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Small Business Embracing Chatbot Technology
Posted by S2C Staff on 05 October 2017 01:02 PM

What's New in Technology

Small Business Embracing Chatbot Technology

Small Business Embracing Chatbot TechnologyIn the past, small business owners sometimes lacked the resources – both financial and human – to capitalize upon the latest productivity and customer service technologies. Fortunately, the pace of change and the proliferation of new software programs have begun to make innovative technology accessible and affordable. Chatbots – software programs that can hold a two-way conversation with people – are a prime example of accessible and affordable technology.

Why Now?

Language is a complex process and, until recently, teaching a machine how to understand different jargon, accents and all the other variables involved in speech was only partially successful. Today, programmers use different methods to teach a machine to learn a language through experience, which is why the iPhone’s Siri gets better at understanding what you want the longer you use it. As the chatbots have become smarter, consumers have become happier dealing with them. In your everyday life, it is likely that you encounter chatbots in various modes – confirming a doctor’s appointment, ordering prescription medications or conducting simple financial transactions with your bank.

The technology research group Gartner has predicted that customers will soon interact via chatbots and other AI technology for a whopping 85 percent of their dealings with various companies used for personal and business purposes.

Small Businesses Reap Benefits

As consumer acceptance has increased, many small businesses have been quick to adopt chatbot technology to provide a consistent and affordable level of quality in customer service. Even businesses that provide professional services, such as banks and financial institutions, are using technology to manage and answer simple requests, forwarding more complex inquiries to a human being. For many small businesses, putting a live chatbot tool on their website to respond to questions typed in by website visitors has proven invaluable, providing a degree of customized service that a small firm with just a few employees would find difficult to deliver.

Chatbot’s Fastest Growth

Experts suggest we should expect to see chatbots take off in a variety of business sectors – especially those where customer service is a make or break proposition.

  • Restaurants – Some national restaurant chains are already using chatbots that customers can access through their Facebook messenger (instant messaging service) account to order food for delivery. Other quick-service chains have installed bots that act like waiters – answering questions, reading the menu, making recommendations and handling payment transactions.
  • Education or training – Facebook recently developed an experimental program –modeled on Albert Einstein – to provide answers and conduct conversations with consumers. This could be the springboard for a variety of educational purposes, using historical or fictional characters to make education accessible and fun for more people.
  • Personal Assistants – Consumers are becoming more comfortable with using voice commands for a variety of purposes in their work and home life. Perhaps the best-known examples are services like Amazon Echo and Google Home. These home-based assistants are connected to an operating system and can obey commands that include reprogramming heat/cooling systems, playing music or looking online for movies playing nearby. There are many ways they can assist people who run home-based businesses – locating a delivery service, determining where the nearest Fed Ex pickup point is, or finding flight and hotel recommendations.

Chatbots may be a relatively new trend in many industries, but their efficacy in natural and sophisticated customer dialogue suggests that they will play an increasingly important role in the future.

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How to Protect Yourself from the Equifax Data Breach
Posted by S2C Staff on 18 September 2017 12:45 PM

How to Protect Yourself from the Equifax Data Breach

Equifax Data BreachThe massive Equifax breach means consumers need to be on guard against data thieves. The credit-rating company hack earlier this year left approximately 143 million people’s personal information exposed and vulnerable. Here are the steps you take to help protect yourself in the wake of this event.

1)      Determine the exposure of your information: Go to Equifax's website here and follow the instructions provided. You’ll need your Social Security number handy to complete the check and to tell if you've been impacted by the breach.

2)      Enroll for free credit monitoring: Regardless of exposure, consumers who have information under Equifax are entitled to free credit monitoring for one year, along with other monitoring and protective services. You can learn more about what is available here.

3)      Monitor your credit reports and accounts for unusual activity: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three major credit reporting companies, are required to supply you with a credit report free of charge once every 12 months. Go to and request them. Once you have the reports, monitor them to ensure there are no unauthorized accounts, incorrect personal information or credit inquiries you didn’t initiate. These are signs of fraud and you should follow up on them to ensure you weren’t the victim of identity theft.

4)      Consider implementing a credit freeze: If you see suspicious activity or are highly concerned, you can place a credit freeze to help deter an identity thief from opening new accounts in your name. Visit the consumer information section of the Federal Trade Commission website to learn more about credit freezes and how to activate one.

5)      Set up fraud alerts: Fraud alerts require potential creditors to verify your identity before they can open an account, issue a new card or increase a credit limit. Remember that fraud alerts won’t necessarily prevent identity theft, but they will make it much harder for someone with your personal information to use it.

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What's New in Technology for August 2017
Posted by S2C Staff on 03 August 2017 03:13 PM

What is Smart Luggage?

Smart SuitcasesThere are several brands of smart luggage out there. The brands you might encounter more frequently are Raden, Bluesmart and Away. Other brands include Horizn and Néit. There are some differences in features and price points, but most offer the following:

  • Apps that connect to your luggage using Bluetooth; and
  • Features that include proximity alarms to warn you if you are at a specific gate and your bag is somewhere else, distance indicators, the ability to weigh contents and the means to charge your portable electronics on the go.

