1. The FBI warns about attacks that bypass multi-factor authentication
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Last month, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation shared information with private industry partners that the threat of cyber-attacks that can bypass multi-factor authentication for employees and companies is on the rise. Citing several events where hackers were able to bypass MFA, the FBI maintains that multi-factor authentication is still effective and that the alert should merely be used as a precaution, rather than discrediting the effectiveness of MFA. (Source: ZDnet)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: As I wrote here, all of this is awful and annoying, but there's some good news: Most security experts and even the FBI still recommends using MFA. Why? Because it's not perfect, but for now it's pretty darn close. But that's just for now. So go ahead and stick with MFA as your go-to security solution for all of your company's applications, and try to use the strongest tools available. But don't let your guard down — I'm betting, as hackers get smarter and figure out how to automate these attacks, MFA will become more and more susceptible.
2. A blockchain startup promises to bring down the steep cost of managing invoices
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Param Network — a Bengaluru and Singapore-based blockchain startup — is looking to bring down costs of managing invoices by more than 60 percent. The startup is looking to streamline some of the complexity when it comes to invoices, such as obtaining multiple approvals and verifying their authenticity. (Source: Your Story)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Here’s another example of how blockchain technology can improve productivity and lower our costs. For the last two years, Param has said that its technology will eliminate the use of paper, make it easier to share invoices electronically, make digital signatures possible, and also leave a trail to simplify the auditing process. The platform will also easily integrate with technology systems that are already being used within companies.
3. IT laggards could lose up to $20 billion over the next 5 years
A report released by Accenture predicts that companies that do not meet scaling expectations could be projected to lose nearly $20 billion within the next five years. Companies that fell into the top 10 percent were defined as “leaders,” while companies that fell in the bottom 25 percent were labeled as “laggards.” The report determined that companies either succeed or fail based on the decisions they make surrounding information technology. The report identified that the companies showing growth in the next five years are investing in emerging technology, and that they are using those technologies in a holistic way, while the struggling companies see enterprise technologies as quick, independent fixes. The report — which surveyed more than 8,300 companies throughout 20 industries and 22 countries — evaluated companies on their cultural readiness and the depth in which they adopted technology. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Although this report was geared towards the enterprise, its findings are very relevant for small and midsized companies too. Take your IT seriously. Pay attention to emerging technologies if you want to grow. Don’t buy into the myth that tech can provide a “quick fix” for your problems. Good companies invest in technology for the long term.
4. Zoom rolls out AI-powered transcripts, note-taking features, and more
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Last month, video conferencing platform Zoom introduced 300 new features at their annual conference. Some of the features introduced include an attendee counter driven by facial recognition, AI-powered meeting notes and transcripts, mixed reality virtual background capabilities, and Zoom for Salesforce, which will now incorporate several efficient shortcuts for logging phone calls and tracking activity. (Source: Venture Beat)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Zoom has been a formidable competitor to other video and collaboration services, and these new features should make the service even more appealing to customers big and small. According to Venture Beat, all of the new features are aimed to streamline processes, provide more control and flexibility for both hosts and participants, and remove obstacles from the virtual meeting and communicating experience in order to allow individuals and businesses to accomplish more from day to day.
5. Amazon launched AWS IQ to connect customers with certified experts
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Amazon Web Services has formally launched a new service that aims to connect customers with AWS certified engineers. The program — titled AWS IQ — was created to assist AWS customers with an array of projects including optimizing a workload, creating an application, choosing appropriate architecture, or simply providing support for general help. AWS IQ will integrate with existing AWS accounts and bills, and will also allow customers to monitor, permit, and maintain control over expert access. Experts will be required to have an active AWS associate, specialty, or professional certification. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Amazon Web Services has been exponentially growing as many companies — big and small — are developing and hosting their applications on Amazon’s cloud platform. But like any technology, doing so requires expertise. Finding those experts has been a challenge up to now. Hopefully, AWS IQ will help to fix that problem.
