chocolateA national survey of entrepreneurs and small business IT decision makers conducted by Bredin Research and sponsored by Comcast Business found that offering free Wi-Fi works better at keeping customers happy than common “waiting area” conveniences like candy, water or magazines. These “Main Street” businesses that offer Wi-Fi — coffee shops, bars, restaurants, retailers, doctor’s offices and others — are leveraging the service to attract new clientele, improve customer loyalty and raise their profile within the community.

Respondents who indicated that they do not currently offer Wi-Fi also understand the benefits of offering the service in their location, and overwhelmingly their intention is to offer it in the near future. Those that do not plan on offering it – predominantly those that have been in business for 20 or more years – cite concerns over tech support, employee distraction and cost.

“Main Street businesses and entrepreneurs of all types recognize that wireless Internet access is a must for their patrons, and that providing free Wi-Fi can give them a competitive edge,” said Bill Stemper, president, Comcast Business. “More and more, we are seeing that if a business provides Wi-Fi now to its employees for business purposes, extending access to its customers is a logical next step that is a way to keep them coming back in the future. Given the challenges that small businesses face in today’s uncertain economy, we are encouraged that technologies like Wi-Fi will help sustain growth.”

The key survey findings are:

Wi-Fi is better than candy. Main Street business owners say Wi-Fi is equally or more effective at making patrons feel welcome than other amenities such as magazines (94%), community bulletin boards (91%), candy (90%) or water (86%).

Wi-Fi helps draw customers. Nearly eight in 10 businesses offering Wi-Fi (79%) say it helps keep customers happy while they wait. 65% report it has encouraged repeat business, and 55% say it has brought in new customers.

Wi-Fi helps sales. More than half (55%) of businesses providing Wi-Fi believe it has resulted in higher sales per customer visit.

Promoting Wi-Fi is key. Those businesses that expected increased revenues in 2013 are more likely to promote the Wi-Fi they offer (64% vs. 38% of businesses that expected decreased revenues). In turn, customers are more likely to promote these businesses through their social media channels.

Non-users have concerns. Fears of tech support (33%), employee distraction (33%) and costs (32%) are reasons cited for not offering Wi-Fi to patrons

Non-users see advantages. Many respondents recognize the benefits of offering Wi-Fi, including raising their company profile (41%) and keeping up with the competition (38%). Of those Main Street businesses that currently don’t offer Wi-Fi to patrons, 61% plan to offer it soon or would consider providing it.

Wi-Fi builds connections. Nearly 20% of the business owners surveyed promote themselves as “community hubs,” such as a meeting place for church groups, sports clubs or other community groups.

Businesses with Wi-Fi expect growth. 67% of businesses that offer Wi-Fi to their customers expect revenue growth. Of the businesses that don’t offer Wi-Fi, only 50% expect growth.

Businesses with Wi-Fi boost productivity. Separate from offering Wi-Fi to patrons, respondents’ employees use Wi-Fi for business purposes such as accessing corporate resources (49%), tracking inventory (36%) and holding conferences with business partners and customers (35%). 93% of these businesses believe that Wi-Fi enhances productivity. Companies with growing revenue were more likely than non-growing companies to use Wi-Fi as a customer amenity.

The Small Business Wi-Fi Survey was conducted online among a representative sample of 602 principals and IT decision makers at companies with 1 to 100 employees in the United States between Dec. 18 and Dec. 31, 2013. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.

Find the SMB Wi-Fi survey on social media with #SMBWiFi.

Comcast Business Named Fastest Growing Company Ranked on Vertical Systems Group’s Year-End 2013 U.S. Carrier Ethernet LEADERBOARD

Comcast Business has been named the fastest growing Ethernet provider on Vertical Systems Group’s 2013 U.S. Carrier Ethernet LEADERBOARD. Comcast is ranked in eighth position on the research firm’s latest LEADERBOARD based on year-end 2013 U.S. business Ethernet port share results. Vertical Systems Group is recognized worldwide as a leading market research firm and its LEADERBOARD is the industry’s foremost benchmark for measuring Ethernet provider market presence based on billable retail port installations.

This latest industry recognition of Comcast’s Ethernet market momentum follows the company being named the Metro Ethernet Forum’s (MEF) Service Provider of the Year in its 2013 Carrier Ethernet Awards for North America. The MEF also announced last year that Comcast Business was the first service provider in the world to achieve MEF CE 2.0 Certification, an industry milestone.

