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These 6 tech trends are key to your brand keeping up in 2016

There are plenty of technology trends businesses need in order to stay relevant, but these six are the most important as they are the most unique, and revolutionized. Businesses should definitely take notes, and begin strategizing on how they can incorporate these practices.

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Looking ahead to a money-filled year

I’m in line the other day at Starbucks to get my fix, when I notice the woman in the very front holding the line up showing off her watch to the cashier. I, and a bunch of other Starbucks addicts got annoyed with the woman – I mean, who’s insane enough to hold up a group of friends to talk about some watch?

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But soon after, our frustration turns to awe, when we watch her pay for her entire Starbucks order with this watch. I watched first hand as technology bridged the gap between new tech and business processes or, The Apple Watch and Starbucks. Imagine had she attempted to pay, but Starbucks didn’t support the technology yet; that could’ve been a potentially lost customer.

Knowing that makes it critical for businesses to stay up to date and on top of the new tech developments. Some have done an excellent job developing their processes just as quickly as technology develops, while there are still some entities struggling to evolve and stay informed on what’s going on in the tech world. These are the businesses that risk being forgotten or replaced.

But, if they can embrace and incorporate the following six technology trends then they have a chance of keeping their customer base and staying afloat.

Trend #1: Embrace new forms of payment

Easier payments: remember when some businesses didn’t even accept credit cards? Now, such a business would be considered primitive. Especially now that you can walk into businesses like Best Buy, target, and Starbucks to pay for electronics, groceries, paper, egg nog lattes and whatever else you need.

Businesses everywhere are embracing this trend, making payments as simple as a watch swipe, and providing invoices/receipts to your email before you can even blink.

While only 17 percent of consumers say they pay using a smartphone, according to a study by creditcard.com, industry experts still have high hopes for the mobile pay industry. Research firm, Gartner, predicts the industry will be worth $270 billion in transactions by 2017, up from $235 billion in 2014. This is understandable when you consider Google just adopted Softcard, Samsung provides Samsung pay, PayPal has Padiant, and Apple of course offers Apple Pay. Merchants accepting these options are also growing beyond just Starbucks and Best Buy.

That billion dollar prediction, along with the abundance of technologies and merchants investing in the mobile pay industry, makes easier payment a huge upcoming trend.

Trend #2: Security is a must

Security becomes nonnegotiable: remember in October when Experian accidentally exposed the private data of 15 million T mobile users? They aren’t the only ones slacking in the security department. Nearly 5,000 other company data breaches have compromised over 800 million records, including medical histories, Social Security numbers, and bank day; all since 2005.

These massive security breaches keep happening because email is not really that secure, employees mobile devices aren’t really that protected and systems are not always as encrypted as they’d like to believe. White Hat, a security company, released a report back in 2015 that revealed 86% of all websites tested had at least one serious vulnerability (and sometimes more).

With the huge liability breached information presents; businesses are now developing more secure websites, making sure there are no vulnerabilities, no holes, and no chance for customer information (or any information, for that matter) to leak.

Therefore, one of the biggest and latest trends in business right now is making sure all systems are appropriately protected. This has started to happen with better encryption, new cloud solutions, and enterprise mobility management for mobile devices.

Trend #3: Your brand needs to be on mobile

According to a study done by comScore, 11.3% of all Internet users rely on their mobile device to surf the web and that number is only growing.

Because of this we will start to see more click – to – call buttons embedded directly into apps.

Now, when a customer is using a particular app and they have a question, instead of leaving the app to find the customer service number, they can just click a button and be connected directly to a customer service rep. So any troubleshooting questions, user issues, products inquiries, and anything else you use customer service for can be accessed directly from the app.

The best example of this trend can be observed from Amazon Kindle devices that offer its customers what’s called “mayday”. With “mayday”, users can simply click a button for an almost instant connection with a customer service rep,  at anytime of the day. Bank of America has also followed suit, and now offers customers a “teller assist” Option on their ATM machines. This service allows consumers to connect with a bank teller via live video chat if they have any problems at the ATM.

Initially this embedded communication technology was reserved for large corporations that could afford it. However, new companies are starting to develop embedded communication at more affordable and accessible prices.

Trend #4: Smart devices and the Internet of Things

Rolls-Royce, along with other aircraft manufacturers have begun building aircraft with sensors embedded within them.

These sensors take the guesswork and time out of physically searching a plane for malfunctions.

They can detect if anything has started to break down and gives aircrafts the ability to avoid possible accidents and fatalities by sending these updates directly to the ground station.

This kind of real-time update from the actual device is becoming more popular as technology develops. Now, inventory can self-report on its levels, trucks can self-track, and products can notify the company when there’s a problem.

In order to stay relevant, businesses should figure out how to take advantage of these real-time update devices, and see how they can incorporate them into their current technology infrastructure.

Trend #5: Employees with wearables

What about the employees who receive these real-time updates from the aforementioned devices? How do they receive the information? It certainly wouldn’t be right if they were receiving these updates on a basic, technologically ancient computer. No, instead businesses are testing out wearables to receive the data, so employees can have real-time access to real-time updates. Some companies use them for inventory updates while others use them internally for employee interaction; the options for wearables within a business setting are endless.

If a businesses values accurate feedback and real-time updates, complying with this trend is critical.

They need to start figuring out which wearable device is best for them, how to incorporate it, and the best way to synchronize it with their existing software.

Trend #6: Keep it in the cloud

Business clouds allow seamless and constant connectivity and can be seen functioning in about 93% of existing business, according to a cloud survey conducted by Right Scale. The 7% who haven’t adapted are expected to incorporate this trend no later than this year – or else they risk being left behind.