Depending on how much time you spend traveling each week and how much use you would get out of the various apps, this new smart technology might appeal to you.

  • Most brands offer checked bag and carry-on sized bags. They feature TSA-approved battery packs to allow you to charge your device on the go. This might be helpful if you dash frequently from the plane to a taxi, or if crowds make finding a charging station impossible. There is a charging cable in the bag in many models – Raden offers USB ports next to the bag’s handles, which is very handy. Some products have battery packs that can be removed from the suitcase, allowing you access when your bag is stashed in the hold or baggage compartment.
  • Many offer a weight sensor, which is especially handy if you check your baggage frequently and need to know if your bag meets the airline’s weight limits. To use this feature, you calibrate it with the bag empty, pack and pick it up to have the sensor give you a weight reading.
  • Some offer a companion app for flight information (gate, departure time, weather alerts, etc.), which also includes a sensor that lets you know how far away the bag is located. The sensor might be helpful if you are waiting at a luggage carousel hoping your bag made a tight connection. Most frequent fliers have a slew of apps on portable devices that can deliver flight information, and so this particular app might be redundant for many business travelers.
  • Drawbacks include the price and potential issues with TSA. You will pay about $300 or more for a carry-on and $400 and upward for larger pieces. Although TSA has approved these bags, there is always the chance that this new type of bag may puzzle some TSA workers.


Smart luggage can offer some handy features to busy travelers. You might wish to check out the possibilities if you like exploring the latest in personal tech – and if you are willing to pay significantly more for your luggage. Also consider that if you usually travel with carry-ons only, many of the bells and whistles smart bags offer duplicate those on your smart phone or tablet. Airlines have made it easier to recharge electronics in-flight, so the battery pack features are less important than they might have been a few years ago. Also, the location finder feature is redundant if your bag is a carry-on and is stowed close at hand.

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Posted by S2C Staff on 14 July 2017 12:29 PM

Automakers & Cybersecurity Pros Collaborate to Tackle Growing Threat

Automakers & CybersecurityOver the past three or four years, Internet-connected vehicles have become the norm. Accordingly, cybercrooks have turned their attention to cars and trucks, looking for ways to gain access to vehicular navigational systems and to hack into drivers’ smart phones and iPads. Last year, recognizing the ever-increasing potential for breaches, automakers in the United States joined forces to battle the threat, tapping the expertise of some of the nation’s leading Internet security experts. Here’s an update on what these efforts have yielded.

  • Self-driving vehicles have opened up a whole new area of concern. White-hat hackers have shown – in controlled situations – how vehicles could be hijacked to harm their occupants or generate mayhem on a busy highway. These security specialists have demonstrated how vehicles – especially the new breed of semi-autonomous or driverless vehicles – might be tracked and manipulated remotely by cybercrooks. The demonstrations have shown how cybercrooks could take control of a vehicle’s headlights, navigation, speed, windshield wipers, blinkers and radio. In some instances, hackers can remotely take control of brakes and/or steering.
  • So far, no vehicle has been hacked into by a cybercriminal, but security experts and researchers have shown automakers how it could happen, and car manufacturers have taken the threat seriously. Cars with advanced connectivity – which includes prototype driverless or semi-autonomous vehicles – are potentially more vulnerable. Twenty years ago, the average car had about 1 million lines of code; today, cars can have 10 million lines of code, or about as much as a modern aircraft. Automakers have already felt the financial sting of this new cyberthreat. Major manufacturers are busy recruiting white-hat hackers to identify potential issues. For example, Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.4 million Jeep Cherokees after white-hat hackers exposed vulnerabilities in the vehicle’s IT circuitry.
  • There is strength in industrywide initiatives. Nearly all automakers based in the United States banded together last year in an industrywide effort – the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center – to develop best practices to combat potential cyberthreats, to develop secure hardware and software, and to draw up guidelines on how to respond to hacking incidents. The industry group’s membership is responsible for about 98 percent of the vehicles on U.S. roads.  
  • The challenge to strengthen cybersecurity in vehicles extends beyond car manufacturers.  The notable gig economy transport company, Uber, as well as Didi, a Chinese company like Uber, have both been on the forefront of research to develop safer software and hardware and uncover potential security issues. The possible motivations for hackers to hijack vehicles are many and go beyond compromising highway safety. Smart phones and/or other portable computers that are linked to vehicles’ dashboard technology also present a potential entry point into other data centers housing confidential business and personal data.

Savvy consumers will recognize that the vehicles we drive are now a big part of the Internet of Things, and will take measures to shore up security on any personal devices they connect to their dashboards. Automakers will need to be constantly proactive to identify vulnerabilities in computers installed in new model vehicles.

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Posted by S2C Staff on 01 May 2017 01:44 PM

What Impact Will the Repeal of Online Privacy Laws Have on You?

