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Accounting Today

AI everywhere, and other tech stories you may have missed

By May 11, 2023July 11th, 2023No Comments

(This column originally appeared in Accounting Today)

A host of new developments in artificial intelligence, rating the best laptops, and a number of other new developments in technology that happened in the past month, and how they’ll impact your clients and your firm.

1. AI will soon send you personalized spam

AI researcher John Licato reported on the next phase of spam everyone with an inbox should be aware of. With every advancement AI provides, the complications seem to be increasing. AI has the capability of learning the intricacies of a person’s habits and preferences and using that information it can draft sophisticated and clickable messages to lure you into a spam trap. Researchers have dug into how artificial intelligence “understands” the cognitive processes involved in human language. Imposters who are looking to access sensitive information can take advantage of that capability. The good news is that spam blockers also have the advantages of AI, and are developing advanced filters that weed out imposter emails. (Source: Gizmodo)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: The spam wars will continue with both sides of the battle employing AI tools to their advantage. As business people, we and our employees need to keep a heightened sense of awareness because, AI aside, nothing replaces good old common sense.

2. Google making it easier to search for tools

Good news for Google Workspace users: Locating tools will be much easier. A new tool finder tab has been added to select Workspace apps. Instead of navigating through a series of tabs, “Enhanced tool finder” is a short-cut that allows users to quickly locate their go-to commands in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides. This new feature is expected to be fully activated by the end of May. (Source: The Verge)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: If your company uses Google Workspace, I highly suggest paying a consultant to fully train you and your employees on the platform’s capabilities. I’m betting it’s very under-used.

3. FBI says to avoid public USB stations

Traveling? Battery low on your cell phone? You might want to think twice about charging it. The FBI is warning the public to avoid using USB stations in public places such as airports or cafes. Hackers have discovered a way to infiltrate USB ports and infect connected devices with malware. In a recent tweet, FBI Denver recommended that people carry their own charging devices when traveling. The Federal Communications Commission added their own cautionary statement, which cited something called “juice jacking” — malware that accesses and exports sensitive information from a laptop or cell phone. (Source: Fast Company)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: This is a news item you should be sharing with your employees, particularly if they travel. Once a device is hacked, your own network could be ultimately compromised.

4. GoDaddy launches a generative AI prompt library

Managing important details is becoming highly efficient for small-business owners thanks to generative AI. GoDaddy has just added a generative AI prompt library giving business owners access to key prompts designed to assist them with everything from marketing strategies to perfecting a copywriting pitch. It acts as a virtual coach of sorts — the AI is programmed to address specific questions business owners have, including how to handle and respond to a negative review. The company plans to expand the library and add more prompts in the coming months. (Source: Martech Series)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: I absolutely love this. Check out this link to GoDaddy’s prompt library where you will find all sorts of questions you can be asking ChatGPT to help you run your business.

5. Constant Contact launches AI content generator

Constant Contact — the online marketing company that “helps small businesses level the playing field” — has incorporated generative AI into its communication systems. Now users can automate personalized messages on email correspondence, social media, and marketing campaigns. The software is programmed to offer suggestions on how specific messages can be crafted based on certain metrics. “Our new AI Content Generator makes it easy to get started on an email or text by blending cutting-edge AI with an intuitive interface that’s designed for smaller businesses,” chief product officer Russ Morton said in response to this announcement. (Source: Cision)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: For now this is a suggestion tool and I’m sure it’s helpful. But watch closely, because in the next few years I predict that Constant Contact and its competitors will be creating communications based on what it’s learned from your business and automatically sending to auto-generated lists of recipients most likely to open your messages. And all with little human involvement.

6. Microsoft brings green screens to Teams

You can now beef up your virtual meetings with a cinema-quality backdrop. Microsoft has just added a green screen feature to Microsoft Teams — providing a much richer experience with backgrounds. Users can now appear as if they’re in a variety of settings that are on par with the technology used in film. (Source: betanews)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: This could be a game-changer for people who do videos but want to significantly enhance their backgrounds. Microsoft’s upgrade to its virtual meeting space has raised the bar, as users can manipulate their backgrounds to enhance presentations, to provide more privacy based on the screen setting, and a host of other cool effects. Microsoft points out that green screen significantly improves upon the definition and sharpness of one’s image. Green screen is available on Teams Public Preview.

7. The best laptop under $500

Sean Riley of Laptop magazine just gave his endorsement for the best laptop under $500 bucks, and Lenovo’s Duet 5 Chromebook is his pick for its superior display quality, detachable screen, and extensive 13-hour battery life. The one drawback Sean pointed out is system performance, but only in comparison to other laptops on the market. His overall score for the Duet 5 is 4.5/5 stars. (Source: Laptop)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: I’m in the market for a new laptop and I’ve never owned a Chromebook. I’ve got this thing that because it’s hard drive space is limited or that it’s not Microsoft then a Chromebook isn’t the right device for me. But that’s silly — I love my Android phone, Microsoft apps will work on it fine and when am I ever not online? Sean’s endorsement may be my buying tipping point.

8. The MacBooks in 2023 with the best battery life

Kimberly Gedeon of Laptop magazine gave her top choice of the five MacBook Pros that were reviewed for their battery power. The 16-inch MacBook Pro came out on top at 22 hours on a charged battery. Kimberly goes into detail about how each one was tested and provides a chart with each model configuration — great info if you’re in the market for a new MacBook. (Source: Laptop)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: I think of all the features I need from a business laptop, the most important is battery life.

9. Square launches Tap to Pay on Android

Square — the platform that helps small and midsized businesses track and process payments — has just added the Tap to Pay option on Android, giving merchants the ability to receive contactless payments from their customers. Representatives of the company expressed the importance of giving their customer base the flexibility of doing business on the move. (Source: Finextra)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: At first, I was like: Doesn’t Square already have this? But then I realized that no separate Square device is needed to do these transactions. According to the report: “With Tap to Pay on Android, Square is making it even easier for new sellers and established businesses to conduct in-person commerce. Using a compatible Android device, a seller simply opens the Square Point of Sale, Square Appointments, Square for Restaurants, or Square Invoices app, enters the sale, and presents their smartphone to the customer. From there, the buyer will see the total they owe along with the familiar contactless payments symbol, and can choose to complete the payment with a contactless credit or debit card, or a digital wallet such as Google Pay.”

10. Google reshuffles virtual assistant unit

CNBC reported on a recent announcement from Google that Bard — its AI-generated assistant — will be front and center in terms of ongoing development. The company is in the midst of a large-scale promotion of its AI-powered technology. It recently sent out a message to the public announcing the testing phase for Bard with an invitation to try the technology. (Source: CNBC)

Why this is important for your firm and clients: Google has also been quietly working on Bard over the past few years and was forced to launch it earlier than they planned after ChatGPT stole the show. Most business owners I speak to aren’t paying much attention to either until their underlying AI improves and becomes more accurate. But think of the possibilities when Bard is really ready for prime time for what you can ask it to do with your data from Google. I’m going to write about this in the not-too-distant future.

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