Self-Driving BMW You Can Take Around CES

Self driving BMW Lyft—an on-demand transportation company based in San Francisco, has partnered with the global automotive parts technology company Aptiv, to take people around Las Vegas in a self-driving BMW 5 Series during CES 2018. The rides will be completely driverless and the cars will travel to twenty preprogrammed destinations. Here is more on it!

Though Aptiv—formerly known as Delphi, has previously given rides in its self-driving cars, the CES 2018 will be the first time the rides aren’t contained in one specific drive loop. During CES 2018, the rides in the driverless cars will be to twenty different destinations in Las Vegas. People visiting the CES 2018 will be able to request for a ride in one of the self-driving BMW 5 Series cars from the Las Vegas Convention Center to the twenty preprogrammed destinations using the Lyft app.

To avail the ride, you will have to go through an exhibit that talks about the benefits of self-driving cars. However, this is a small price to pay for a ride that you may get to experience only once in your lifetime. While self-driving cars have been on exhibit at the event for a few years now, CES 2018 is the first time ever that attendees will be offered rides in these cars.

A Once in a Lifetime Experience

How many times have you been driven around town by a driverless car? Unless you’re employed by a company that manufactures driverless cars, the answer is likely to be zero. However, CES 2018 offers people an opportunity to avail the once in a lifetime experience of riding in a self-driving car. Aptiv and Lyft has joined hands to offer rides around Las Vegas in driverless cars during CES 2018.

Though they the rides will be self-driven, there will be a safety driver behind the wheel in case the car is faced with a situation it does not have the ability to handle. Additionally, the cars have been preprogrammed to travel to only twenty destinations around Vegas. Nonetheless, this is a significant new development as generally companies at CES exhibit their self-driving cars in closed parking lots and completely control the experience in them.

Aptiv and Lyft have taken a big risk by offering people attending CES 2018 rides in their driverless cars. However, it is also a bold step that could completely change how people travel in the future. During the CES 2018 held between January 9 and 12, passengers for the rides will be picked up from the Gold Lot at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

A fleet of 8 BMW 5 Series sedans equipped with Aptiv’s automated driving technology will conduct the rides. Passengers will need to attend a brief lecture about the benefits of automated driving before they’re allowed to ride in a driverless BMW 5 series. In addition to a driver behind the wheel, the BMWs will have a ‘car-host’ who will explain the car’s functions to the passengers. Aptiv believes that the above initiative taken by the company will exhibit how automated cars can benefit the lives of individuals and communities.

Things You Will Notice in the Self-driving BMW 5 Series Cars

If you attend the CES 2018 and catch of glimpse of the driverless BMW on display by Aptiv, the first thing that you will probably notice is that the car does not have any bulky cameras or LiDAR sensors. A car free of all that, Aptiv’s self-driving BMW is mysteriously smooth. Additionally, Aptiv claims that the car has more tech than what catches the eye. Better yet, the company believes the system could be scaled for production by 2019.

For over three years, Aptiv has been demonstrating its self-driving cars at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). In 2016, the company partnered with Mobileye—a vision technology company founded in Israel and recently acquired by Intel, to exhibit its latest autonomous capabilities on a course that stretches over six miles and goes through the heart of Las Vegas. The drive included testing maneuvers such as a tunnel, congested streets with cyclists and pedestrians and highway merges.

The years the company has spent mapping Las Vegas’ intersections and streets and gathering data related to the infamous traffic congestion of the city is the reason why Aptiv, and not the other companies enabling self-driving cars, have been chosen by Lyft for the demonstration at CES 2018. Recently, the company has equipping a range of vehicles with lots of sensors and its software stack.

Aptiv’s engineering and program management VP James Ziselman has revealed that the driverless vehicles enabled by the company are equipped with twenty-one sensors including ten radars, nine lidar, and two front cameras—with one camera built for traffic recognition and other being a tri-focal i.e. a camera with three different focal points.

Since there are times when one sensor says something and the other doesn’t, all the incoming data is fused. To enable decision-making, the data passes through an algorithm and some artificial intelligence.

Self-Driving Shuttles Will Also Feature in Vegas During CES

The self-driving BMW cars by Aptiv and Lyft won’t be the only vehicles you see on the roads of Vegas during CES 2018. The city’s roads will also play host to self-driving shuttles jointly operated by Navya—a French tech company, and Kelios—a transit firm based in Boston. While they may not roam the streets of Vegas during CES, several other autonomous vehicles will be on display at the consumer electronics show this year.

It is not every day that you get to ride in a self-driving car. For this reason, riding in one of driverless BMW’s at CES 2018 is an opportunity that you just cannot afford to miss.

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Percento is a Professional IT Consulting, Implementation and Management firm.  To find out how we can help your organization, please contact one of our friendly sales representatives for a review of your system and a comprehensive (No Obligation) proposal of services. Call today toll-free at 800.614-7886 [Austin | Houston | The Woodlands | Dallas | San Antonio] or email us at sales@percentotech.com.

3 Internet of Things Companies to watch in 2018

internet of things 2018It is hard not to get excited about Internet of Things (IoT). A broad category, IoT covers nearly every company—tech or otherwise. For those who aren’t versed with the concept, Internet of Things refers to the ever-growing world of interconnected household and internet devices. Over the past few years, many companies have invested heavily in Internet of Things to come up with praiseworthy innovations. More of the same is expected in 2018 with the following three IoT companies being touted as the ones to watch out for!

Today, the internet of things (IoT) is much more than just a buzzword. Now, you can find the application of IoT in many homes, businesses and even factories all over the world. IoT is already making big waves in countries such as the U.S and the United Kingdom and it is expected that in 2018, many other countries will enter the fold. Considering that Internet of Things is increasing in popularity each day, it should not come as a surprise that many companies—including some established names, are investing heavily in IoT.

Leading the Vision of an Ever-Connected Physical World

Evolving and expanding each day, the internet of things (IoT) is becoming more and more beneficial for connecting our devices, appliances, homes and vehicles to each other. As they have taken responsibility of developing and promoting IoT upon themselves, some IoT companies are instantly recognizable today. However, many other companies are waiting in the wings to show the world exactly how they can benefit the internet of things.

