Alexa’s Getting Better And Better…And Other Small Business Tech News This Week

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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 — Alexa has more skills than ever before, while Samsung is planning its own smart speaker.

Amazon’s popular digital voice assistant now has 15,000 skills available to users and has added 5,000 more since February this year. In other news, Samsung is planning to release its own smart speaker, which will feature its Bixby voice assistant. (Sources: TechCrunch and Mashable)

Why this is important for your business:

Right now the voice assistants from Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple and now Samsung are primarily consumer focused. Soon – within the next few years – you and your employees will be using these same digital assistants to perform tasks in the office.

 2 — Ticketmaster has plans to get rid of paper tickets for good.

The popular ticket seller has teamed up with Lisnr, a “data-via-audio” company, to create a new form of ticketing that uses an “ultrasonic audio broadcast to transfer data” from a person’s smartphone to a specific venue. (Source: Engadget)

Why this is important for your business:

Per Engadget, the “benefit to consumers is a faster entry to their favorite music or sporting event, while Ticketmaster then gets to know who is at an event, reducing fraud.” Ticketmaster is hoping to roll out its new audio tickets over the next four years for “hundreds of millions of tickets.” If your business – like mine – conducts customer events, this will likely be a technology we’ll be using in the future.

3 — Several Middle Eastern airlines will let you use your tablet again.

Four major Gulf airlines – Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – have officially been “cleared for laptops and tablets on flights to the United States.” (Source: Forbes)

Why this is important for your business:

Business travelers from those areas are breathing a sigh of relief – that’s a lot of time to be without our laptops!

4 — A staffing company has a “no-email” policy for one whole day each quarter.

LaSalle Network started an experiment three years ago where the Chicago-based company “wouldn’t just turn off alerts and notifications,” but would “set out-of-office auto-responses” and not respond to email for one day every quarter.  According to founder and CEO Tom Gimbel, all staff members must “set an out-of-office message explaining what we’re doing and asking those emailing to call us instead.” This “no-email” policy has been a huge success, with employees finding that they have “gotten a lot better at live communication, face-to-face dialogue, and collaboration – all skills that the future of the workforce depends on.” (Source: Fast Company)

Why this is important for your business:

Regardless of what Gimbel says, I wouldn’t recommend this in 2017.  Email’s too important.  But maybe this kind of quarterly stunt will be appreciated by your employees…and get you good PR like he just got.

5 — The autonomous electric truck is coming to Swedish highways.

A Swedish company called Einride recently unveiled the T-pod, the “first full-scale prototype of its futuristic autonomous electric truck.” One of the truck’s more unique features is that it has “no physical space inside…for a human to sit – and therefore no need for windows.” The company plans to have “an active fleet of 200 T-pods running in Sweden by 2020.” (Source: VentureBeat)

Why this is important for your business:

Autonomous trucks will have an enormous impact on the trucking industry worldwide, helping to reduce the costs of labor and insurance while increasing safety and reliability.

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