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IBM Is Still A Believer In Blockchain…And Other Small Business Tech News This Week


(Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

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

1 – Blockchain hype may have peaked, but IBM is still a believer.

Even though only 1 percent of corporate executives say they use blockchain, IBM still thinks the technology that underpins bitcoin has untapped potential. Blockchain is a kind of tamper-proof database for keeping track of just about anything, and the company believes that promising uses of it include supply chains and finance. (Source: Quartz)

Why this is important for your business:

It’s important to remember that even though the hype is receding (mostly due to the over-exposure of bitcoin and other digital currencies), blockchain is not going away. Many larger financial institutions are evaluating it for potential implementation and its effects will change the way databases are maintained, information is secured and your transactions are executed. It’s worthwhile knowing the basics of how blockchain works, assuming you’re interested in how your data will be protected in the not-so-distant future.

2 – No, we are not going cashless.

Predictions that cash is dying out are not supported by the facts. In reality, U.S. cash in circulation has grown at a 5 percent-plus rate for the past 20 years as the number of notes in circulation doubled from 1996 to 2016. Cash remains the most frequent method of payment in the U.S., representing roughly 31 percent of consumer transactions, more than electronic, credit, debit, or checks. Even with fast-growing internet sales, e-commerce represents less than 10 percent of all retail transactions. Use of cash by U.S. households is consistently around 25 percent across most income levels and increases greatly at the lowest incomes. (Source: CNBC)

Why this is important for your business:

I recently moderated a panel with Capital One (a client of the Marks Group, although I am not being compensated to write this) and Visa executives discussing a new Visa study on how digital payments are transforming SMBs. The upshot: 78 percent of consumers ranked a digital payment method as their number one payment option and 54 percent of small businesses agreed that consumers spent more when paying by card vs. cash.  Cash may be king, but digital payments are definitely the way of the future.

3 – Your banking information was once off-limits to tech companies. Now they’re seeking it.

Facebook recently joined a growing race among big technology companies seeking private information once regarded as off-limits: users’ checking-account balances, recent credit card transactions, and other facts of their personal finances and everyday lives. (Source: LA Times)

Why this is important for your business:

Facebook says that gaining access to users’ banking data and other sensitive financial information could help make online banking more efficient, but critics say it could backfire due to skepticism about whether tech companies can reliably safeguard people’s personal data. I say get used to it: your data is no longer your data. But if sharing it will help transactions go smoother and quicker then the long term benefits should outweigh your (and mine) security concerns.

4 – Digital health start-up Zocdoc is wrestling with a price change that could cripple doctors.

Zocdoc – a website and mobile app for making doctors’ appointments – has temporarily put on hold a proposed fee structure change. It had planned to amend the structure of its booking software to focus more on transaction costs than subscriptions. Doctors voiced their opposition on Facebook and through a Change.org petition, claiming that the change would lead to exorbitant costs and create potential legal problems. (Source: CNBC)

Why this is important for your business:

One of my biggest concerns about any cloud based application is the service provider’s ability to just raise the monthly costs at their discretion. But in Zocdoc’s case, the community rose up and complained. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Maybe, depending on the noise made by customers, this risk may not be as significant as I once thought.

5 — Airbnb for Work now accounts for 15 percent of bookings.

The global head of business travel at Airbnb says the company now has new features for business travelers, including one that lets employees search for Airbnb listings on a company-specific landing page. He said that Airbnb for Work listings now represent 15 percent of all Airbnb trips and noted that the introduction of boutique hotels and other amenity-driven listings such as those on Airbnb Plus offer a good alternative to hotels for business travelers. (Source: Tech Crunch)

Why this is important for your business:

Travelling on business? Before you or your employees book your next hotel room it may be more sensible to see what Airbnb is offering. You could get more space and a better environment at a lower cost. And besides, that hotel bar is nothing but trouble, right?



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