As the only new entrant on the LEADERBOARD, Comcast Business has capitalized on businesses moving to Ethernet with significant customer traction across a number of key vertical markets in the past year, including:

  • Professional Sports – teams across multiple sports, including the Oakland Athletics and Denver Broncos, are adding Comcast Business Ethernet to their rosters for more scalable Internet access to support staff, media and a more connected game day experience for fans.
  • Incubators and tech hubs – business incubators, tech hubs and business communities, including Cambridge Innovation Center, 1776 (Washington, D.C.) and Pease International Tradeport, are upgrading to Comcast Business Ethernet to provide a scalable technology platform to support growing businesses.

“Our deep network reach, extensive service availability and proactive customer support down to the premises all have made Comcast Business Ethernet the choice for enterprise customers looking for a flexible, scalable and cost-effective network solution,” said Scott Cassell, senior director, Product Management, Comcast Business. “As our Ethernet business continues to accelerate, we look forward to providing even more customers with an alternative to slower technologies from legacy providers.”

Delivered over the company’s next-generation, all-IP network that is in 20 of the 25 largest markets in 39 states and Washington, D.C., the Comcast Business Ethernet portfolio includes Ethernet Private Line, Ethernet Virtual Private Line, Ethernet Network Services and Ethernet Dedicated Internet services delivered over fiber and Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) at speeds from 1 Mbps to 10 Gbps.

Pittsburgh Tech News Round Up

Give TechVibe Radio a 360-Degree Spin

TechVibe Radio employed the use of homegrown technology from EyeSee 360 to record show segments in 360 video. Our first experiment includes Charlie Batch and Pittsburgh Tech Council CEO Audrey Russo interviewing BHiveLab. The segment is a little blurry, compliments of the not-so-great iPhone 4 camera, but it’s fun to play around with the video and a 360 view of the studio in action. Give it a spin right here.

Plextronics Awarded SBIR Grant for Reducing OLED Lighting Costs

Plextronics, a U.S.-based  global  company specializing in conductive polymer technology, announced today that it is the recipient of a Phase I Release 2 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Award for the design and development of low-cost processes of printed electrodes for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) lighting. The SBIR program is well recognized for supporting important technological advances.   According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it received 756 applications for the latest round of SBIR grants.  Plextronics was among 79 grant recipients.  The company will receive a $175,000 grant from the SBIR program and will partner with Electroninks, a spin-off of the University of Illinois and provider of printable metal inks.

PBS Coals Mines for High-Bandwidth, Fiber-based Connectivity with Comcast Business Ethernet

Comcast Business, the nation’s largest video, high-speed Internet and phone provider to business and residential customers, announced that PBS Coals, the fourth-largest coal producer in Pennsylvania, is using Comcast Ethernet services to expedite the transfer of critical files to maintain the accuracy of its mining operations and to help ensure the safety of its approximately 650 employees in multiple locations across Somerset County. While the new fiber connection is critical to supporting PBS Coals’ business, there is an added benefit to the broader community, as the investment to extend Comcast’s fiber network to the company’s locations means that other area businesses will now have access to a high-capacity, fiber network as well.


Metis Secure Launches Command Center 2.3

The latest software release from Metis Secure makes it easier than ever to instantly communicate actionable emergency instructions to everyone at the site of a crisis, and rapidly respond to people who need help. In an emergency, safety and security personnel use Metis Secure’s Command Center software, combined with a variety of facility communications devices, to immediately alert everyone at or near the location of  the crisis, and provide urgent emergency instructions. The software also transmits help calls from Metis Secure Emergency Help Stations, which are wall- or pole-mounted communications hardware located at strategic indoor and/or outdoor locations throughout a site.  Authorized users can launch alerts and answer help calls through any internet browser, from any location on- or off-site. Mobile security patrols can also answer help calls on their handheld radios or mobile phones. Universities and schools, industrial facilities, hospitals, office buildings, large parking garages, and third-party security operations centers rely on the Metis Secure system to optimize their response speed and effectiveness if an emergency strikes.


Carnegie Mellon Researchers Develop Zooming Technique for Entering Text Into Smartwatches, Ultra-small Computers

Technology blogs have been abuzz that smartwatches may soon be on their way from companies such as Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft. But as capable as these ultra-small computers may be, how will users enter an address, a name, or a search term into them? One solution is an iterative zooming technique developed and tested by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. Called ZoomBoard, this text entry technique is based on the familiar QWERTY keyboard layout. Though the full keyboard is impossibly small on a watch-size display, simply tapping the screen once or twice will enlarge an individual key until it can be comfortably and accurately pressed.

