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Zoom alternatives that might be more robust for your remote teams

(TECH NEWS) If you are one of the larger companies affected by COVID 19, here are alternatives to Zoom to consider for your remote team and client meetings.

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video conferencing

Nothing against Zoom, but there are other video conferencing tools on the market. If your team has moved to fully remote as a result of COVID-19 (and you should, if possible) then there are a few options you should consider. This might even be a great time to think about new tools you can integrate into your team’s communication strategy. If you look at it the right way, every problem is an opportunity for growth.

Join.me
Join.me is an audio and video conferencing tool with screen sharing capabilities, one-click scheduling, and white-boarding. Users are able to create a custom, branded URL to share with meeting attendees which makes it an excellent choice for companies that primarily need to host meetings with clients. Just because your teams are working from home, doesn’t mean your meetings can’t have a smooth, professional feel. Join.me has three tier options for pricing – Lite, Pro, Business. Both of the larger plans can host up to 250 participants per meeting. The key differences are in the amount of cloud storage available and integrations with other services.

GoToMeeting
GoToMeeting is a simple, straight-forward solution to your video conferencing needs. Their user-friendly interface makes it a great choice for a less tech-savvy team that needs to hit the ground running. GoToMeeting can be used in both desktop and mobile. Similar to Join.me users can create a custom meeting link to share with their team and clients. A great feature of this tool is the unlimited storage. GoToMeeting allows users to record and save their video meetings to a cloud. Users can even access automatically created transcripts of past meetings. Their largest plan can host up to 3000 participants, which is the largest capacity by far of any service.

WebEx
WebEx is a feature-rich solution for your virtual meetings that promises HD quality video that can be accessed from any device, including mobile or tablets. Their tool fosters collaboration by enabling active and collaborative work throughs, screen sharing, white-boarding, and file sharing features. WebEx also has a Video Support feature that offers users real-time technical support, something many may find themselves needing as teams scramble to integrate new tools during a challenging time. WebEx’s Premium service supports meetings of up to 200 people.

Zoho Meetings
Zoho is an open-source alternative to Zoom. It has many of the bells and whistles of other video conferencing apps but with a greater focus on security. All meetings in Zoho are encrypted using industry standard protocols. They also have added moderation features so users can steer the course of the meeting through added controls. Zoho also allows people to access meetings through dial-ins and email links which means you don’t need to force clients to sign-up or download anything. If you are connecting with multiple clients, including new ones, this might be a good bet to save time on technology onboarding. Zoho is accessible through the desktop app, web, or mobile.

This is an overwhelming time for many people as schools shut down and family members lose jobs or fall ill. As you consider how to transition your team into a remote workforce, remember to think of their needs first. What features do your employees need to get through this difficult time? Video conferencing is a great way to keep your team feeling connected at a time when we could all use some human connection – from a distance, of course.

Staff Writer, Natalie Gonzalez earned her B.A. in English and a Creative Writing Certificate from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a writer and social media nerd with a passion for building online communities.

Tech News

Onboarding for customers and employees made easy

(TECH NEWS) Cohere enables live, virtual onboarding at bargain prices to help you better support and guide your users.

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onboarding made easy

Web development and site design may be straightforward, but that doesn’t mean your customers won’t get turned around when reviewing your products. Onboarding visitors is the simplest solution, but is it the easiest?

According to Cohere–a live, remote onboarding tool–the answer is a resounding yes.

Cohere claims to be able to integrate with your website using “just 2 lines of code”; after completing this integration, you can communicate with, guide, and show your product to any site visitor upon request. You’ll also be able to see what customers are doing in real time rather than relying on metrics, making it easy to catch and convert customers who are on the fence, due to uncertainty or confusion.

There isn’t a screen-share option in Cohere’s package, but what they do include is a “multiplayer” option in which your cursor will appear on a customer’s screen, thus enabling you to guide them to the correct options; you can also scroll and type for your customer, all the while talking them through the process as needed. It’s the kind of onboarding that, in a normal world, would have to take place face-to-face–completely tailored for virtual so you don’t have to.

You can even use Cohere to stage an actual demo for customers, which accomplishes two things: the ability to pare down your own demo page in favor of live options, and minimizing confusion (and, by extension, faster sales) on the behalf of the customer. It’s a win-win situation that streamlines your website efficiency while potentially increasing your sales.

Naturally, the applications for Cohere are endless. Using this tool for eCommerce or tech support is an obvious choice, but as virtual job interviews and onboarding become more and more prevalent, one could anticipate Cohere becoming the industry example for remote inservice and walkthroughs.

