Enhancements Made to Google Maps

Google Maps is a great service that helps users navigate during their travels and more upgrades are being released all the time to augment their experiences. Some of the most recent updates have provided additional functionality that can provide users with even more ways to use Google Maps–particularly in regard to actually making it to their destination on time and in style.

Arriving On Time

The Commute tab in Google Maps can show the user information about their preferred route, and it can even update itself if any disruptions occur during the travel time. Google Maps can then show other routes free of disruptions that might be helpful for the user. All these features combine to give the user the best experience possible when trying to stay true to a timetable.

Assuming you have two possible routes to your destination–one going through an urban area and another going around the outside–Google Maps could suggest which option is the most efficient based on data collected. If the city traffic is locked up, or if there is an accident, it can indicate which path would be better for your needs.

If public transportation is more your thing, Google has included an occupancy for trains and buses in some regions, including updates for the routes. If you want to grab something quick to eat before getting on the train, Google Maps can tell you if there is enough time to do so.

Music Makes a Commute Better

Google Maps also has built-in support for popular music services like Spotify, Google Play Music, and Apple Music. This lets users improve the quality of their commute without jumping between apps.

Tech Terms: Responsive Web Design

In an age where mobile devices are commonplace, what a website looks like on a smartphone screen is extremely important from a user’s perspective. This is called responsive web design, and this week’s tech term will provide an overview of what it is and why it’s helpful.

What is Responsive Web Design?

The primary goal of responsive web design is to make sure that a website stays functional on any kind of device or screen size. Web designers make this happen by using special elements to display the content in different ways based on the device viewing it. Basically, the website “responds” to the device and displays its content in the way that best suits that device. This means that instead of displaying information in the way it’s meant to be viewed on a computer monitor, you’ll instead see it in a much more manageable format on your mobile device. This can often mean an increased text size and a more compact design.

Responsive web design is made possible through three basic web design processes: fluid grids, responsive media, and media queries.

Fluid Grids

Fluid design grids arrange your site elements in various ways to make them appear as organized as possible. Fluid grids are a bit different from your standard design grids as they are adjusted based on the size of the screen using relative measures rather than set pixel amounts. Think about it like this; instead of assigning a value of 300 pixels to a site element, you’re making it 30% of the overall width, or something along those lines.

Responsive Media

Just like the rest of the elements on the page, media files (videos or images) will need to be able to adjust to the size of your screen. This usually requires having fixed dimensions, but since the fluid grids don’t use fixed measurements, you’ll need to assign the max-width property to 100%.

Media Queries

Media queries are basically the web design equivalent of crowdsourcing. A website collects data to determine the size of the screen it needs to adjust to. This happens thanks to Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, which are loaded according to which device is being used.

Why Responsive Web Design Is Important

You should aim to have some sort of responsive website for a variety of reasons. All of them have to do with providing your visitors with a pleasant experience. A responsive website can help you attract and retain visitors, as well as help with search engine optimization rankings. Fast-loading mobile-friendly sites help you gain visitors, as well as retain those who could turn into buyers or clients.

New Communications Solutions to Move Your Business Forward

As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to keep an eye on how your staff communicates. Email and telephone have long been staples in this regard, and these solutions come packed with features like file storage and instant messaging. With more organizations taking their businesses on the go, these businesses are trying to take advantage of applications with the ability to integrate with their real-time messaging apps. Enter: Slack and Microsoft Teams, two solutions that hope to change the way business communications work.

What is Slack?

SLACK is an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversations and Knowledge.” It takes all of the great features of enterprise email solutions and combines it with an instant messaging program for a single comprehensive interface. This type of combined solution is great for making communication much more efficient and manageable. Slack is hosted in the cloud, so it is available on any device that can access it, as well as drag-and-drop file sharing.

The bottom line is that Slack is used for collaboration amongst your employees. A user can set up a chat feed (think forums) determined by their responsibilities within your organization, complete with custom notification settings for each chat they are involved with. This gives a single worker a custom interface for each of their roles, allowing them to be productive on multiple fronts. Project management is also a major part of using Slack, as each project can have its own feed. Individual departments can be equipped to work on individual parts of each project, streamlining processes considerably.