There are plenty of other technology trends businesses need in order to stay relevant, however these six are the most important as they are the most unique, and revolutionized. Businesses should definitely take notes, and begin strategizing on how they can incorporate these practices.

#DontGetLeftIn2015

Lauren Flanigan is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, hailing from the windy hills of Cincinnati, with a degree in Marketing from the University of Cincinnati. She has escaped the hills, and currently resides in Atlanta, where you can almost always find her camping at a Starbucks strategizing on how to take over the world.

Business News

Too connected: FTC eyes Facebook antitrust lawsuit

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following other antitrust hearings, we’re expecting to hear more about the FTC’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, soon.

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Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device.

Facebook might be wishing it had kept the “dislike” button.

On September 15, the Wall Street Journal announced that the Federal Trade Commission was preparing a possible antitrust lawsuit against the social media titan. Although the FTC has not made an official decision on whether to pursue the case, sources familiar with the situation expect a determination will be made on the matter sometime before the end of 2020. Facebook and the FTC both declined to comment when asked about the story.

The news comes following a year-long investigation by the FTC that has looked into anti-competitive practices by the Menlo Park-based company. This past July, the United States House of Representatives held hearings in which they grilled the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook regarding their business practices. In August, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also testified in front of the FTC as part of the department’s antitrust probe into the organization.

The FTC seems to be especially interested in Facebook’s past acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, which they believe may have been done to stifle competition. In internal emails sent between Zuckerberg and Facebook’s former CFO David Ebersman back in 2012, the 36-year-old seemed worried that the apps could eventually pose a threat to the social media conglomerate.

“These businesses are nascent but the networks established, the brands are already meaningful, and if they grow to a large scale the could be very disruptive to us,” Zuckerberg wrote to Ebersman, “Given that we think our own valuation is fairly aggressive and that we’re vulnerable in mobile, I’m curious if we should consider going after one or two of them.”

When Ebersman asked him to clarify the benefits of the acquisitions, Zuckerberg stated the purchases would neutralize a competitor while improving Facebook.

“One way of looking at this is that what we’re really buying is time. Even if some new competitors springs up, buying Instagram, Path, Foursquare, etc. now will give us a year or more to integrate their dynamics before anyone can get close to their scale again.” Zuckerberg said.

This isn’t the first time the FTC has investigated Facebook either. Last year the agency fined the company $5 billion for the mishandling of user’s personal information, the biggest penalty imposed by the federal government against a technology company. As a part of the settlement with the FTC in that case, Facebook also promised more comprehensive oversight of user data.

If the FTC does pursue an antitrust suit against Facebook, it could end up forcing the social media giant to spin off some of the companies it has acquired or place restrictions on how it does business. Considering how long it will take to file the litigation and prove the case in a courtroom, however, it seems that Zuckerberg will once again be “buying time.”

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Business News

What you need to know about the historic TikTok deal (for now)

(BUSINESS NEWS) No one really knows what’s happening, but the TikTok deal’s impact on business, US-China relations, and the open internet could be huge.

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Male black hands holding app opening TikTok app.

So, maybe you’ve heard that Oracle and Walmart are buying TikTok for national security!

Um, not exactly.

Also, Trump banned TikTok!

Sort of? Maybe?

But then he said he approved the Oracle-Walmart-TikTok deal!

We guess?

The terms of the proposal seem to shift daily, if not hourly. The sheer number of contradictory statements from every player suggests no one really knows what’s going on.

Just one example: Trump said the deal included a $5 billion donation to a fund for education for American youth. TikTok parent ByteDance, said, “Say what now?”

Here’s what we think we know (as of this writing):

Oracle and Walmart would get a combined 20 percent stake in a new U.S.-based company called TikTok Global. Combine that with current US investors in China’s ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, that would give American interests 53 percent. European and other investors would have 11 percent. China would retain 36 percent. (On Saturday Trump said China would have no interests at all. But that does not jibe with the reporting on the deal.)

Oracle would host all user data on its cloud, where it is promising “security will be 100 percent” to keep data safe from China’s prying eyes. But reporting has differed on whether Oracle will get full access to TikTok’s code and AI algorithms. Without full control, skeptics say, Oracle could be little more than a hosting service, and potential security issues would remain unaddressed.

Walmart says they’re excited about their “potential investment and commercial agreements,” suggesting they may be exploring e-commerce opportunities in the app.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is overseen by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, still has to approve any deal.

As for the TikTok “ban” – which isn’t really a ban because current users can keep it – the Commerce Department postponed the deadline for kicking TikTok off U.S. app stores to September 27, to give time for the deal to be hammered out. Never mind that it’s still not clear whether the U.S. government has authority to do that. Unsurprisingly, ByteDance says it doesn’t in a lawsuit filed September 18.

Whatever happens with the whiplash of the deal’s particulars, there are bigger issues in play.

According to business news site Quartz, moving data storage to Oracle mirrors what companies like Apple have done in China: Appease the Chinese government by allowing all data hosting to be inside China. A similar move could “mark the US, too, shifting from a more laissez-faire approach to user data, to a more sovereign one,” says China tech reporter Jane Li.

More obvious: Corporate sales and mergers are now part of the parrying between the U.S. and China, which adds a whole new playing field for negotiations among businesses.

In the meantime, TikTokkers keep TikTokking. White suburban moms continue to lip sync to rap songs in their kitchens. Gen Z continues to make fun of the president – and pretty much everything else.

And downloads of the app have skyrocketed.

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Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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