Online Privacy Law 2017

The recent repeal of an Obama-era law that would have required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to obtain users’ permission before sharing their personal data with marketers and other third parties has created dissent within the technology sector. Not surprisingly, major ISPs like AT&T and Comcast backed the repeal effort, arguing that the law was unfair and that they would have been subject to stricter controls than companies like Facebook and Google. Consumer advocates believe the repeal will be detrimental to online privacy.

The repealed law, which was passed in October 2016 and included new rules created by the Federal Communications Commission, had yet to go into effect, so consumers probably won’t notice much difference. ISPs have been in the practice of monitoring network traffic – which means they can see which devices you use and which websites you visit – and sharing that information with third parties such as advertisers. An overview of how this might affect you follows.

Is This Repeal a Big Deal?

Many consumer advocates involved with internet privacy issues believe this is a big deal. The new FCC rules would have created much stronger privacy protection for internet users. The law, which was passed just before President Trump’s election, would have required ISPs to get a clear go-ahead from users to share personal data – including precise location information, financial data, health information, Social Security numbers, app usage history, as well as information on the users’ children. In addition, the new legislation would have allowed users to protect less sensitive personal data such as email addresses.

Why has the New Administration Repealed It?

The new FCC chief, Ajit Pai, has said that the repeal would help level the playing field, citing that the new rules would have benefited “one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies.” He vowed to protect consumer privacy through a “consistent and comprehensive framework.” This response did little to reassure advocates of internet privacy rights. A group known as Fight for the Future issued a statement decrying Congress’ move, saying “…they care more about the wishes of the corporations that fund their campaigns than the safety and security of their constituents.” This group has launched a billboard campaign to identify the members of Congress who backed the repeal.

What Can You Do to Safeguard Your Data Online?

Some privacy advocates are recommending that consumers use a virtual private network (VPN) to hide their browsing history and data from internet service providers. A VPN can also mask your location. If you wish to explore this option, be aware that VPNs are linked to service providers, which means it is incumbent on you to find a VPN whose privacy policies match yours. There is software available that also can hide your location and identity. These solutions have their issues, too. Some broadcasters – like Netflix – block VPN users from accessing their content. Software that hides your location and identity might slow your browsing down somewhat.

Internet privacy has been a hot issue for some time. These latest moves are likely to keep the topic in the headlines in the months ahead.

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Whats New in Technology for April 2017
Posted by S2C Staff on 19 April 2017 11:53 AM

Free Up Space on Your iPhone

If you keep a lot of data on your iPhone without a periodic cleanup, you’ll reach a point when you don’t have available space for the apps you want to access most. The default settings in your phone contribute to the overload in many instances. In some situations, you can free up storage by overriding these defaults to better suit your needs. For others, you’ll need to better manage your storage capacity. Here’s how:

  1. Figure out what is eating up your storage. This way you’ll make informed decisions about what is important to you to keep and what isn’t. Open up Settings then follow General to Storage and iCloud to Storage to Manage Data. This will let you see how much space your photographs, videos, podcasts and music are using. Your apps will be ranked according to how much space they require.
  2. Delete Text Messages. By default, your iPhone stores all your text messages. If you are an avid text user, this gobbles up significant storage space. There are two easy ways to address this – either get in the habit of deleting messages manually, or change the default to delete messages every 30 days. You can do this by going into your Settings and tapping on Messages. Scroll through until Message History pops up. Here’s where you will find the option of keeping Forever, 30 Days or 1 Year. Pick whichever works best for you.
  3. Hone in on Photos. This is where most of us use lots of storage space. Try these tips:
    1. Avoid inadvertently using the Burst mode, which takes a series of super-fast shots (and often happens by accident if your finger lingers just a split second too long on the screen button) by using the volume control button to take a shot rather than the sensitive screen button.
    2. Avoid saving duplicate copies of High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos by opening Photo & Camera in Settings. Scroll to the bottom and deselect the box next to Keep Normal Photos.
    3. Turn offautomatic Photo Sharing in Photo & Camera and manually turn on this feature only when you really want to share pictures.
    4. Rely on the iCloud Photo Library to store your pictures rather than your mobile device and turn off the Photo Stream setting on your phone. Your photos will remain stored on other devices (iPad and/or computer) that are linked via iCloud.
  4. Delete iBooks you are not reading currently and consider consolidating your music collection via the cloud with iTunes Match. You might want to keep your current page-turner on your iPhone, but do you really need your entire library to be duplicated on your phone? You can selectively remove copies from your phone (Delete this copy) without deleting them from your iPad. In a similar way, iTunes Match (less than $24 a year) stores every track you have and lets you selectively download onto your iPhone only when you want to hear specific tracks. There’s no need to have your entire music collection stored on your phone at all times.
  5. Clean up your Browser. If you use Safari, your mobile phone may be storing web history you don’t need. Access Safari through Settings and click on Clear History and Website Data. To clean up Google Chrome, open the app, access History and Clear Browsing Data.

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