This Week in Small Business Tech: A Phone That Can See Through Walls!

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 – A new thermal smartphone from Caterpillar will allow contractors to see through walls.

The Cat S60 smartphone, set to be released in the U.S. in August, will feature thermal imaging. The company’s “rugged phone” line is aimed at people who may need something durable on the job.

Why this is important for your business:

You don’t think of smartphones when you think of Caterpillar, but maybe you should. “If you’re in the heating and cooling business, you can take it and look at a window and see where some heat is escaping,” a spokesperson from Caterpillar said in the article above. “If you’re a plumber, you can take a picture and see if there’s a leak behind a wall.”

2 – Microsoft offers a free video conferencing tool based on Skype and unveils a Dynamics 365 Office Suite for businesses.

The free conferencing tool is called Skype Meetings and is a “stripped down” version of its Skype for Business solution. According to this report in Forbes, Microsoft is banking on the coming Internet of Things explosion and wants to help companies to take business actions off the input of millions of sensors in their line of work, from street lights to trucks. Companies are already pulling in “slices” of that data, Microsoft argues, but only get a complete picture when they’re integrating it with all aspects of their business such as financial planning and sales.
Why this is important for your business:

It’s like you can’t even recognize Microsoft anymore. They’re becoming…cool again! The hundreds of millions of small businesses (like yours and mine) who rely on Microsoft technology will continue to benefit as the software giant evolves from a “Windows-only” company to an all-devices, all-cloud service organization.

3 – Snapchat now lets users save their snaps.

It used to be that you took a hilarious photo on Snapchat and sent it to your friends and didn’t have to worry about how ridiculous it made you look. No more. According to this report in Forbes: Snapchat is letting users, for the first time, store and back up “snaps” and “stories” within the messaging app for viewing or re-sharing later.

Why this is important for your business:

Oh great, now our teenagers can preserve their embarrassing memories forever – just what we needed. But with more than 100 million daily users, Snapchat recently passed Twitter in popularity. Now that users can do more with their snaps, it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll be spending more time on the service. Look for future offerings from the company to incentivize businesses to advertise.

4 – Angie’s List has removed its paywall and is now free for all users.

Angie’s List has a strong reputation as a go-to place to find a reputable service provider and is a very popular service among small businesses. Previously, users had to pay an annual fee to access its directory. But no longer – the directories of contractors are now open for anyone to see.
Why this is important for your business:

I have a lot of clients – roofers, plumbers, landscapers – who get leads from Angie’s List and rely on the service for referrals and their reputation. It’s one of those places online that has earned genuine respect from both consumers and small businesses. But, according to the report above, less than 1% of the U.S. population were members. The company is now hoping that this decision will dramatically increase membership, which means that if your small business participates, you may be seeing a strong upswing in leads.

5 – Instagram offers a new feature to help businesses combat rude comments.

From Digital Trends: The new feature allows users that have the business page option turned on to access a “Moderate Comments” tool in their settings tab. As stated in its description, once enabled, it blocks comments that contain words or phrases that have repeatedly been “reported as offensive” from appearing on your posts.

Why this is important for your business:

I did some research and found out that sometimes, just sometimes, people on the Internet can be kind of…well…mean. Who knew? OK, you knew that. And while we don’t want to infringe on someone’s freedom of speech, we would like to have some defense against unfair comments made by a knucklehead that could negatively impact our business. Instagram, which has been growing in popularity as an advertising medium for companies, is trying to help. I like it.

Oh, and BlackBerry has finally discontinued its “Classic” model phone line. Wait…who?

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