Capital letters can be typed by momentarily holding a key. A swipe to the left deletes a character. A swipe to the right types a space. An upward swipe calls up a secondary keyboard of numbers and other symbol. “You aren’t going to write a novel, but it gets the job done,” said Stephen Oney, a Ph.D. student in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII). “This opens up new possibilities for devices such as smartwatches, which generally lack any means of entering text, as many aren’t powerful enough for voice recognition.”

Comcast Business Services Unveils Upware

Comcast Corporation, a global media and technology company, announced the Upware™ marketplace, a suite of cloud-based business solutions that can be purchased through one integrated web portal. The Upware marketplace contains a carefully selected list of third-party, cloud-based business applications from industry-leading companies in key categories such as data backup, data security, and collaboration.

With Upware, Comcast has chosen a select group of top-tier vendors that meet a strict set of security, redundancy and customer service requirements and can provide both the best performance as well as ease of use for businesses. Organized on the online portal in “aisles” by technology, the vendors include:

  • Data BackupCarbonite (data backup), DigitalSafe (data backup), and Mozy (online backup).
  • Data SecurityNorton (security) and Websense (security).
  • CollaborationBox (online storage), Microsoft (Web collaboration), Soonr (online file sharing), and YouSendIt (document collaboration).

“We know small business owners and we know what tools they need to grow their businesses,” said Kevin O’Toole, Senior Vice President and General Manager, New Business Solutions at Comcast Business Services. “Upware simplifies what can be a complex world of choices when evaluating cloud-based services. With the choice of these top vendors, business owners can quickly choose what tools they need to run their businesses and keep their focus on their number one priority – serving their customers.”

Upware is designed to meet the needs of small and medium sized businesses looking to use cloud-based solutions to simplify their IT systems, control costs and increase productivity. Upware, which is available now at business.comcast.com/Upware, gives business owners a single, trusted source to meet some of their most critical technology needs, helping them to be more productive and improve their business.

Through the easy to use Upware marketplace, business customers can purchase and use cloud services, as well as order other Comcast Business services including Business VoiceEdge, Website Hosting and Signature Support, a program for on-site tech support. It also enables customers to pick and choose one or many of the offerings, based on their unique technology and business needs. Upware simplifies application management with the convenience of a single sign-on, which makes access fast and easy for individual users. In addition, business owners can quickly add or remove employees from the system as their business needs change. Plus, users have the simplicity of one number to call for support, management and troubleshooting for everything associated with their Comcast Business Class Internet service including the Upware marketplace and the software applications themselves.

In addition to the nine applications currently on the Upware marketplace, more applications will be added in the near future to existing aisles and new aisles will be added to address other business needs such as marketing and customer relationship management.

TechVibe Radio to Feature SnapRetail and Comcast

Be sure to tune in to TechVibe Radio this Saturday at noon on FM News Talk 104.7.

Steelers QB Charlie Batch will fill in as co-host ready to interview some of Pittsburgh’s most dynamic tech companies.

Comcast Business Class will unveil its new Business VoiceEdge as a cloud-based voice and unified communications solution. Think HD-quality voice service and a full suite of productivity-enhancing features delivered over Comcast’s network.

Don Lazarri will stop by to talk about intelligent deal management. Yes, there’s an app for automating your sales pipeline. Don will tell you all about it.

Hold on to your seat, Ted and Suzy Teele will give us an update on their fast-growing retail software company SnapRetail. They’re helping small retailers compete with big box shops with software and social media.

Hosted by the PTC’s CEO Audrey Russo and Director Visibility Initiatives Jonathan Kersting, TechVibe is on the air every Saturday at noon bringing you interviews and conversations from the Pittsburgh region’s fast-moving technology and entrepreneurial communities.

Stream TechVibe Radio on www.wpgb.com or iHeart Radio.

Missed a previous broadcast? We have a massive library of podcasts right here.

TechVibe Radio is sponsored by Buchanan Ingersoll & RooneyChorus CallDQE CommunicationsEyeFlowHighmark Blue Cross Blue Shield,  Lincoln Financial, PTC Employee Benefits GroupPittsburgh International Airport and PNC.