Today, Internet of things is no longer a CES hype; rather, it is a reality embraced by companies and people all over the world. People are now accustomed to wearing Apple watches and Fitbits and pressing their Amazon Dash button when needing to replenish an item for daily/weekly use. Additionally, IoT devices such as Smart refrigerators have enabled people to take inventory and re-stock edibles without opening the door of their fridge. Other household items enabled by IoT can also perform similar function.

As mentioned earlier, many IoT companies are waiting in the wings to contribute to the internet of Things and help it involve. Following are the top three internet of things companies to watch out for in 2018.

General Electric

One of the largest and most well-known companies in America, General Electric or GE has embraced IoT wholeheartedly to stay relevant and reinvent itself. To have a team focusing specifically on IoT and its aspects, GE created a parallel organization known as General Electric Digital in 2015. Additionally, General Electric was one of the companies that founded the Industrial Internet Consortium in 2014—a group working to bring internet of things to the factory floor. But, these aren’t the only contributions made by GE to IoT. Predix—a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering of GE Digital, integrates traditional and cloud databases with machine-generated data. The purpose of the Predix software is to scrutinize the big data stores generated by IoT using the latest neutral network technologies to help companies search for chunks of insight.

To make them smarter and more 21st century like, General electric has reshaped many of its offerings to enable them to generate data flows that are as valuable as the product as the offerings themselves. IoT products already offered by GE include Grid IQ solutions for utility companies and products for airline fuel optimization and hospital operations management.

The company is now aiming to be a major supplier for industrial IoT. Also, GE has joined hands with Accenture to create Taleris—a intelligent system for diagnosing and predicting beforehand aircraft maintenance issues to ensure vehicles work optimally and are fit for purpose. In addition to General Electric, some other established names are also investing in IoT and one of them is Schneider Electric.

Schneider Electric

Just like General Electric, Schneider Electric has made internet of things a priority. The company is currently working to reshape its business and products to enable them for IoT. A well-established and known multinational corporation headquartered in France, Schneider is embracing internet of things to not energize to only its own business, but also that of its customers.

Two years ago, the company announced an IoT cloud service that would link its offerings across its portfolio of products—including switches, breakers and distribution items. More IoT innovations by Schneider Electric are expected this year so you would do well to closely follow the company during 2018.

Rolls Royce

Another established company that is spending money on IoT innovations is Rolls Royce—the British manufacturer of luxury cars. While not strictly an IoT company, Rolls Royce is leading the way when it comes to innovations in the internet of things.

To track performance and identify any problems before they actually materialize, Rolls Royce equips its jet engines with sensors enabled by IoT. Additionally, the company diagnosis these problems and reports them back to airlines by using the Cortana intelligence suite and the Azure IoT suite of Microsoft.

By using the Stream Analytics and Power BI of Azure, Rolls Royce is able to extract sensor data from its engines and connect it with information from air traffic control such as weather, route data and the aircraft’s fuel usage. This allows the company to get an overall picture of its engines’ health. By enabling innovations in IoT, the company is aiming to make airlines more efficient and streamline, which in turn will help them to make better decision regarding route choice and aircraft options.

In addition to the three companies mentioned above, there are many other IoT companies to watch out for in 2018. If you’re interested in finding out about them, then stay tuned for more!

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Percento is a Professional IT Consulting, Implementation and Management firm.  To find out how we can help your organization, please contact one of our friendly sales representatives for a review of your system and a comprehensive (No Obligation) proposal of services. Call today toll-free at 800.614-7886 [Austin | Houston | The Woodlands | Dallas | San Antonio] or email us at sales@percentotech.com.

5 Business Technology Trends to Look For in 2018

Technology has completely changed how businesses operate –helping them to mprove their operations and become more accessible to employees and customers. For this reason, staying on top of technology trends is crucial for any business to gain an advantage over competitors. To make things easy for you, here are the 5 business technology trends to look for in 2018!

With the holiday period over, it’s time for entrepreneurs and business owners to focus on what’s most important to them—the health of their business. The year has just started and businesses have a lot to look forward including new trends in technology. Whether you’re an established company or a startup, it is crucial for you to stay in top of the technology trends. Regardless of the market you serve or the industry you belong to, these trends will have an impact on your business.

Gartner—the American tech research and advisory firm, predicts that 2018 will be the year of intelligent systems. According to the company headquartered in Connecticut, intelligence will impact virtually every aspect of the business during the year. And, this is expected to be the key business technology trend to watch in 2018.  It is predicted that intelligent systems will cause a shift in existing business operations—paving the way for new models to take center stage. So, what are the top business technology trends that you can expect to see in 2018? Let’s find out.

Intelligent Apps and Analytics

It is predicted that in 2018, Artificial intelligence (AI) will be used by virtually every technology to enable autonomous, self-guiding processes or intelligent actions. And, as a result, incorporating Ai into their services, apps and platforms will be required by most businesses to gain a competitive edge. An example of this is CRM systems, which are now enabled with intelligent systems to get data on product lines, existing customer accounts, customer prospects, etc.

Contrary to popular belief, AI will not supplant human effort in 2018 instead it will supplement it. AI systems are there to assist human being not replace them so keep this in mind when making business decisions.

Digital Twins

Digital representations of real-life objects, digital twins are a major business technology trend to look for in 2018. These digital representations can help businesses to improve their operations and make them more efficient. For example, by equipping wind turbines with IoT sensors, you can monitor their physical existence for performance, maintenance issues and environmental data. While only a handful of businesses are using digital twins in their operations today, it is predicted that millions of businesses around the world will be using this business technology in the near future.

Intelligent Devices

Another business technology trend that will take center stage in 2018 is the use of intelligent devices by businesses. While this isn’t possible today, physical devices such as robots, drones, sensors and autonomous vehicles will collaborate with humans in the future to drive AI capabilities. Some technology experts believe that this will have a huge impact on businesses. In addition to informing production systems about the state of machines, AI technology in 2018 will be able to inform them about the state of people, which can be significantly benefit emergency health care services and other businesses in the healthcare sector.

