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The top tech trends every business must know

You may have a grasp on what the top tech trends are, but do you know what to do with them in your business? Let’s dig deeper together.

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Tech trends that affect every business

You’re already on email, probably on Twitter or Facebook, you probably have smartphone, and the “cloud” is no longer an elusive concept. There are five major trends right now that every business must know, no matter the industry: mobile, social, big data, apps, and the cloud. In the following presentation, ten stats are revealed for each trend:

What in the world should you do with this information?

So now you know the stats, the trends, and the direction we’re heading, but you may still be scratching your head (or maybe you’re just overwhelmed).

So what if everyone’s on a mobile device? So am I

The stats reveal the purchasing power of mobile device users, so as a business, you should be sure that your site is mobile-friendly, but guess what? That doesn’t mean that you have a site that opens on a phone, because if people have to manually zoom in and out and try to click on the one pixel wide button, they’re moving on and you’ve lost out on business. While some brands have entire apps developed, your web developer can less expensively design a responsive version of your site which means it changes sizes based on the device being used and buttons become bigger on smartphones, etc.

So what if people use a mobile device in a store?

Do you offer a product? If it’s in stores, most people are showrooming (whipping out their phones to price compare with competitors, while in the store looking at your product), so they may be inspired to leave to find a competitor’s product elsewhere on the cheap. Conversely, if your site is mobile and easily found in search engines, people that are showrooming in stores may end up finding you and coming to you. That’s a huge win and why you should love mobile technologies.

So what if everyone’s gaga over social media?

Yes, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube may all be overwhelmingly noisy and crowded to you, but the reach is far more powerful than print or television media, and lead generation opportunities abound. As we’ve said for over half of a decade now, your brand should study the social networks, choose one where your clients congregate, and get really good at providing a value to that social network before adding another. YouTube is the second most popular search engine next to Google, and video is on fire, but poor quality video is sliding in popularity – putting effort into video, making sure the description is complete and the transcript is accurate and uploaded properly, you’ve landed yourself in a second form of a search engine. But if typed word is more your speed, remember that most people are using social media as a recommendation engine, asking their networks who/what they should use – so if you’re not present, how will people remember to refer to you?

So what if the cloud keeps documents safe and saves me money?

If those two reasons aren’t enough, think about the new paperless office – the ability to hold out your tablet, have a document reviewed and signed by a client, then a copy emailed to all parties – no more filing, no more lost papers, no more faxing crap back and forth and re-faxing when someone missed a signature. When you’re in the cloud, your entire office is at your fingertips – no more having to go back to the office for that presentation on your desktop, no more going back and forth to get a book of your products/services that you forgot to put in your car. You get the point – it’s a time saver in addition to the stated benefits of being a cost saver and safety net.

So what if big data is a big deal? I don’t get it.

We hear that a lot. Big data is just a fancy way of saying “you have massive amounts of digital data,” and the chances of you having done anything with it is slim – just like the majority of companies collecting data across the globe. The truth about big data is that there are now programs that make sense of all of this massive data you have, making it actually useful. Do you have spreadsheets of clients and data going back to 1983? You’ve got big data. Have you tracked sales in a software program since 1996? You have big data. So add on a layer of programs that can tell you trends about that data, and you’ve got legitimate business intelligence – something that used to cost brands millions to decipher. No more.

Here are two fascinating examples two companies making sense of big data:

  1. Polygraph analyzes brands on Facebook
  2. gazeMetrix captures visual mentions of brands online

So what if everyone has an app?

If your brand is one person and you’re doing something millions of others do (insurance sales, real estate, graphic design), you probably don’t need an app, especially in light of the high abandonment rate, even for paid apps. But if you offer something unique that an interactive experience would enhance sales, an app might be the answer. One of the huge benefits of an app is that you can send push notifications to users, so let’s say you operate a food truck company and you have three trucks running around Seattle during lunch – if someone has your food truck app, perhaps they can get an alert on their phone every time one of your trucks is parked within a mile of where they currently are, based on location awareness.

Maybe you sell vegan energy bars, and while popular, they’re not in every store, so why not have a simple app built that alerts users when they’ve entered a store where their favorite product (yours) is sold? Perhaps you’re a real estate broker and you want your clients to be able to hold up their phone in a neighborhood and see all homes listed on the MLS through their camera, with a price tag hovering over homes for sale in real time – augmented reality apps already exist, but with some twists, yours can be unique and useful (like listing below the price the distance to the nearest store, bus stop, public park, or its walkability score or heck, the last sale date of the property if available). Stand out, add value, and you have a reason to have an app, otherwise, stick to your website.

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China no longer dependent on U.S. for smartphone components

(TECH NEWS) Trump’s trade war, more specifically, the ban on shipping phone components, to China has begun to take a toll on chip manufacturing.

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Once upon a time, the U.S. and China were buddies, exporting and importing from each other with ease. However, President Trump’s recent actions regarding trade with China is certainly putting a damper on things.

It seems that Chinese companies have moved past the need to import certain products, like smartphone chips, from the U.S. – something they previously relied heavily on by working with American companies like Qorvo, Inc. in North Carolina, Skyworks, Inc. in Massachusetts, Broadcom, Inc. in California, and Cirrus Logic in Texas.

Since the ban in May, Trump specifically barred shipments from the U.S. from companies like Qualcomm and Intel Corp to companies like Chinese tech conglomerate, Huawei Technologies Co. But much like the bans that came before the Trump administration, it didn’t last long. With tensions high, the U.S. actually recently started rolling back some aspects of the ban and started making exceptions that allow American tech companies to continue to work with Chinese companies like Huawei.

