10 new things in tech: Gmail gets more secure

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Google makes its e-mail the most secure on the planet, LinkedIn aims to make business chat snappier, a new digital bank for small businesses, and seven other new technology developments -- as well as how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.

1. Google just made Gmail the most secure e-mail provider on the planet. Google announced a set of new features — called Advanced Protection — that will make it harder to break into its users’ accounts. The features are aimed at what Google calls “high-risk users” such as political campaign staffers, activists, journalists, and people in abusive relationships. A key or token will be needed to log in, instead of a code sent via SMS or app — making it less likely hackers can steal or phish the key. (Source: Motherboard)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Nothing is ever 100 percent secure. But given our exposure to hacks and stolen information – and accountants are very exposed -- Google’s enhanced security might draw many small businesses to replace their existing mail systems with servers using Gmail. My company already does.

2. LinkedIn wants to make your business chats snappier.
Hoping to boost engagement among its 500 million users, LinkedIn now offers enhanced messaging with a new automated smart replies feature for LinkedIn Messaging. It relies on machine learning to offer quick replies that are relevant to the context of a conversation, such as "Yes I am," "Sure," and "What time?" According to LinkedIn, users will see up to three responses based on the message they’ve received from a contact. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Bot technology like this will help business professionals on LinkedIn be more productive and increase their response time to people that reach out to them. This could turn into more leads and opportunities.

3. Seed debuts first full-service digital bank alternative for small business. A recent survey says the 28 million small businesses in the U.S. aren’t getting what they need from big banks, and community banks don’t always provide the technology small-business customers are looking for. Seed — a mobile banking company — has an alternative to traditional banking. It offers a full-service online banking app designed specifically for today’s small businesses. (Source: Globe Newswire)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: The mobile app promises cash management, a Visa Business Debit card, free mobile bill pay, transfers, mobile deposits, and electronic vendor payments via ACH or paper check all with a simplistic interface specifically designed for small business users.

4. Microsoft claims Windows 10 ARM battery life will be a “game-changer” for laptops. In 2016, Microsoft first unveiled its plans for ARM-powered Windows laptops, powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, to support traditional desktop apps via an emulator in Windows 10. During a Qualcomm summit in Hong Kong, Qualcomm said it is still committed to getting devices in the market in December, with Microsoft promising multi-day battery life. (Source: The Verge) (My company, The Marks Group, is a Microsoft partner).

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: I don’t know about you, but I carry around chargers for my laptop, tablet, cell phone and earphones and find myself constantly in need of more power. A laptop with multi-day battery life would definitely be a game-changer for many business people – not least accountants working at a client’s offices.

5. Why businesses are saving the humble text message. A small company in England is at the forefront of this business text messaging. With just 200 employees, Esendex now sends out 2 billion text messages per year, on behalf of 30,000 businesses and other organizations, up from 100 million texts in 2010. (Source: BBC)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Even though the number of text messages being sent by people in the developed world has fallen since 2011, there continues to be one big growth area: notification SMS messages sent from businesses to customers. Most of us are now increasingly receiving such text messages on a regular basis, especially for reminders about appointments, maintenance, and deliveries.

6. Amazon will sell smart locks so it can slip packages into your home. Amazon rolled out Amazon Key, a lock-and-camera system that customers control remotely to let delivery people slip goods into their houses. They can create temporary passcodes for friends and other services professionals to enter too. In development for more than a year, Amazon Key may help the company capture sales from shoppers who could not be home to receive an order in person and didn’t want to risk having it stolen from their doorstep. (Source: Fox Business)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: A big business hurdle for Amazon merchants is getting deliveries to customers when they’re not at home. If this program is a success, then the small merchants who sell on Amazon will have more an opportunity to overcome this challenge – and increase their sales. Oh, and if you compete against Amazon … what will your response be?

7. "Pay with Google" arrives to speed up checkout. Google launched “Pay with Google” to make it easier to purchase things on Android devices. At launch, Pay with Google can be used in the Android app or Chrome browser at 15 places, including Doordash, Yelp EAT24, and Gametime—with about 12 more coming soon. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Using this tool, your clients’ customers can choose the preferred credit or debit card they gave Google when setting up products like Google Play, YouTube, Chrome, or Android Pay. They can then authenticate the purchase with a security code or their Android device and then check out. There’s no need to enter multiple lines of payment details in online forms.

8. Saudi Arabia plans to build futuristic city for innovators. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia announced a $500-billion plan to build a futuristic city run entirely on alternative sources of energy. Called the “Neom” project, the prince envisions a hub for technological innovation, funded by his kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund as well as the Saudi government and a range of private and international investors. (Source: The Daily Progress)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: In the alternative business? How intrepid are your clients? Intrepid enough to move their company to Saudi Arabia? The kingdom’s business-friendly mission is to build the world's largest sovereign wealth fund to invest in projects like Neom in order to diversify revenue away from oil exports and create more jobs.

9. PayPal expands “Pay with Venmo” to 2 million online retailers. Venmo, PayPal’s mobile app for peer-to-peer money transfer, announced that any mobile website that accepts PayPal will also accept Venmo as a form of payment. Venmo will now be a viable checkout option at over 2 million retailers in the U.S. Venmo, which processed $8 billion in transactions last quarter, has a young, loyal audience that is attractive to retailers. Convincing that group to “pay with Venmo” will be critical to the app’s ability to monetize. (Source: Fast Company)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: If you know anyone under the age of 25 then they’ve probably used Venmo to make payments to their friends. Because transaction size was limited, most businesses couldn’t take advantage of the service. PayPal’s expansion will not only provide more payment opportunities for your clients and their customers but perhaps draw in younger customers who are familiar with the platform.

10. This is unusual: the older iPhone 7 is outselling the new iPhone 8
Apple carrier store surveys show that, despite the recent launch of its iPhone 8, Apple's older iPhone 7 model is outselling the new one, ahead of the upcoming debut of the premium iPhone X. Usually, new editions of the iPhone sell quickly, but early indicators are that the iPhone 8 is not as popular as its predecessors due to a lack of significant enhancements in the 8. (Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Thinking of replacing your iPhone? Maybe the latest version isn’t necessary. That’s what a lot of Apple customers seem to be saying.

These stories and comments previously appeared on Forbes.com.

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