Perhaps the biggest part of what makes Slack so effective for productivity is the countless productivity apps that Slack can work with. It can connect with Google Hangouts, Google Drive, Twitter, Asana, WordPress, Mailchimp, and so much more. Slack can give your organization the ability to work faster than you’ve ever imagined. Slack can be used for free, but an enterprise edition is also available for a small cost per user.

What About Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is a chat and collaboration platform that can help your organization streamline communications and project fulfillment. Compared to Slack, Microsoft already has a major foothold in the business productivity environment with their Microsoft Office 365 offering. Teams basically ties all of these apps together, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, Power BI, all in one easy to use interface.

Since Microsoft Office 365 is already used so much, this central hub can be a great way to change the way your organization manages itself. You can streamline access to files, take advantage of internal sites, and leverage dashboards, all controlled through Office 365. There are over 70 connectors that can help your Enterprise Office 365 offering provide value, including GitHub, Evernote, Mailchimp, and Salesforce.

Does your business need a communications management system? KiteTech can help. To learn more, reach out to us at 855-290-KITE.

 

These Four Technologies can Give Your Business a Boost

Small business owners need to find creative ways to build a strong, productive operation. The best way to create the kind of productivity required to successfully grow a business is to ensure that everything works in concert. Today, we will look at a four technologies that can go a long way toward helping any small business grow their organizational productivity.

In a study conducted by Capterra, small business owners of 699 different companies were polled to see what technologies they considered mandatory for the small business. The top four were: Data & Information Security, Website, Cloud Computing, and a Customer Relationship Management system. Let’s take a brief look at each to see just what makes them so important for the bourgeoning small business.

Data & Information Security
It’s no surprise that data and information security is at the top of this list. The use of technology will always present risk, as some people continually try to subvert secure data systems through the use of shady techniques and other plans to make off with anything of value. While the data security market covers a lot of ground, it is important to protect your organization’s data from several avenues of theft. One is directly, so you’ll want a firewall and antivirus software to ensure that threats from outside your network don’t just come and go as they please. The other is through deception. Since a lot of today’s digital security solutions are extraordinarily complex, today’s hackers need some help. They typically get it through trickery, so while comprehensive network security solutions are useful, training your staff on the best practices of network security and over-IP communications is essential.

The best way to protect your organization’s data is by implementing a feature-rich backup and recovery platform. Backing up your data and storing it offsite can be extraordinarily useful if you do end up dealing with hardware failure (or some other event that could put your data at risk). Being able to safely restore your data can ward against many potential problems.

Dynamic Website
With the advent of social media, almost every business has some type of web presence. It is important that a small business use the Internet to make headway with their sales processes and one of the best ways to do that is by creating a website that offers customers and prospects a glimpse of your authority.

Rolling out a dynamic, pithily-constructed, and uncomplicated-to-use website can be of great benefit to every small business. By giving your customers e-commerce options or other innovative features on your website, there is a better chance that they will engage with your company.

Cloud Computing
Everyone is using cloud computing, and as a result more businesses are beginning to leverage it in order to shift their expenses. The cloud’s value comes from dispersing cost. Typically when a business has to buy new hardware, it will purchase everything they need and it can cost into the six-digits to get started. With the cloud, you can disperse that cost over the length of an agreement with a cloud provider.

An additional benefit is that it offers quick setup and access to all types of computing environments. From full-scale virtual infrastructure to communication, the cloud offers a lot of options. Cloud constructs do come in private (which an organization hosts) and public (which is hosted elsewhere). Many businesses today choose to roll out hybrid options, utilizing public cloud resources for certain types of computing (such as communications), while creating a private cloud platform that hosts resources that need more security and access control.

Customer Relationship Management
Customer Relationship Management software is a management platform that bridges all aspects of a business. From the sales process to the actual operations of your company to the fulfillment and support of your products and services, it’s very beneficial to have one overreaching interface to use in order to oversee the whole process and cut out the gaps in the customer conversion process.

There are a few different forms that the CRM comes in. Some CRMs are created for certain vertical markets, while some can be used by any business. When a small business runs their operations through a CRM, not only do they benefit from the time-saving automation the software provides, they also can view and generate better ideas and make more educated decisions. The CRM can innovate and improve your business’ sales workflow.

If you are looking for ways to improve your business, look no further than Kite Technology Group. We can present you with the options that can best meet your organization’s needs. Call us today at 855-290-5483.