Of course, China’s lack of U.S. parts hasn’t stopped them from rolling out new and improved products. As a matter of fact, in September, Huawei unveiled its newest phone, the Mate 30, which boasts highly-desired features, such as a curved screen and a wide angle camera. This makes the phone a pretty solid competitor of Apple’s newest iPhone, the iPhone 11, of which China was sent 10 million of in September and October.

After Huawei’s announcement, investment and banking firm UBS, and Japanese technology lab Fomalhaut Techno Solutions, partnered up and took to their labs to analyze the phone’s components. Their analysis was simple and straightforward. They found that there were absolutely zero American components in the phone. In fact, the chips in the Mate 30 are actually from Huawei’s in-house chip design agency, HiSilicon. They also provided Huawei with WiFi and Bluetooth chips. With HiSilicon’s 20 + years experience in the industry, 200+ chipsets, and 8000+ patents, it’s no wonder U.S. chip companies are getting nervous. Qualcomm, for example, announced a 31-40% decrease in estimated chip shipments over the next year.

Although the chip ban has made a big impact on larger U.S. companies who make and supply chips to China, there are still many other businesses that have been affected in Trump’s trade war. As it happens, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently confessed that, since May, when the ban was put in place, the U.S. has received at least 260 requests, asking that they excuse them from the ban and be allowed to work with China as they previously had.

But really, at the end of the day, with so many American companies relying on China for both import and export, it’s probable that the ban will be short-lived and that exceptions won’t need to be made. As Americans, we can be hopeful that the end-result of this trade war will be a positive one, but only time will tell.

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AI cameras could cut down traffic deaths, but there may be flaws

(TECH NEWS) Traffic accidents have plagued humanity since motor vehicles were created, can AI help cut down on text and drive incidents?

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What if we told you Australian officials believe they have found a way to reduce driving deaths by almost 30% in just two years? It’s a pretty appealing concept. After all, Australia alone faces an average of over 3 deaths a day due to driving accidents. And Australia’s average death rate clocks in at just half of what we face in the United States.

There’s just one problem with Australia’s proposed solution: it’s basically Big Brother.

Basically, Australia plans to use AI cameras to catch people texting and driving. There are plenty of places that have outlawed texting and driving, but that rule is very hard to enforce – it basically means catching someone in the act. With AI cameras, hands free driving can be monitored and fined.

Australia has already started rolling out some of these systems in South Wales. Because this is a new initiative, first time offenses will be let off with a warning. The following offenses can add up quickly, though, with fines anywhere from $233 to $309 USD. After a six month trial period, this program is projected to expand significantly.

But there are real concerns with this project.

Surprisingly, privacy isn’t one of these worries. Sure, “AI cameras built to monitor individuals” sounds like a plot point from 1984, but it’s not quite as dire as it seems. First, many places already have traffic cameras in order to catch things like people running red lights. More importantly, though, is the fact these machines aren’t being trained to identify faces. Instead, the machine learning for the cameras will focus on aspects of distracted driving, like hands off the wheel.

The bigger concern is what will come from placing the burden of proof on drivers. Because machine learning isn’t perfect, it will be paired with humans who will review the tagged photographs in order to eliminate false positives. The problem is, humans aren’t perfect either. There’s bound to be false positives to fall through the cracks.

Some worry that the imperfect system will slow down the judicial system as more people go to court over traffic violations they believe are unfair. Others are concerned that some indicators for texting while driving (such as hands off the wheel) might not simply apply texting. What if, for instance, someone was passing a phone to the back seat? Changing the music? There are subtleties that might not be able to be captured in a photograph or identified by an AI.

No matter what you think of the system, however, only time can tell if the project will be effective.

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Tech News

DeepComposer: AWS’ piano keyboard turns AI up to 11

(TECH NEWS) Amazon has been busy with machine learning, which includes a camera, a car, and now DeepComposer that’s able to add to classics on the fly

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Musicians, listen up, there’s a new kid in town, its name is DeepComposer and it’s coming to take your creativity and turn it up to 11.

Artificial Intelligence has taken a leap into what has long been considered the “pinnacle of human creativity”, as Amazon revealed what is said to be the world’s first machine learning-enabled keyboard capable of creating music.

Amazon unveiled its AWS DeepComposer keyboard Monday during AWS re:Invent, a learning conference Amazon Web Services hosted for the global cloud computing community in Las Vegas.

Demonstrating DeepComposer’s abilities, Dr. Matt Wood, Amazon’s VP of Artificial Intelligence, played a snippet of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and then let the keyboard riff on it with drums, synthesizer, guitar, and bass, sharing a more rockin’ version of the masterpiece.

Generative AI, is considered by scientists at MIT to be one of the most promising advances in AI in the past decade, Wood told the crowd. Generative AI allows for a machine not only to learn from example, as a human would but to take it next level and connect the dots, making the next creative step to composing something completely new.

“It [Generative AI] opens the door to an entire world of possibilities for human and computer creativity, with practical applications emerging across industries, from turning sketches into images for accelerated product development, to improving computer-aided design of complex objects, Amazon said on its AWS re:Invent website.

How does it work? The Generative AI technique pits two different neural networks against each other to produce new and original digital works based on sample inputs, according to Amazon. The generator creates, the discriminator provides feedback for tweaks and together they create “exquisite music”, Wood explained.

A user inputs a melody on the keyboard, then using the console they choose the genre, rock, classical, pop, jazz or create your own and voila, you have a new piece of music. Then, if so desired users can share their creations with the world through SoundCloud.

This is the third machine learning teaching device Amazon has made available, according to TechCrunch. It introduced the DeepLens camera in 2017 and in 2018 the DeepRacer racing cars. DeepComposer isn’t available just yet, but AWS account holders can sign up for a preview once it is.

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