Conversational Systems

Designed to answer basic queries related to location and weather, conversational system can be used to complete other more complex tasks such as buying tickets for a movie online. In the past, these systems required human involvement to accommodate machines. However, today there are more people-literate and can interact on a human level. Going into the future, this can be a major benefit for many businesses.

Blockchain

Today, all eyes are on blockchain due to the recent surge in the value of Bitcoin—a cryptocurrency enabled by the technology. While it is the technology enabling cryptocurrencies, Blockchain is not all about them. It has potential application in other areas as well including business operations. Businesses can resolve some the most pressing issues they face today such as keeping track of the supply chain and enabling a way to enforce smart contracts by using the innovative solutions provided by the blockchain technology.

It is crucial for businesses to be aware of the development in the blockchain applications, and closely follow the possibility of accepting cryptocurrency payments. A transactional exchange, blockchain enables the exchange of value without the involvement of an intermediary such as a bank. A shared, secured, distributed ledger, blockchain has the potential to make transactions more secure and less plagued with fraud and friction. Things other than cryptocurrencies that blockchain can be enable for include supply, healthcare, and distribution of content. While blockchain can enable many benefits for business, there is a danger—the technology is largely unregulated and in its infancy.

Augmented Reality

One of the goals of augmented reality (AR) is to bring the digital realm into real life. This provides customers with a great opportunity to interact with brands. While it may take some time for this technology trend to take center stage, you would do well to keep an eye on it in 2018. Also, think about how you can use this technology in your own marketing to provide potential customers with an enjoyable and unique experience not offered by any of your competitors.

There you have it—5 business technology trends to look for in 2018. In addition to these business technology trends, you should keep an eye on other technology trends relevant to your business or industry. You can find out about the 2018 business technology trends relevant to your business or industry by searching the internet or getting in touch with us today!

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Percento is a Professional IT Consulting, Implementation and Management firm.  To find out how we can help your organization, please contact one of our friendly sales representatives for a review of your system and a comprehensive (No Obligation) proposal of services. Call today toll-free at 800.614-7886 [Austin | Houston | The Woodlands | Dallas | San Antonio] or email us at sales@percentotech.com.

How Businesses Are Using Drones

You’re probably aware of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)—the drones used by the military. But, did you know that drones are now being used by businesses in operations and for marketing purposes? The drone technology has now been commercialized and here’s how businesses are making use of it!

No one can deny and forget the contributions of the military to the drone technology. They are the ones that provided the world with the drone technology—technology facilitating innovations in unique ways and this has attracted the attention of businesses. Many businesses today are using and benefiting from the drones and drone technology.

Drone are commonplace today and you will find them literally everywhere. One of the most sought-after Christmas gifts in recent times, drones have rapidly increased in use in businesses over the past couple of years.  However, the increased popularity of drones has given rise to the concerns regarding the use and regulations of the technology. But, this is understandable given that we’ve had drones used by sports networks crash into spectator stands, drones that have flown into restricted areas and drones that have intruded the privacy of celebrities by trying to capture them in their homes.

While there are some security and safety concerns related to the use of drones, the technology is expected to unlock many opportunities in the future. In fact, it is predicted to generate over 100,000 jobs across various industries by 2050 in Europe alone. Considering the massive interest in drone technology today, now is the best time to look at some of the ways drones are being used in business. So, without any further ado, here are five ways businesses are using drones today.

Photography

Photography is probably the most common commercial application of drones. The industry that has most warmed up to the idea of using drones for photography is the film industry, which comes as no surprise. For them, the technology is an upgrade to the traditional methods of photography.  It’s not just that the film industry has benefited from the drone technology; it is also the other around. The industry has played a key role in increasing the popularity of drones, enabling the authorities to experience the simple use of drones. For professional photographers and journalists, a drone that can be used to capture images is a game-changer.

Inspections

For several types of inspections, drones are a useful technology to have. For instance, drones can be used by oil companies to perform inspection in remote destinations. Additionally, thanks to drone technology, wind heavy engineers no longer require brining in heavy lifting equipment or putting people at risk of injury to inspect wind turbines and turbine props. Compared to the job performed by a human, a drone can do a better work of capturing HD video of every crack, support, crevice and joint on a bridge simply because the drone is not hindered by any safety restrictions and most environmental variables.

Enhancing Security

Since the day the technology was introduced, security has been a common application of drones. Today, many U.S. states have proposed bills to legalize the use of drones by police. The device is able to stay inactive until the activation of a sensor if the drone is customized with sensors. Since you can program a drone to alert an owner and capture footage of a trespass after activation, the technology is extremely useful in enhancing the security of your business. There are practical uses of this application in the commercial sector.

While drones for enhancing security have not been built specifically for businesses, the potential benefit of this technology for businesses has increased its demand for commercial use.  This technology is also benefiting private security firms as drones allow them to improve their work efficiency. In security, high-quality surveillance is an important function, a function enabled by the mobility of drones.

Real Estate

For real estate agents or investors, major factors affecting the business income include the site location and view. Generally, clients are looking for a strategically located property with a serene environment. For buyers, the real estate aesthetics is a major factor determining their decision regarding a property. For this reason, a good way to win over buyers is a tour of the property performed through live footage.

You can increase the quality of services you provide to your clients with remote property surveys. Thanks to the drone technology, relators can now create awe-inspiring video tours of their properties. Additionally, drones allow you to capture areas that are difficult to reach on foot as well as capture video footage of large properties. In addition to the realtors, companies that perform home inspections can also benefit from this technology. By using drone to inspect properties, home inspection services can save time, energy and money.

Construction

Closely related to the application of the technology in real estate, drone application in construction is a convenient way to survey dangerous or inaccessible construction sites. Drones help construction businesses achieve this by enabling quick and inexpensive walkthroughs through a project from remote locations. With drones, construction businesses can easily scan the quality of the work, or view the specifics, such as roofing or chimney from the ground. Since it allows more durable structures to be built, the drone technology is critical for driving the construction industry and adding value to it.

There you have it—five ways drones are being used in business today. However, this is not an exhaustive list and there are many other applications of the drone technology in business. if you’re interested in finding out about the other ways businesses are using drones, then get in touch with us today!

