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10 tech stories you may have missed: Foldable screens?

New kinds of laptop and phone displays, blockchain grants, and eight other things that happened in technology this past month and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.

1. Samsung says it’s working on foldable laptop displays. Next month, Samsung is expected to introduce a foldable smartphone concept and says it is also working on bigger devices with foldable displays. Industry experts believe foldable displays in laptops could totally change the market for 2-in-1 devices. While existing convertible laptops try to flip and twist into tablet and media modes, a foldable display would help create new designs. Laptops such as HP’s new Spectre Folio and Microsoft’s ‘pocketable’ Surface are seen as ideal candidates for a flexible and foldable display. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Hear me, fellow accounting business travelers: Within a few years, your and your clients’ smartphone and tablets will fold into smaller squares that you can tuck away for easier transport. This will enable you and your partners to enjoy larger displays and keyboards once you unfold these devices in your hotel room or wherever you’re travelling. It all makes for better convenience and the ability to bring along more powerful technology on the road.

Justin Denison, senior vice president of product strategy and marketing for Samsung Electronics America, shows off a new phone with a foldable screen during the Samsung Developers Conference in San Francisco in early November 2018.
Justin Denison, senior vice president of product strategy and marketing for Samsung Electronics America Inc., speaks during the Samsung Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. Samsung showed off a new phone with a foldable screen in a bid to shake up a smartphone business awash with black, shiny rectangles that look increasingly similar. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

2. WordPress team working on “wiping older versions from existence on the internet.” Currently installed on 32 percent of all internet sites, WordPress needs to be very concerned about security. That’s why it’s now working on a way to allow its users to update their program if they have an older, less-secure version and regularly fail to apply updates to the CMS core, plugins, or themes. The WordPress security team used to backport recent security patches for older versions but is now trying to roll those versions forward automatically and then wipe them from the internet completely so as to bring users of the old versions up to date. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: It’s likely that your firm’s website has been built with WordPress and if you haven’t made any changes to its underlying structure in the past few years, it would be a good idea to check with your web developer, talk to WordPress, and embark on an upgrade.

3. Paya introduces a small-business-friendly payment platform. Paya, which used to be called Sage Payment systems, has unveiled a service called Paya Connect -- a "platform for software firms and independent sales organizations to create payment and other commerce applications for merchants." With the new platform, Paya's more than 2,000 developer partners can use the company’s suite of products and services to better enable connection and acceptance of various payment options for their customers. Partners don't necessarily have to be payment solution experts to implement a customized system. (Source: Digital Transactions)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: “The benefit is more options for ecommerce and online resellers for getting payments from their customers and a platform that makes it easier than ever for our partners to create customized payments experiences that meet solution-specific requirements,” according to company president Greg Cohen.

4. PNC to debut entirely digital small-business loans. In early 2019, PNC Financial Service Group will begin offering small-business customers an entirely digital borrowing experience. The Pittsburgh-based company says that this means business owners who apply for a line of credit online could receive a decision on their application within five minutes. Then, after applicants are approved for a loan, they’ll be able to collect their funds within one to three business days. (Source: American Banker)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Faster decisions means faster loans for your clients. It’s good to see larger financial institutions begin to embrace the kind of technology that smaller, more nimble fintech companies and online lenders have been using over the past few years.

5. Large enterprises are adopting emerging tech at a much higher rate than small companies. A new report from IT marketplace Spiceworks shows that the rate at which large enterprises adopt emerging technologies is as much as 10 times higher than in small businesses. The report also reveals that, by 2020, 86 percent of companies with 5,000+ employees plan to adopt IoT tools, 65 percent want to deploy edge computing, 64 percent plan to add AI, and 56 percent will have blockchain-enabled technology. The report was based on a survey of 780 IT decision makers in North America and Europe conducted in July 2018. (Source: ZDNet)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: None of this comes as a surprise to me and here’s another reason why I’m a supporter of big businesses – and so should you be. I don’t think that smaller companies should be on the bleeding edge of technologies. Let the big guys, who have plenty of resources and lots of room to make mistakes, figure out what works and what doesn’t. Once a technology becomes more commonplace it’s inevitable that it’ll be replicated and find its way down to the masses.

6. Twitter loses 9 million users. The monthly users on Twitter declined by 9 million last quarter to 326 million from 335 million as the company cracks down on bots and fake accounts. It's the second quarter of declines in a row. It's not a surprise. The company also said that it's prepared to lose an additional “mid-single-digit millions” more in the next few months as it continues its crackdown. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: If your firm or client is a small business using Twitter, take heart that although this type of purge may take away some of your followers that inadvertently latched themselves onto you, it will also make the service more reliable going forward.

7. Predictive sales tool People.ai gets $30 million from Andreessen Horowitz. San Francisco-based People.ai — a cloud software company — announced a $30 million Series B round of funding from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. People.ai will use the funds to further its mission: to free up employees’ time by building data “pipelines” using machine learning that automates the drudgery of updating contacts in systems such as Salesforce.com. Its cloud-based service automatically extracts information about people and activities from any part of a company’s system — whether it’s email, calendar, phone logs, Slack, DocuSign or WebEx — and then draws connections between what is found. (Source: Techcrunch)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Yet another example of how artificial intelligence is invading the client relationship management space and speeding up data entry and response to customers. The idea is to do away with repetitive data entry tasks and allow users to view, analyze and decide on data which in turn makes much better use of their time. If your firm is looking to get more value from your CRM system, then make it a point to embrace the new AI technologies – like People.ai – that are quickly coming to market.

8. Google Maps adds EV charging station info. Google Maps has launched a feature that helps drivers of electric vehicles find places to charge them. It will let users search for nearby charging stations with search terms “EV charging stations” or “EV charging.” It will also tell drivers what types of ports are available, how many there are, and the station’s charging speeds. (Source: Engadget)

Why this is important for your clients: Have they ever thought of adding a charging station to their business? Could be an extra source of income. Google’s new EV features will allow businesses with charging stations to now have a link that will give more information about their setup, including user ratings and reviews.

9. Ethereum Foundation awards nearly $3 million in startup grants. As part of its ongoing grant program, Ethereum Foundation recently awarded nearly $3 million to a number of blockchain startups and developers. The foundation’s grant team said its fourth wave of grants gave $2.86 million to 20 individuals or groups for work on client diversity, usability, scalability, and security, as well as for building tools. The grants were originally intended to support development on the ethereum blockchain and thus to help develop decentralized applications and smart contract technology. (Source: Coin Desk)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Digital currency will mature and blockchain will continue to be adopted. If your clients are in the crypto-business, or thinking of getting into one, here’s a grant program that may provide them with the seed money you need to move to the next level.

10. Small businesses can now create Pinterest ‘Shop the Look’ Pins and sell more items. Pinterest’s Shop the Look tool lets visitors search for similar items that they see on the site by clicking on certain parts of a pin connected to the image. In other words, if you like the way a person is dressed in a picture but you’re not crazy about the tie he’s wearing, you can click on the tie’s pin (assuming there is one) to search for other similar ties ... and then buy the one you like. Pinterest recently opened up its Shop the Look tool to creators and small and midsized businesses. (Source: Ad Week)

Why this is important for your clients: With this change, sellers can now directly link users to their website and/or product page to buy merchandise. In addition, the products users see on Pinterest will be available immediately without having to go through a third-party app. If your clients are active on Pinterest, or you have visually appealing products that you think you can sell on the platform, it’s now easier to do.

Some of these stories also appeared on Forbes.com.