6. Microsoft launched AI presentation coach for PowerPoint
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Microsoft has launched its new AI-powered PowerPoint Presentation Coach tool, which is aimed at providing instant feedback to presenters regarding pace, slide reading, and word choice. For pace feedback, the tool will monitor how quickly or slowly the presenter is speaking, while the “slide reading” feature will be able to flag a speaker when they are reading words directly from the slide verbatim in order to help the speaker sound less static. Lastly, the “word choice” tool will go beyond simply detecting when speakers are stumbling over words, and will flag culturally insensitive phrases. The new tool is currently available with the web version of PowerPoint. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: I’m still not convinced this will get rid of that heckler in the front row, but every little bit helps. (Note: My company, The Marks Group PC, is a Microsoft partner.)
7. Amazon gaining on Google in search advertising market share
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According to a recent analysis done by eMarketer, Amazon’s portion of search ad revenue is expected to grow over the course of two years, while Google’s ad revenue is expected to drop. By the end of 2019, eMarketer predicts that Google will have 73 percent of the market share, but that the share will drop to 70.5 percent by 2021. While Amazon’s 2019 market share is predicted to end at 12.9 percent, their ad business is growing at a much more rapid pace and is expected to grow to 15.9 percent in the next two years. According to the eMarketer report, product searches are frequently being conducted on Amazon, which is partially responsible for its speedy growth. (Source: Geek Wire)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: As I wrote here, it’s a tough challenge for small businesses trying to figure out how to succeed with online search, particularly when one company completely owns the market. But maybe — just maybe — there are other choices on the way. I’m hoping that Amazon catches up to Google so at least companies like mine can have other choices for search and advertising.
8. Google Ads introduced two new ways to target users in Google Search
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Over the next several weeks, Google Ads will be introducing two new ways to reach specific audiences when searching. Advertisers will now be able to target by “affinity audiences,” which will assist in raising awareness among a given group that has already expressed an interest in a specific area. Additionally, Google Ads will be rolling out a new seasonal events feature for in-market audiences through their search as well as YouTube. According to Google, both new targeting techniques helped advertisers see a jump in their conversion rates and a drop in cost per conversion. (Source: Search Engine Journal)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Considering the anti-competitive environment (see above), I’m open to anything from Google that helps my small business do better with search. Not to be outdone, Facebook has introduced two new tools for its small-business advertisers this week too.
9. This robot can make 300 pizzas in an hour
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Picnic — a Seattle startup — announced last month that it has created an assembly platform that can make 300 12-inch pizzas per hour, making this robot a first-of its-kind. When a pizza is ordered, the order goes into a digital queue, prompting the robot to begin making the pie the moment that the dough is placed in the appropriate spot in the machine. Data is then sent back to Picnic through the internet in order for developers to help the robot to improve upon any errors made. The artificial intelligence-driven pizza platform is currently being used at 3 different establishments in Seattle. (Source: Trib Live)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: As I wrote here, technology like Picnic's — and other robotics companies — will enable American companies, from pizza shops to manufacturers, to make things almost as inexpensively as their counterparts in India or China. This not only solves the big headache of actually finding people to do this work, but it will also result in cheaper prices, a lower cost of entry for startups and more opportunities for American companies to compete worldwide and grow.
10. NASA and the Army look to small biz for tech help
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Both NASA and the U.S. Army are turning to small businesses to help with their technology use. NASA recently selected 14 American companies whose technology they see as valuable in helping the agency’s Moon to Mars endeavor in their fourth Tipping Point solicitation, where a combined award amount of approximately $43.2 million has been invested in the U.S. space industry and small businesses. The initiative aims to bring the winning technologies to market with the extra investment and push by NASA. The Army is also in its fourth year of their Expeditionary Technology Search — a small-business-centered technology competition — which focuses on Army modernization. Winners will be invited to Washington to help bring attention to opportunities that small businesses have to collaborate with the Army in order to rectify some of its most challenging modernization obstacles. (Sources: Aerospace Manufacturing and Design & Inside Defense)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: So many of us overlook the opportunity of doing business with the U.S. government. And yet the fact is that the government wants the help of small businesses to provide technologies for many uses, including space exploration and defense. More importantly, there are many government agencies — like NASA and the Department of Defense — that have millions in grant money to provide.

Note: Some of these stories also appeared on Forbes.com.