Everyone suddenly needed a new mouse and keyboard, and nine other developments in technology from this past month and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.
1. Verizon is giving customers extra mobile data
A customer enters a Verizon Wireless store in New York, U.S., on Friday, July 23, 2010. Verizon Communications Inc., the largest U.S. wireless carrier, rose the most in a year in New York trading after reporting earnings that beat analysts' estimates and forecasting rising profit for the second half. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg
Verizon announced last month that it will be providing small business and consumer customers an additional 15GB of LTE data speeds each month to add to their plans without having to do a thing. This extra mobile data will be available to all users, no matter what kind of device they have or whether their service is prepaid or subscription-based. Verizon is also going to be providing some help to users who are suffering financially due to the outbreak by waiving late fees and any charges caused by overages. (Source: Engadget)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: It’s very important for your employees working from home that they have broadband. Think about it: besides their normal personal usage, you’re now asking to have conference calls, video chats, and share files of all sizes. Consider reimbursing employees short-term to up their broadband speeds and encourage them to take advantage of any offers provided by their internet service providers, like Verizon above.
2. Monitor, keyboard and mouse sales jump as coronavirus forces remote working
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, sales have increased dramatically for keyboards, mice and monitors as companies hustle to try and figure out how to keep their businesses afloat by having employees work from home. During the week of March 8, double the amount of IT monitors were purchased by Britons than the week before. As compared to the same week last year, sales have gone up by 132.3 percent by value and 133.9 percent by volume, while PC sellers share that sales have also increased as businesses work to provide the opportunity for as many employees to work from home as possible. The purchase of keyboards and monitors also increased that week, growing 68.8 percent year-on-year. (Source: ZDNet)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Don’t you have boxes of old mice, keyboards and monitors stored in some supply closet somewhere? Now’s the time to bring it out. Otherwise you’ll need to reconsider your tech budgets for the unexpected purchases of these necessities.
3. QuickBooks deepens PayPal integration for SMBs
Intuit announced last month that they will be rolling out several new digital features that will work to solve the obstacles that often cause SMBs to go out of business within the first few years. QuickBooks is said to have improved specific areas such as payroll and administration compliance, and late payments, as well as cash flow forecasting. (Source: Pymnts)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: According to the company, several new features have been added in order to make integrated services with PayPal more efficient and easier to use when it comes to credit or debit card invoices, in addition to options through GoCardless and iZettle. The company says it has also collaborated with small-business owners in order to uncover those issues and work to develop solutions.
4. Ecommerce ad spend doubled from $4.8 million to $9.6 million
According to MediaRadar, between February 17 and March 9, ecommerce ad spend doubled, going from $4.8 million to $9.6 million. The jump occurred just as businesses remain closed due to the coronavirus and more companies are finding ways to work from home. Data shared by Coresight Research revealed that 47.2 percent of Americans who use the internet said in February that they chose to stay away from malls and other shopping plazas. Similarly, approximately 75 percent of survey participants said that they would avoid malls and stores entirely if the pandemic were to worsen. (Source: A List Daily)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: There will definitely be a lot of lessons learned once the coronavirus pandemic is over. One is that when people are forced to stay home, they don’t stop shopping. If your client’s Main Street store is hurting, do they have a website to compensate? If not, now they’ve learned.
5. Amazon starts selling automated checkout to retailers
Amazon announced in March that they will be rolling out a new business, selling the technology that drives their cashier-less grocery stores and making it available to other brick-and-mortar retailers. Rather than scanning an app, “Just Walk Out” — the name of the technology — allows shoppers to simply insert a credit card into a turnstile in order to enter. As shoppers pick up items, the items will be placed into the customer’s virtual shopping cart. Once the individual exits the store, their credit card will be billed, completely negating checkout lines or scanning bar codes on items. (Source: Reuters)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? The future of retail will be automated checkout and today’s merchants that don’t recognize this trend are going to find themselves in a difficult position in the years to come. Of course there are and will be other tech companies offering help for automating a store, but right now Amazon is leading the pack, and regardless of how you may feel about the online giant, their automated checkout applications and services must be considered.