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Percento is a Professional IT Consulting, Implementation and Management firm.  To find out how we can help your organization, please contact one of our friendly sales representatives for a review of your system and a comprehensive (No Obligation) proposal of services. Call today toll-free at 800.614-7886 [Austin | Houston | The Woodlands | Dallas | San Antonio] or email us at sales@percentotech.com.

Impending Bubble or Surefire Bet: How to Explain the Soaring Price of Bitcoin

Bitcoin InvestingWhen a whitepaper drawing out the framework for a radical, new decentralized virtual currency, began making its way around obscure cryptography newsletters in 2008, few but the most hardcore tech nerds gave the idea any credence. Yet, in just under a decade this once unheralded innovation has gone from a price of $0.30 per coin, to almost $20,000 a token.

With the current market for Bitcoin coming in at over $300 billion dollars, everyone from media outlets, to financial conglomerates, to government regulators across the world, seems to be sitting up and taking notice.

But how did a currency that was once known solely as the preferred method of payment for illicit deals on the internet’s black markets become the mainstream juggernaut it is today?

Embracing the Establishment

Admittedly the profile of the average Bitcoin investor has changed somewhat over the past couple of years. Where once, free market extremists and hackers drove cryptocurrency prices, today a score of major Wall Street players are pouring their money into Bitcoin. In fact, many of these well-established institutional investors have set up hedge funds specifically for the purpose of capitalizing on the rapidly appreciating virtual currency.

Respected financial leaders including: Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfien, and IMF head Christine Lagarde, have only added fuel to the fire, by expressing their interest in the possibilities offered by the easily accessible exchange system.

As stock exchanges open their doors to trading on Bitcoin futures, the currency now finds itself under the regulatory purview of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. And the CFTC has been quick to make its presence felt. Under new proposed guidelines issued by the agency, any contract which fails to result in a handover of virtual currency within 28 days will result in the transaction being treated as a futures contract; with all the strict oversight that entails.

The increased scrutiny on risky transactions is expected to reduce some of the characteristic volatility of Bitcoin, as safer, more liquid investment begins to enter the market.

Greater Usage

Not only is Bitcoin being traded more often on a daily basis, an increasing number of consumers are beginning to use the currency for transactional purposes. In just the past couple of years the number of transactions made using Bitcoin has grown from 50,000 to 140,000 per day; with the average daily value of these exchanges pegged at around $1.5 billion in late October.

Today, major online retailers such as Overstock, Expedia and Newegg accept Bitcoin payment for their goods and services. With Japan authorizing Bitcoin as an official payment method in early 2017, an estimated 260,000 brick and mortar stores across the country have responded, by adapting their checkout options to include Bitcoin payment through mobile applications. As countries like Russia and India look to follow suit, it seems clear that widespread acceptance in other industries across the world is soon to follow. Indeed just this past Friday two luxury homes in the UK were sold using Bitcoin as the method of payment.

A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Many industry insiders blame Bitcoin’s surging popularity on simple human emotion. With Bitcoin rising almost 5000% since early January, many investors are driven to buy through the fear of missing out on the surging currency now, while there’s still a chance for even greater appreciation. This is despite the fact that selling Bitcoin at market value is a far more difficult proposition, than buying it, at this point in time.

For many Bitcoin adopters, investment in the currency is a signal of confidence in the future of the blockchain. These cryptocurrency enthusiasts are buying Bitcoin for the future promise it holds as a store of value, than as an investment to sell or hold.  In a world where many Bitcoin fanatics expect the currency to surpass a million dollars per coin in just a few years, that doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched idea anymore.

Move to the Lightning Network

One of the biggest stumbling blocks facing Bitcoin currently is the speed and price of transactions on the main blockchain.

Currently, the network only allows 1MB of data to be allocated to each block of a Bitcoin transaction. This means that there’s a very limited amount capacity available for each new transaction; and the capacity that is available will go towards the highest bidder. So the average consumer could find themselves paying $9-$12 for a simple transaction that takes up to 10 minutes to go through. For a currency that prides itself on being accessible and responsive, those sorts of issues don’t exactly engender customer goodwill.

Lightning builds upon the decentralization of Bitcoin, by adding smart contract functionality to the blockchain. By moving Bitcoin transactions to this new protocol, it would become possible to make payments to other network participants in milliseconds. The increased capacity of the network would also allow billions of transactions to take place at the same time, without any slowdown in speed.

Moving to Bitcoin transactions to the Lightning network would drastically reduce the cost of each transaction, and greatly ease the amount of congestion on the main block chain as well. All in all, this innovation could see Bitcoin truly become a viable method of payment for the everyday sale and purchase of goods.

With beta testing on Lightning finishing recently, industry insiders have drawn a strong correlation between this new protocol and the sudden surge in Bitcoin demand.

A Note for Concern

Even as institutional investors and private buyers alike continue to clamor for Bitcoin, many banks and trading groups are urging a more cautious approach. Sudden swings in value are very common with the cryptocurrency. In April 2013, Bitcoin rose as high as $223 only to fall back down to $63 almost overnight. In November of that same year prices skyrocketed to $1150 only to crash to $500 by December.  It’s this sort of volatility that gives many investors pause for thought when it comes to Bitcoin investments.

Many of these parties are also concerned by the ease with which derivative trading on Bitcoin was okayed by the CFTC. While the currency is certainly riding high currently, shrewd market participants may be getting ready to short the stock in anticipation of a sudden price drop. With no fundamental value underlying Bitcoin, this sort of manipulation could see the pricing bubble collapse, suddenly and spectacularly as investors move to abandon ship.

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Percento is a Professional IT Consulting, Implementation and Management firm.  To find out how we can help your organization, please contact one of our friendly sales representatives for a review of your system and a comprehensive (No Obligation) proposal of services. Call today toll-free at 800.614-7886 [Austin | Houston | The Woodlands | Dallas | San Antonio] or email us at sales@percentotech.com.

5 Great Corporate Christmas Gifts

Corporate Christmas Gifts Want to show your employees, the executives at your company or your clients how much you value them? If yes, the one of the best ways to do that is giving them corporate gifts this Christmas. They will surely appreciate this gesture from you. Unique corporate gifts are a great way to delight your employees, executives and/or clients and show them how much they’re valued. Here are 5 corporate gifts to give your valued employees or clients this Christmas!

