that “one day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road.” (Source: Forbes) Why this is important for your business: My Kindle still isn’t working right, and they expect a drone to deliver packages? It’s unlikely that drone delivery will be as ubiquitous as Amazon predicts, but you can expect this form of delivery to be an option to get your clients’ products to certain far-flung places of the world (where there are no kids with slingshots) within the next few years. 2. A billion accounts get hacked at Yahoo. Yahoo has confirmed this happened back in August of 2013. Oh, and this is a separate incident from the 500 million accounts that were previously hacked. Data stolen “may have included names, e0mail addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, passwords … and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers.” (Source: Forbes)
Why this is important for your business: If you’re running a site or have an e-mail on Yahoo, change your password now. If you’re amazed, disgusted, shocked and thinking of leaving Yahoo forever, I don’t blame you.
3. Microsoft’s Skype can now provide real-time language translation for mobile and landline calls. Now, you can use real-time translation when making a call on Skype. As you’re dialing the number, just choose the “translator” button and a language. It works for any landline call and supports the translation of English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese (Mandarin), Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Arabic and Russian. (Source: The Next Web) Why this is important for your business: Language is by far the largest barrier stopping many small businesses from buying and selling overseas. Getting familiar and proficient with this tool may very well open up new markets and make doing business with your foreign partners much easier. 4. Twitter now lets you broadcast live video directly. Twitter has announced that it has formally integrated its live video app Periscope with the popular social media platform. (Source: Forbes) Why this is important for your business: If you’ve tried to deliver live content via Twitter’s Periscope in the past, you’ve likely had to jump over a few hurdles because Periscope is a separate application from Twitter. Finally, the two have been melded together so the process is seamless and much easier. This improvement makes Twitter a better player amongst the giants competing for your company’s online video content. 5. LinkedIn suffers a massive database breach. The company, which was recently acquired by Microsoft, had its online education website Lynda breached, and 9.5 million users may have been affected. LinkedIn says that only “course data along with contact information” were potentially compromised. (Source: Forbes) Why this is important for your business: Most of us use LinkedIn as a professional networking and social media tool. This incident reminds us that no one site is impenetrable and to think twice about the kind of confidential information we may be storing online. 6. Sweetgreen is officially going cashless in 2017. The popular salad chain has announced that it will no longer be accepting cash in its 64 stores. “Cash has become such a smaller piece of our tender… when we opened nine years ago, it was 40 percent. Now, all stores are between 10 percent and 15 percent,” one of the cofounders said. The company has also noted that employees can perform “5 percent to 15 percent more transactions every hour when they don’t have to handle money.” (Source: Fast Company) Why this is important for your business: If your clients are only accepting cash, then they’re dinosaurs, and competitors who accept credit cards will have an advantage. However, I’m not sure I agree with not accepting cash at all. For a smaller merchant in this competitive environment, giving your customers as many payment options as possible is your best strategy. Maybe there’s just a quicker way of doing things? 7. A free travel app can automatically check you into flights. It’s called Pana, and it helps you organize your plans and sends you personalized trip alerts. Once you’ve connected your e-mail to the service, it will piece together all of your travel plans and then create a live itinerary that can also be viewed offline. The big plus is that the app can automatically check you into flights. There’s a paid version for frequent travelers, too. (Source: TechCrunch) Why this is important for your business: If you’re a frequent traveler, Pana seems like a formidable competitor to services like TripIt or Google Trips. 8. This chatbot will send gifts to your clients – in bulk! If your company is using Slack, the popular messaging app, then there’s a cool bot that might improve your client relationships. Called “Eva bot,” you can send individual gifts or just upload a file of names and e-mails and indicate the type of gift (i.e., $30 or $5O); include a generic message; and goodies like chocolates, wine or coffee are automatically sent. Eva bot is also not the only gift bot out there: “Dozens of retailers and businesses as varied as BuzzFeed and Time Inc. have created gift bots … to help consumers find the ideal gift while luring them inside their sales funnel.” (Source: VentureBeat) Why this is important for your business: Two reasons. For starters, if your company is a Slack user, you’ve got a great way to automatically send gifts to your favorite customers. More importantly, this bot demonstrates the power of artificial intelligence technology and also shows how we’re just scratching the surface of potential applications that these bots will be provide to your business in the years to come. 9. Researchers have developed peel-and-stick sensors to monitor smart devices. Xerox-owned PARC is creating “sticky sensors,” or labels that can be attached and then peeled off of devices. The labels are embedded with sensors that will transmit data for monitoring and are powered by a radio-frequency technology instead of batteries so that they can be useful inside of buildings. (Source: VentureBeat) Why this is important for your business: The Internet of Things, even for smaller companies, is getting closer and closer. David Schwartz, project lead and manager of Energy Devices and Systems at PARC, told VentureBeat, “If you can measure the temperature in different parts of a building, you can operate the energy system more efficiently … but deploying sensors can be expensive. This idea lets you facilitate the deployment of the sensors, without the cost.” In addition, the sensors can be applied “throughout the facility and easily replaced or moved when necessary, allowing for a deeper and more accurate understanding of building environments than is currently available.” 10. A Chinese startup has unveiled a robotic arm that’s “perfect” for small businesses. It’s called the “Dobot M1” (no, Homer, not the “D’oh! bot”). It’s programmable with “interchangeable tool heads and kits for soldering, sorting, engraving, cutting, 3D printing and manufacturing.” It’s currently being funded through Kickstarter and should ship in May 2017. (Source: New Atlas)
Why this is important for your business: If you have a client whose manufacturing process requires repetitive sorting, cutting, slitting, or other similar processes, the cost savings of buying and programming this robotic arm could well exceed the costs they’d need to pay an employee over a few years. It’s a great way to get their shop started on automation, and the arm itself could be put to more than one use on the factory floor.
Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small business owner. His weekly columns and blogs for The New York Times, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and Philadelphia Magazine are read by thousands of small and midsized business owners around the country.