 

Artificial Intelligence is Going to Help You Work Smarter

Humankind has been fascinated with the concept of helpfully intelligent machines making life easier for many years. While we may still be many years away from the likes of Josie from The Jetsons or J.A.R.V.I.S. and F.R.I.D.A.Y., Iron Man’s digital super-assistants, artificial intelligence is a very real thing, with real benefits for businesses even today.

Understanding A.I. and Its Importance
As one might imagine, there is a massive amount of data in the world for machines and people alike to leverage. In the future, this will help to someday replace the human workforce with artificially intelligent, tireless machines. Nowadays, A.I. is leveraged as a means of boosting the technology that we rely on already, improving the solutions and applications that shape our world.

Those at the forefront of technology today have evangelized in support of using artificial intelligence to benefit humanity. What’s stopping them? Simple: humanity itself.

Looking at the economics of artificial intelligence in business, it only makes sense that a business would sooner turn to an automated machine than a human worker. The machine doesn’t need to take any time off, it doesn’t need a 401k and health benefits, it doesn’t even need to be paid. Therefore, despite the ill will that the public feels against businesses that replace human employees with machines, it just makes more sense from a business standpoint to minimize long-term expenses and boost profitability by replacing a staff with a server room if possible.

Studies have estimated that it is possible that, by 2033, 47 percent of jobs could be foreseeably automated – a mere 15 years from now. In 2016, another report found that nine percent of workers were superfluous, and another estimated that more than 800 of the world’s largest businesses will be substituting A.I. for anywhere between four and seven percent of their employees.

A.I. Isn’t All Doom and Gloom
Despite these grim statistics, A.I. is also already improving lives and simply making things more convenient. When did you last Google something? That was a time that you benefited from A.I., just like the last time your email’s spam folder caught something before you could click on it. Even small businesses are now able to leverage basic applications of artificial intelligence to improve their business standing. For instance:

Customer Service – Customer service is no easy job, which is why it is so easy for an employee with these kinds of responsibilities to burn out and leave you in a worse place with your customers. By relieving an employee of many of the rote tasks that customer service requires, A.I. and automation can improve customer experience and retention.
Marketing – A small business needs its marketing to be cost-efficient and highly targeted in order to be successful. A marketing platform that leverages A.I. can provide the insights to optimize the business’ marketing strategy.
Operations – Automation can also cut down on redundancies, and by integrating it with an enterprise resource planning or customer relationship management platform, your business can become even more efficient.

 

This Week’s Tech Term: Blockchain

As one of the most important emerging technologies out there at the moment, speculation about blockchain, and its growing list of practical applications, has run rampant. Soon, someone will come out with a blockchain application that makes and delivers pizzas. In all seriousness, it really holds a lot of promise for the development of interesting applications. For this week’s tech term, we look at the blockchain.

What is the Blockchain?
In the public eye, blockchain has almost exclusively been associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It’s true that blockchain technology is at the core of cryptocurrency, but it is much more. It is essentially a combination of three technologies that have been around for a while. They are:

 

Private key cryptography
Distributed network ledger
The incentivization of that network’s transactions, record keeping, and security

Since these technologies have been around for some time, pairing them together to make another, more dynamic technology seems like it would be advantageous for maintaining a ledger system that has a secure digital identity reference. Essentially, that’s what blockchain produces.

The main benefit of having a distributed network is that it provides multiple unquestionable validators for any transaction. If a transaction is in the blockchain, it absolutely happened, and, by the use of encryption, users of the blockchain know that no data could have been altered. Any attempt at altering information (in what is called a node) would create its own link in the blockchain; or invalidate the blockchain entirely. The more transactions on the network, the more verifications take place, and the more secure the transaction is.

What to Expect Out of Blockchain?
As was mentioned earlier, there are a lot of potential uses for blockchain technology. These applications will be dictated by the technology’s core features. Obviously, cryptocurrency utilizes blockchain to provide a secure transfer of monetary funds for users. As this technology advances and begins to be leveraged by multinational banking institutions (that are currently investing heavily in blockchain R&D), and nation-states, it may change the way that people around the globe view currency.

Other uses include:

Improve equity management and transfer
Failproof authentication
Provide smart contracts
Error-proof recordkeeping
Improve cybersecurity
Reduce inefficiencies in any number of industries
Eliminate election fraud

While it may not be the easiest technology to understand, the applications of it are numerous and could change the world we live in innumerable ways.