A cost-effective way to strengthen your relationship with your employees and your clients, corporate gifts are something you should think about this Christmas. Not only will this help you to build profitable and lasting relationships, it will also help you get tax relief as IRS allows a tax deduction of $25 for every business gift given to a person by a business. Corporate Christmas gifts are a valuable investment for your business as they help increase your business sales and customer loyalty. Before we reveal the top 5 corporate gifts to give this Christmas, here are some tips to create a strategy for giving gifts to your employees and/or clients.

Use a Calendar to Kick Things Off

To identify appropriate opportunities for giving Christmas gifts, have a look at your upcoming work schedule calendar. The Christmas day is an obvious choice here. However, you may want to look at the company calendar and find a suitable time before Christmas day to give gifts to employees or clients as this will make them feel motivated to work or buy in the days leading to Christmas.

Take Advice from Management

To encourage employee motivation and increase productivity and retention, consider taking advice from the management regarding the gifts to give employees or clients. Ask management about this at the conclusion of a weekly meeting held before Christmas. This will not only encourage the management to work harder for your company, but will also provide you with valuable advice regarding the corporate Christmas gifts.

Evaluate Your Relationship with Clients

If you want to benefit your bottom line, then strengthen your relationships with your clients. You will be able to stay at the forefront of the business decisions of your clients—helping improve their sentiment for your company, if you give them corporate gifts and there is no better time to do that than Christmas. When you evaluate your relationship with your clients, don’t just think about the gifts to give them on Christmas, think about how often you should be gifting them as well. This is important for strengthening your relationships with the client and growing your business.

Set a Feasible Budget for Gifts

While gifting your clients and employees on Christmas is important, don’t overburden your finances by giving corporate gifts that you cannot afford. As you probably know that retaining an existing employee makes much more financial sense than recruiting a new hire when you consider the cost of recruitment, on-boarding and job training. You can use this same theory to create a budget for corporate gifts to give your clients and employees this Christmas.

By doing the above, you can ensure increased employee/customer loyalty while keeping your business finances in check. A good thing to do here would be allocating the budget for gifts based on how valuable the customers and employees are to you.  Buy the most expensive gifts for the most valued customers/employees and then repeat the cycle until you’ve covered the least valued employee/client. This way you will gift all your employees/clients this Christmas without burning your business finances.

Consider the Response You Got Last Christmas

Before you give your employees and client gifts this Christmas, consider the response you received for the same last Christmas. By doing this, you will get a good idea of the gifts to give each employee/client this Christmas, which in turn will help you to satisfy your clients/employees, retain them, increase loyalty and grow your company. Also, this will allow you to determine the excitement corporate gifts generate on Christmas.

Now that we’ve covered the ways to create a strategy for giving gifts to your employees and/or clients, let’s look at the 5 great corporate Christmas gifts.

A Statement Pouch

This is a gift that the ladies will love. Though it is small in size, the pouch has hold all the essentials such as chargers, makeup and receipts. If you want to delight your female employees or clients, then consider giving them this corporate gift.

A Calming Candle

This is a gift that your employees or clients can light up at their home or their workplace. A candle to relax to mind and unwind, a calming candle has a scent that can make life a bliss for days.

Business Card Stands

This isn’t the most expensive gift in the world but is definitely useful. A business card stand is something your employees and clients can use to store/hold their business cards. Also, if the business card stand you give as a gift has an attractive design, then it can be a chic way of displaying business cards.

A Discreet Desk Humidifier

Anyone who has ever worked in an office will validate the fact that it can get hot and humid around the work desk. The good news is that a discreet desk humidifier can help relieve this problem. A discreet desk humidifier ensures that the office’s central heating does not affect the temperature around a person’s work desk.

Sophisticated Infuser Mug

A mug pleasing on the eyes, the sophisticated infuser mug ensures that coffee addicts never miss never miss their daily mid-morning dose of caffeine. This is a great corporate gift to give anyone this Christmas.

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Percento is a Professional IT Consulting, Implementation and Management firm.  To find out how we can help your organization, please contact one of our friendly sales representatives for a review of your system and a comprehensive (No Obligation) proposal of services. Call today toll-free at 800.614-7886 [Austin | Houston | The Woodlands | Dallas | San Antonio] or email us at sales@percentotech.com.

Bitcoin Over $10000 – What Is Bitcoin?

What is bitcoin? How do I get it? What is it good for? If you’ve been asking yourself or a friend these questions lately then you’re not alone. The recent rise in valuation of this cryptocurrency to $10000 has many people asking the very same questions as you. Luckily for you, we have all the answers to your questions!

In the past year or so, Bitcoin has moved in only one direction and that is upwards. Recently, the cryptocurrency reached the $10,000 mark—making it one of the most valuable investments around. Now, if you’ve only recently heard about Bitcoin or only after its rise to $10,000 in valuation, then you may not know a whole lot about it. In fact, your knowledge of Bitcoin may be close to zilch. The good news is that we are going to reveal everything there is to know this cryptocurrency so that you can make an informed decision regarding Bitcoin investment. The first lesson will be on cryptocurrencies.

What is Bitcoin?What is Cryptocurrency

As you probably know by now, Bitcoin is a Cryptocurrency. But, what is a cryptocurrency? A virtual currency, cryptocurrency is created and used by private individuals or groups as a digital exchange means. A cryptocurrency is often referred to as an alternative currency because it isn’t regulated by governments. Thus, this currency exists outside the bounds of state monetary policy and isn’t affected by it. While Bitcoin is the most prominent and most widely used cryptocurrency, it is not the only one around. There are many other cryptocurrencies. But, our focus will be solely on Bitcoin because that is the cryptocurrency you’re interested in.

All About Bitcoin— What It Is, Its History, and Why You Should Invest in It

Setting a new record, Bitcoin reached the $10,000 mark recently. However, things weren’t always as rosy as this for the cryptocurrency. In 2011, Bitcoin was worth $1 and had only a handful of users. Today, its user-base is over thirteen million. So, how did the journey of Bitcoin start and what is it exactly? Let’s take a look.