Hands-on help beats written instructions any day, so if companies are able to allocate the HR resources to moderate common Cohere usage, it could be a huge win for those businesses.

For those two lines of code (and a bit more), you’ll pay anywhere from $39 to $129 for the listed packages. Custom pricing is available for larger businesses, so you may have some wiggle room if you’re willing to take a shot at implementing Cohere business-wide.

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Tech News

Smart clothing could be used to track COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) In order to track and limit the spread of COVID-19 smart clothing may be the solution we need to flatten the curve–but at what cost?

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COVID tracking clothing

When most people hear the phrase “smart clothing”, they probably envision wearables like AR glasses or fitness trackers, but certainly not specially designed fabrics to indicate different variables about the people wearing them–including, potentially, whether or not someone has contracted COVID-19.

According to Politico, that’s exactly what clinical researchers are attempting to create.

The process started with Apple and Fitbit using their respective wearables to attempt to detect COVID-19 symptoms in wearers. This wouldn’t be the first time a tech company got involved with public health in this context; earlier this year, for example, Apple announced a new Watch feature that would call 911 if it detected an abnormal fall. The NBA also attempted to detect outbreaks in players by providing them with Oura Rings–another smart wearable.

While these attempts have yet to achieve widespread success, optimism toward smart clothing–especially things like undershirts–and its ability to report adequately someone’s symptoms, remains high.

The smart clothing industry has existed in the context of monitoring health for quite some time. The aforementioned tech giants have made no secret of integrating health- and wellness-centric features into their devices, and companies like Nanowear have even gone so far as to create undergarments that track things like the wearer’s heart rate.

It’s only fitting that these companies would transition to COVID assessment, containment, and prevention in the shadow of the pandemic, though they aren’t the only ones doing so. Indeed, innovators from all corners of the United States are set to participate in a “rapid testing solutions” competition–the end goal being a cheap, fast, easy-to-use wearable option to help flatten the curve. The “cheap” aspect is perhaps the most difficult; as Politico says, the majority of people have a general understanding of how to use wearable technology.

Perhaps more importantly, the potential for HIPPA violations via data access is high–and, during a period of time in which people are more suspicious of technology companies than ever, vis-a-vis data sharing, privacy could be a significant barrier to the creation, distribution, and use of otherwise crucial smart clothing.

There is no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated, among other things, technological advancement in ways unseen by many of us alive today. Only time will tell if smart clothing–life-saving potential and all–becomes part of that trend.

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Tech News

Say goodbye to browser cookies – Google wants to give you ‘trust tokens’

(TECH NEWS) Google plans to do away with third-party cookies in favor of “trust tokens”. The question is, will they gain our trust?

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Privacy concerns should be at an all-time high with the sheer number of people working from home–something that may have been factored into Google’s recent decision to begin phasing out third-party cookies in their Chrome browser.

In doing so, Chrome would join browsers such as Safari and Firefox–two popular alternatives that have been more proactive about protecting user privacy in the past, according to The Verge.

Cookies, for those who don’t know, are small pieces of information stored on your computer by websites you visit; when third-party cookies are downloaded from these sites, they can track your activity across the internet, thus resulting in unpleasantries like targeted ads and location-based services appearing in your browser.

It’s all a little too accurate to your habits for comfort, so Google is proposing a separate solution: trust tokens.

No, trust tokens are not the newest form of currency on CBS Survivor–they’re “smart” iterations of cookies that will validate your access to a specific website without tracking you once you leave that page. This way, you get to keep your website-specific data–passwords, usernames, and preferences–without having your privacy encroached upon any more than Google already does (admittedly, that doesn’t sound like much of a change, but bear with us).

The real catch for trust tokens is that they don’t actually identify you the way that cookies do, and while some of the side effects of trust tokens may resemble cookie use–e.g., advertisers knowing you clicked on their ad–tokens are a decidedly less personal, more private way to access web content.

Google isn’t just throwing out third-party cookies as a gesture, it seems. Along with the announcement about trust tokens, Google mentioned that they plan to create more transparency around ads–specifically by allowing you to see why you’re seeing a specific ad and from whom and where the ad originated. An extension to help lend additional information about ads is also in the works.

These changes are expected to be implemented within the year. For now, though, you should stick to Firefox or Safari if you’re worried about cookies–you’ll be able to get back to your Chrome tabs soon enough.

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