6. Google Translate now transcribes conversations in real time
A sign featuring Google Inc.'s logo stands at the company's Asia-Pacific headquarters during its opening day in Singapore, on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Google officially opened its new hub in Singapore today. Photographer: Ore Huiying/Bloomberg
Google has announced a new feature in their Translate Android app that will allow users to transcribe conversations — in real time — into other languages. The new feature will support Thai, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Hindi, German, French and English. Users will easily be able to touch the new “transcribe” icon from their home screen and select the target languages and source and tap the microphone icon in order to start, stop, pause, or restart their chosen transcription. (Source: CNET)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: Working with your overseas employees and contractors is now easier with this improved and faster translation tool from Google. Now that so many of them are working from home, it’s an excellent time to test out the capabilities.
7. Microsoft — not the government — took down a botnet
This past week, Microsoft worked to stop a dangerous malware that has been known to stealthily take over millions of computers all over the globe. This takedown has been in development for the last eight years and was directed at Necurs, a criminal organization that is thought to be based out of Russia. Employees at Microsoft have been tracking Necurs as they infected 9 million computers throughout the world, sending spam and even organizing stock market disruptions and designing ransomware that freezes computers until payment is received. Members of Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit assembled in their Redmond, Washington, headquarters for the operation. (Source: NYTimes)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: This story is just one example of how big tech is proactively going after hackers without waiting for governments to do it for them. It also highlights the opportunities for small tech firms that can provide applications and services to support even large companies like Microsoft. Of course, small businesses need to take it upon ourselves to ensure that our data is protected. But it’s good to know our service providers are investing heavily in meeting this challenge.
8. SpotOn has tapped $50M to take on Square
Point-of-sale payment solution company SpotOn recently raised $50 million in Series B funding with plans to continue growing the business after a successful past year. SpotOn — which also provides marketing, appointment booking and other small-business solutions — has reported that their revenues have grown 150 percent in 2019 and — just since the start of 2020 — have already seen 5,000 customers added to their books. With the funding, SpotOn intends to grow their company both throughout the United States and globally. (Source: TechCrunch)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: According to TechCrunch's Ingrid Lunden, "This latest investment from former Twitter execs is an … interesting … one, given that the current CEO of Twitter (co-founder Jack Dorsey...) is also the CEO of Square, which is one of SpotOn’s biggest competitors." I guess if Jack Dorsey considers this service to be a potential alternative to Square, maybe we should be thinking the same?
9. Ransomware operators promise to not target hospitals
According to information released by BleepingComputer last month, certain hackers are swearing to spare health care institutions and other related organizations in an effort to ease difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic. While some ransomware operators are already taking advantage of the havoc in the health care industry due to the coronavirus, groups such as Ako Ransomware, PwndLocker, Maze and DoppelPaymer are among the few who have committed to staying away from health care. Additionally, private cybersecurity organizations — such as Coveware and Emsisoft — are providing ransomware negotiation and decryption services free-of-cost to health care providers who may find themselves victims of a ransomware attack. (Source: Android Central)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: A few questions come to mind. For starters, if we already know the names of groups like Ako Ransomware and PwndLocker then why aren’t they being shut down? Also, why just hospitals? Why not any firm working on treatments for coronavirus? And since when did the makers of ransomware get so philanthropic? More importantly for small businesses: more people working from home means more exposure to ransomware and other malware. Talk to your tech people now and make a security plan.
10. Coronavirus fears turn open houses into virtual tours
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, virtual home tours are quickly taking the place of traditional open houses that both buyers and sellers have relied on in the past. According to data provided by Halstead’s Open House index, open house participation has gone down by 15 percent as compared to two weeks ago, which was the first weekend that New York City began to experience the fears brought on by the coronavirus. Many real estate agents in NYC are getting creative and taking advantage of technological capabilities and providing the option to buyers to take virtual tours of homes that they are interested in, some even offering 3-D tours in these remote platforms. (Source: NY Post)
Why this is important for your firm and clients: As I recently wrote here, the pandemic is going to force employers — particularly small employers — to use mobile, cloud and virtual technologies for their work-from-home workers and many are going to kick themselves for not doing a long time ago. I think the same will apply to real estate agents, construction firms, service businesses and health agencies once they realize the power of virtual and augmented-reality technologies.
Note: Some of these stories also appeared on Forbes.com.