Understanding Bitcoin

Used to instantly transfer value to anywhere in the word, Bitcoin is a digital currency that is not issued or controlled by any government or bank. An improvement on existing payment methods, Bitcoin is an open network managed by users. Now, there are two different things that the term ‘Bitcoin’ refers to. The first is a payment network: Capital-B Bitcoin, which is somewhat like the MasterCard payment network. The other thing that the term Bitcoin refers to is the Bitcoin network currency—much like the dollars used by MasterCard in the U.S.

The unique thing about Bitcoin and what makes it different from MasterCard, PayPal, and other payment networks is that it is the world’s first completely decentralized payment network. While Master Inc operates the Mastercard network, there is no one in charge of the Bitcoin network. Instead, it’s a P2P network maintaining the blockchain—a shared transaction ledger.

History of Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s worth was close to zero when it was first introduced in 2009. The first transaction using this cryptocurrency occurred in May 2010 when two pizzas were bought by a Bitcoin user from another user with a payment of 10,000 bitcoins. That’s how much Bitcoin was worth then! However, not long after, the Cryptocurrency stated to grow—reaching $1 in valuation in April 2011. This was just the start of Bitcoin’s rise to the pinnacle.

After getting a bit of media coverage, Bitcoin started to increase in value. By June 2011, the virtual currency’s value had risen to $30 but this inflation in value was short-lived as the cryptocurrency’s value crashed to $2 just before the end of the year. The same was seen in 2012 and 2013—with Bitcoin increasing in value to $250 by May 2013, and then crashing by 80% before the end of the year. However, since 2015, the cryptocurrency has continued to grow—reaching $10,000 recently.

What seemed impossible a decade ago is a reality today. Bitcoin—an unregulated, decentralized currency not backed by a commodity or government, has become more valuable than many traditional investments. And, this trend is expected to continue as more and more people are getting aware of this virtual currency and its astronomical increase in value over the years.

Why You Should Invest in Bitcoin

There are countless reasons to invest in bitcoins. However, we are going to talk about only three top- most ones. The first reasons to invest in Bitcoin is that it is regulated by the government or created by a central bank. This means that when you invest in this cryptocurrency, you won’t have to worry about a government or bank tracking your money and subjecting you to taxation, money control and other policy practices.

Another reason to invest in this cryptocurrency is its ability to bypass banks. Transferred via a P2P network, bitcoin transactions do not involve any middleman bank. So, the entire Bitcoin amount without any deduction is transferred to the intended party. Also, banks and law enforcement agencies cannot seize or freeze Bitcoin wallets and they cannot set a spending or withdrawal limit on them. The third reason to invest in Bitcoin is storing and spending your personal wealth in unique ways. Bitcoins put the control of personal wealth into your hands. Unlike paper money or other digital currency that have no intrinsic value, Bitcoins have actual value in themselves.

There you have—all about Bitcoin: what it is, its history and why you should invest in it. Now that you have all the information you need about Bitcoin, you can make an informed decision about whether you should invest in it.

We (Percento) accepts Bitcoin as a form of payment for our clients, along with Apple Pay and other common forms of transfers:  percentotech.com/pay-invoice – its all about the Technology and how we can do business the way our clients prefer to do business.  If you want to setup a way to accept Bitcoin for your company or have payment gateways on your website for your clients…

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Percento is a Professional IT Consulting, Implementation and Management firm.  To find out how we can help your organization, please contact one of our friendly sales representatives for a review of your system and a comprehensive (No Obligation) proposal of services. Call today toll-free at 800.614-7886 [Austin | Houston | The Woodlands | Dallas | San Antonio] or email us at sales@percentotech.com.

Can Banks Stop the Digital Technology Surge?

Digital Technology Noticed that more and more online businesses today have started to accept Bitcoin as payment? If you have, then you would be aware of the fact the digital technology surge—including the rise of Bitcoin as a payment method, poses a real threat to traditional banks. What is the threat posed by technology to the banks and can they stop the digital technology surge? Let’s find out!

Technology has led to unprecedented change—with the internet and smart phones revolutionizing the banking landscape. As a result, banks are in a conundrum today and soon, the entire baking value chain will be impacted. Technology has diminished the barriers to market entry—making competition tough for banks that would previously have no problems fending off competitions while dealing with regulation at the same time. The marketplace has changed considerably over the past decade or so and the banks are ill-equipped to deal with these changes.

Why Banks Resist Digital Transformation

While they acknowledge the need for it and have even exhibited a keen understanding of the digital landscape, banks are yet to embrace digital transformation wholeheartedly. There are 101 reasons for the banking industry’s hesitation to move towards digital transformation.  Often exacerbated by past mergers & acquisitions activity and a subsequent failure to assimilate, several complex intertwined processes have grown naturally within the back office. At the same time, acting as an inhibitor of business change and agility, the existing technology is a massive cost burden.

The above has led to a situation where an average of over 70% of all IT budget of banks goes towards keeping the existing systems ‘operational’—leaving little behind for the digital transformation of the banking operations.

The Need for Change

Banks have been resistant to digital transformation till now but this will have to change soon and there’s good reason for it. Today, a variety of tech-savvy rivals are posing unprecedented competitive threats to banks—including established banking brands. While the industry has managed to fend off such threats in the past, it won’t be able to do that anymore. Many of the protections that banks had in the past are no longer valid.

Today, a variety of online and mobile channels can be used for facilitating customer acquisition, servicing and retention. Additionally, recent scandals and failures have tarnished the reputation of the banking industry somewhat. No longer do customers trust banks blindly or like they did in the past. The problem for the banks is further exacerbated by technology giants such as Google and Apple that offers financial services to people. Today, Apple, Google and other-technology based companies have access to the customers of traditional banks thanks to the payment innovations brought forth by non-banks that enhance the customer experience.

With the growth of cashless payments via smart phones and computers, banks can no longer use ATM and other basic technology-driven banking services to differentiate themselves from the competition. It is no secret that new digital technologies will drive the business model as banking becomes more mobile and virtual.

