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Now trending: Tech business solutions

Staying ahead in the business world has always been challenging, but it’s perhaps even more so now, with the current pace of technological innovations. Here are four trends to keep your eye on — or adopt now, before your competition does.

1. Cloud accounting. Accounting, like many facets of business, has been moving to the cloud recently, with accounting applications for small and mid-market businesses such as QuickBooks Online, Wave, Xero, Sage and others. Cloud accounting has been around for a while, but the pace of adoption has been increasing recently. It grew to a $1.72 billion industry in 2014; by 2016, it’s expected to multiply to $2.16 billion, according to Statista.

Benefits: Cloud providers’ security, while not perfect, is still likely far better than traditional methods of storing and sharing information, such as email and USB sticks. Also, all parties that need access to the data have it 24/7, available wherever they are via laptop, tablet or smartphone.

2. EMV payments. Other areas of the world, including Europe, Asia, Canada and Mexico, have been using payment cards with embedded microchips for years, but the United States only began adopting the technology in earnest during the past year. EMV (which stands for Europay, MasterCard, Visa) chip cards generate a different, single-use code for every transaction, which helps protect against counterfeit fraud.

Benefits: You can protect yourself against liability for counterfeit card fraud by setting up card payment terminals to accept smart chip cards by Oct. 1, 2015. That’s the date on which Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover will no longer bear the liability for fraud unless the counterfeit transaction takes place with an EMV chip card at an EMV terminal.* The new policy assigns liability for counterfeit fraud to the party that has not made the investment in EMV chip cards (issuers) or terminals (merchants). Another plus: Countries where EMV technology has been employed have seen significant reductions in fraudulent transactions.

3. E-signature applications. Online document management applications that use e-signatures are already popular within the real estate industry. Document Cloud (formerly EchoSign), DocuSign® and others are likely to be more widely adopted this year by many other industries.

Benefits: You can prepare and send documents for signature from anywhere. And it’s easy for the recipients to sign and return the documents on any device. E-signatures speed up the sales process, accelerate approvals and provide a repository for documents that your business and customers can refer to in future years.

4. Wearable tech. From fitness trackers to smart watches, wearable computing is becoming increasingly popular among consumers. Yet business applications remain relatively unexplored. Body-mounted displays, lanyards, wired clothing and more provide a hands-free way for employees to engage in real time with each other, customers or information needed within a specific context. Research from the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, reported in Tech Times found that employees with wearable devices increased their productivity by 8.5 percent and their job satisfaction by 3.5 percent.

Benefits: Wearables can help increase productivity and reduce injuries among employees performing dangerous or repetitive tasks. For retailers, wearable can turn each employee into a sales terminal. Field service workers can use smart glasses to take photos and record video, helping to solve issues faster.

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* An exception is made for automated fuel dispensers (AFDs). The shift in liability for transactions at AFDs will occur Oct. 1, 2017.
 
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