If growing instances of malware are any indication, the Internet of Things is the next big thing, and nine other big developments that happened in technology this past month.

1. A startup raises $15 million to help companies develop their own customer service chatbots.

Canada-based startup Ada, which helps companies develop automated customer service tools, has raised U.S. $14 million in a series A round of funding. Founded in 2016, the company develops chatbots and related AI software to help nontechnical teams at companies set up these chatbots to manage inbound customer queries more quickly. (Source: Venture Beat)

Why this is important for your firm and your clients: Chatbots are artificial intelligence-based software that conduct conversations with unknowing users. Their benefits are significant (cost reduction for companies, quicker responses for customers) and their uses are growing. Many customer relationship management and office productivity applications are including this technology in future versions. But companies like Ada are developing easy-to-use tools for the business owner that wants to construct their own process using chatbots.

2. The Department of Energy has innovation funding for small businesses.

The U.S. DOE has released its second Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs for Fiscal Year 2019. The Phase I Release 2 FOA, with approximately $37 million in available funding, will provide money for innovations that address multiple R&D programs throughout the DOE. Phase I grants are six to 12 months in duration with maximum award amounts of $200,000, and Phase II grants are up to two years in duration with maximum award amounts of $1.1 million or $1.6 million, depending on the research topic. (Source: U.S. Department of Energy)

Why this is important for your clients: Many small businesses don’t realize that various federal agencies – like the Department of Energy – give out free money in the form of grants in return for developing technology that could benefit the government as well as the private sector. If a client has an early-stage technology that requires funding then it’s a good idea to look further into these programs.


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