The ability to create a virtual, lean, efficient banking organization that does not have the same problems as the more established names is what these technologies provide new entrants with. With this, scalability and flexibility is enhanced—simplifying products launches and enhancements.

The Banking Industry Faces a Major Threat from Technology Giants

Since they provide easy-to-use applications that have impact almost every aspect of traditional banking, fintech companies are the primary ‘technological’ threat that the banking industry has been focusing on. By combining digital technology with advanced analytics, fintech companies have provisioned advanced banking technology but they’ve had problems achieving scale—forcing them to ultimately partner with the traditional banks. This is probably the biggest reason technology giants and not fintech companies are the biggest threat to the banking industry.

Today, technology-based companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook are giving increased competition to traditional banks. By carrying out more core functions, technology giants are undermining the value proposition of banks and insurers—even at a time when these institutions are putting increase competitive pressure on the technology firms.

There are three capabilities that the technology based companies are using to differentiate themselves from the financial institutions: advanced analytics, customer-facing artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud computing. Compared to the banking organizations, technology firms such as Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook are far more proficient at these capabilities. And, this is a major reason many banking institutions are partnering or trying to partner with the technology giants for the provision of some core functions. An example of this is the countless financial services provided by Amazon AWS to organizations such as Capital One, American Express, NASDAQ, Stripe and Bankinter.

Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies are Another Potential Threat for Banks

Off late, there has been increased interest in Blockchain—the distributed ledger technology serving as the basis for cryptocurrency. Recently, one of the cryptocurrencies enabled by blockchain reached $10,000 valuation and this is expected to increase over the next year or so. The blockchain and cryptocurrencies are a real threat to banks as they have an intrinsic value and are not regulated by any government.

The appeal of the blockchain and bitcoin is too good of an opportunity for most people to pass on and this includes the customers of traditional banks. More bitcoin and blockchain companies are expected to emerge in the near future and if the banking industry does not take measures to counter this threat, then it won’t be long before banks become a thing of the past.

A digital technology surge is threatening to make banks irrelevant in the future and if the banking industry does not do something quick to deal with this threat, this may well happen.

Contact Us

Percento is a Professional IT Consulting, Implementation and Management firm.  To find out how we can help your organization, please contact one of our friendly sales representatives for a review of your system and a comprehensive (No Obligation) proposal of services. Call today toll-free at 800.614-7886 [Austin | Houston | The Woodlands | Dallas | San Antonio] or email us at sales@percentotech.com.

Black Friday – Record Online Sales

Black Friday In the U.S and some other countries, Black Friday is one of the most awaited days of the year—mainly due to the massive price off items on the day. Most people delay buying what they want for weeks or even months just so they can buy it on Black Friday—for a discounted price of course. No wonder, sales of retail items soar on the day and this was evident this year as well. Not only did people throng to retail stores to buy all they desired, they also helped create a new online sales record!

In August, Forrester Research Inc—an American market research company, forecasted that holiday sales in 2017 will increase from $115 billion in 2016 to $129 billion. The actual figure was higher and a major reason for this was the record Black Friday online sales. Data unveiled by the retail intelligence unit of Salesforce—an American cloud computing company, shows a 24% increase in Black Friday online sales from the previous year. Compared to the $3.34 billion the previous year, online Black Friday sales this year reached an impressive $5 billion.

According to Salesforce, the online Black Friday orders placed using a desktop or laptop computer were 49% while 42% of the orders were made via a smartphone. 9% of the orders were placed through other devices. This is the first time in history that the online orders generated on Black Friday were less than half of the overall orders placed, representing a clear shift in the preferred shopping way of consumers.

Where the Money Went

Spending $5 billion within 24-hours, American shoppers created a new online sales record. According to Adobe Digital Insights, most of this spending or 80% of it was done at the 100 largest retail websites of the country. According to Amazon—a digital retail giant, orders rolled in at record levels on Black Friday. For instance, over two hundred thousand toys were sold online during the first few hours of the day—five to be precise. With most people preferring online shopping on Black Friday, the sales of the brick and mortar stores was impacted—with foot traffic at stores being 1% less than what it was the previous year.

According to Adobe, of all the Black Friday visits to retail sites and the online revenue generated on the day, 54.3% and 36.9 % respectively occurred on mobile devices. The American software company further revealed that tablets’ conversion rates on the day increased by 13% from the previous year while there was a 16.5% increase in the same for smartphones. As per the data of Adobe, the AOV was $135. However, Monetate—an American software company that offers personalized solution to brands, did a little better in this regard with AOV of $142.86.

According to Monetate that tracked two hundred million digital touchpoints across smart phones, tablets and desktops on Black Friday and Thanksgiving, its desktop AOV of $173.02 was the best of the lot. The company also reported a 30% increase in its mobile page viewership from the previous year’s Thanksgiving. Salesforce reports smart phones accounting for sixty percent of retail websites traffic—a 7% increase from the previous year. The cloud computing company extracted the numbers by tracking the online behavior of over 300 million shoppers. In a blog pertaining to sales on Black Friday, Salesforce revealed that the shoppers aren’t just browsing on phones, they are placing their orders from them as well—the 42% online orders placed via smart phones being a testament to that.

As already mentioned, e-commerce businesses experienced a 24% increase in Black Friday sales this year. And, the combined growth for Black Friday and Thanksgiving this year was 26%. However, the Black Friday stats don’t end there—there is more to come.

More Black Friday Stats

According to Shopify—an ecommerce giant, over five hundred thousand merchants that employ its services, this year performed the best they’ve ever done on Black Friday. Beating last year’s $555,716, over $1 million sales were made through Shopify each minute. This was revealed in an announcement by the company. According to Shopify, this year the percentage of mobile devices used to place orders with it on Black Friday were 66%–an increase of 8% from the previous year.

Performing brilliantly across all platforms, the Black Friday and Thanksgiving online sales of Rakuten Marketing were as good as those of the companies mentioned above. According to the company, it experienced a 23% overall online revenue growth this year on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day. The company further revealed its mobile revenue for the week: Sunday to Friday, grew by 43% this year—with AOV and purchases on smart phones up 7% and 34% respectively.

According to Rakuten, most of the purchase and sales activities on Thanksgiving and Black Friday happened during the afternoon. Studying ad engagement and click-through rates, the company discovered the aforementioned-activities peaked in the week leading to the holiday—with ad engagement and CTRs increasing by 111% and 154% respectively. The company says that consumers started searching and researching for products in advance before the holidays.  The trend of record online sales continued to Cyber Monday not just for Rakuten, but for all of the companies mentioned.

As far as holiday sales go, this year has been a year of records. In 2017, Black Friday, Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday records were broken. As seen above, online shoppers shopped almost impulsively on Black Friday, contributing to $5 billion sales on the day. Whether this record will be broken next year or any time soon remains to be seen but one thing is for sure: people have completely warmed up to the idea of making their holiday sales online.

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Percento is a Professional IT Consulting, Implementation and Management firm.  To find out how we can help your organization, please contact one of our friendly sales representatives for a review of your system and a comprehensive (No Obligation) proposal of services. Call today toll-free at 800.614-7886 [Austin | Houston | The Woodlands | Dallas | San Antonio] or email us at sales@percentotech.com.

Best Laptops and Hybrids For 2017 Holidays

Best Laptops 2017Looking for a Christmas Gift for a loved one? If yes, then laptops and hybrids is an option you may want to explore.  In fact, the former is the go-to gift if you are searching for a present for a student, a college grad, or someone requiring a tech update. Here are the best laptops and hybrids for 2017 holidays!

Whether it is the affordable ASUS X555LA, the good-looking 13-inch MacBook Pro, or the next-gen Surface Pro, laptops make some of the best gifts that you can give to anyone this Christmas. Here, we reveal not just the best laptops, but also the best hybrids for 2017 holidays. So, without wasting any further time, let’s get down to business.

Lenovo Ideapad 510

A powerful and stylish laptop, the Lenovo Ideapad 510 is the first piece of tech on our list. You can use the laptop to run multiple applications at the same time if you choose between the 4GB and 12GB RAM models. From 256GB to 1TB, this laptop is available with a variety of hard drive sizes. Additionally, some options come with dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 940MX graphics. Currently, this laptop is being offered at a generous price at several different places. So, you may want to perform a quick search for it.

ASUS X555LA

If you look at it from afar, you may mistake the ASUS X55LA for a MacBook Pro. If this doesn’t reveal the quality of this laptop, then I don’t know what will. However, since its much cheaper than the MacBook Pro, you shouldn’t expect the ASUS X555LA to have a plastic body as sexy as that of the latter. Nonetheless, there is a lot to look forward to including a mammoth 1TB hard drive, 4GB of RAM and a range of ports.

The cheapest version of this laptop has an i3 processor. However, by a little extra, you can upgrade to a powerful i5 model. Boasting a 15.6-inch full HD screen, ASUS X55LA is equipped with a DVD writer. The laptop is just a tad heavier than an Ultrabook despite having a numeric keypad and a large display.

Microsoft Surface 4 Pro

Looking for a Hybrid? Then there is nothing better than the Microsoft Surface 4 Pro. This piece of tech comes with an integrated kickstand, a full-blown Windows 10 version and an optional keyboard attachment, making it a great option for students and creative professionals. The only con of this tech is its premium power. But, if you’re willing to spend what the Surface 4 Pro costs, the expect a laptop with a power—a lot of it.

Apple MacBook Pro

Get ready to welcome the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar if you want the best laptop from Apple. The Surface Book 2 may or may not be more powerful than the MacBook Pro (something that Microsoft claims), but it is definitely more expensive than the latter at the starting level. But, being cheaper than the Surface Book 2 isn’t the only accomplishment of the MacBook Pro. It has a lot more to offer with the Touch Bar—a thin OLED display at the keyboard’s pinnacle, being the most valuable offering. Using the bar, you can perform a number of functions including logging in with your fingerprint and getting word suggestions automatically as you type. Other things to expect include 256 GB to 1 TB storage, an 8 GB RAM and a super-fast performance.

ASUS Chromebook FLIP

If you’re looking for an affordable Chromebook with premium Chromebook specs, then ASUS Chromebook FLIP is the way to go. Offering premium Chromebook features at an affordable price, the stylish ASUS Chromebook FLIP is an excellent choice for students and people who work from home. The Chromebook Flip comes with a full 108p display, a USB-C port, backlit keyboard, touchscreen, and an Intel Core processor. Once you get this piece of tech, expect a tactile keyboard and an elegant tablet mode.

HP Stream 14

This is one of the cheaper options in the market. So, if you’re looking for something basic such as document editing and internet browsing, then the HP stream 14 is a good option for you. An affordable laptop, Stream 14 comes with a Windows 10 operating system and a 14-inch screen.

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Don’t mind paying top buck for a laptop? Then the Microsoft Surface Book 2 is one of the best laptops you will find today. Featuring a 13.5-inch store, the Surface Book 2 is worthy of all the praise that it gets. After all, it is one of the most powerful hybrids in the world. To make the daily tasks easy for you, the Surface Book2 is equipped with some powerful components. Additionally, you will find some fun features such as a video editing and light gaming.

Designed to last, the Surface Book 2 has excellent battery life and can be used as either a laptop, or a power-packed tablet. In addition to the 13-inch laptop, a 15-inch version of the Surface Book 2 is also available. Not only does this version boasts a larger screen than the 13-inch model, it is also more powerful. You may want to look at other hybrid options if you are on a tight budget.

Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming

Have a gamer in your family or among your friends’ circle? Then gift them the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming. Built specifically for gaming, this laptop is the answer to most gamers’ prayers. However, its price is on the higher side. So, you may want to think twice before buying this laptop.

There have it—the 8 bets laptops and hybrids for 2017 holidays. Want more options? Get in touch with us today!

Contact Us

Percento is a Professional IT Consulting, Implementation and Management firm.  To find out how we can help your organization, please contact one of our friendly sales representatives for a review of your system and a comprehensive (No Obligation) proposal of services. Call today toll-free at 800.614-7886 [Austin | Houston | The Woodlands | Dallas | San Antonio] or email us at sales@percentotech.com.