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How Disruptive Technologies Are Changing the Face of Small Business

Technology is clearly changing the way we do just about everything, including business. Massive numbers of businesses are experiencing changes in how they operate based upon the availability and demand for new technologies. If you’ve been a small business owner for very long, it’s likely that new, disruptive technologies have changed how you do business somewhere along the way. Here, we’ll discuss what disruptive technologies are and some of the most common examples that small businesses have had to adapt to in recent years.

What Are Disruptive Technologies?

Knowing what these technologies are is the first step to adapting to them. A disruptive technology is one which replaces or entirely changes the way existing operations function. This is the opposite of a sustainable technology, which is implemented and operates with the existing technology already in place.

Disruptive technologies typically arise to further the advancement in ease of use, function, human interaction, and overall improvement of existing technology. For example, the cellular phone rapidly replaced landlines once its ease of use was well established. We’ll discuss more on this below.

Disruptive Technologies Affecting Small Business

Some of these aren’t exactly new, but as they become more integrated into mainstream use, we’re seeing their impact on small businesses more readily. Here are some of the technologies small business owners say have most affected how they do business in recent years:

Radio Frequency Identification Tags

One of the foremost technologies that continues to disrupt small and large companies alike are radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Some form of the technology has been around since radio frequencies were used to track troop positions in World War II, but wasn’t patented by Charles Walton until 1983. These tiny chips, some now the size of a grain of rice, can be attached or embedded in a variety of objects to help businesses automatically identify and track them.

RFID technology has greatly improved since it was first introduced, and now more and more businesses are adopting it. Back in 2014, roughly $738 million was spent on RFID readers. It is projected that by 2020 this number will grow to approximately $5.4 billion. How are small businesses implementing these tiny tags? In a recent article by Inc., VP of sales at RFID company Rush Tracking Systems (now TotalTrax, Inc. – on Facebook & LinkedIn), Chuck Thompson says there are myriad ways to use these little gems. Here are just a few:

  • Tracking IT equipment such as tablets, computers, and servers
  • To track rental equipment
  • For use in tracking inventory: tires, books, clothing…you name it
  • Tracking the custody of important legal and medical documents
  • For tracking high value items and equipment

If you deal in the tangible, RFID tags may be the next investment to help grow your business.

Cell Phones

Landlines were clunky and inconvenient, forcing users to be at home or in their office in order to make or receive phone calls. The arrival of the cell phone made it possible for anyone to make or receive a call from practically anywhere. Smart phones have taken the idea of mobile cell phones to an entirely new level; now users can text, email, or browse the web with a device that fits in the palm of their hand.

For many small business owners, the invention of cell phones was bitter sweet. Cell phones mean that you don’t have to be on site all the time, but they’ve also made us slaves to the job, since anyone can be reached at any time. Now instead of fostering productivity, some argue that they are a huge distraction. For one small business, Apple Austin movers (find on Facebook & Yelp), cell phones have been a mixed bag. Rudimentary cell phones were already on the market when the moving company opened shop in 1991, but it wasn’t until a decade later that nearly every employee owned one. They’ve made life easier for the owner, who can now keep up with his office staff and movers no matter where he is, but they’ve also caused some headaches. Now it’s really difficult to separate personal life from work life, since he has the same phone on him at all times. Additionally, like many companies, there is frustration over wasted time when employees make personal use of their phones during business hours. This goes to show that not all disruptive technologies are all good.

Emerging Beacon Technology

According to Business Insider, beacons are small hardware devices that use Bluetooth connections to transmit messages directly to a phone or tablet while the user is within close range. This makes for a more interactive and informative shopping experience for the customer. For example, Alex & Ani (Facebook & Instagram), a chain of jewelry stores based in Rhode Island used the technology to engage customers in enhancing its store layouts. Many other companies use beacon technology to push out coupons, discounts, loyalty programs and in-store events while customers are nearby. In addition to use by businesses, beacon technology also has applications in healthcare, event planning, educational institutions, and even at home.

If you own a retail shop or restaurant, using beacons could really bolster your business. And the best news? These small devices aren’t that expensive.

These are just a sampling of the technologies that are currently disrupting business. They may not all be applicable to all companies or industries, but you may want to consider the impact the could have on your small business.



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How Technology Has Forever Disrupted Small Business Marketing

Today’s consumers have a wealth of information literally at their fingertips. Just a few years ago, traditional marketing for a small business consisted of ads in local newspapers and magazines, billboards and signs, and maybe even purchasing commercial time on a local radio or television station. The rapid advent of technology has profoundly impacted the way small businesses market their products and services. In order to keep up with the times, small businesses have to reassess their marketing strategies to incorporate and function in the rapidly changing digital world. As the tools change, the small business has to shift its initiatives to accommodate technology and social media.

As we examine some technology considerations for small businesses in the modern world, we’ll look at some examples from Austin-based businesses. This tech-friendly city is home to enough techie start-ups that it’s been dubbed the Silicon Valley of Texas. Thanks to the influence of technology companies, many of Austin’s small businesses are early adopters when it comes to integrating new technologies:



A website is absolutely critical to your small business. According to Austin lead SEO consultants, Moonraker SEO, the majority of internet users will research goods or services online before buying, even in the local market place. Customers need the ability to find you and communicate with you digitally. In addition to providing a communication platform, a website provides you with the means to share details about your products and services, customer feedback, and photos or videos to attract customers. Not only does your site have to exist, it also needs to be easy to navigate, educational, engaging, and discoverable. To be discoverable, your site must be search engine optimized to have the best chances of ranking in users’ search results. Today, having a digital marketing strategy is a must.

Social Media

The explosion of social media provides endless opportunities for the small business owner to communicate with current and prospective customers. Whether through a Facebook page or a Twitter account, or by participating in an organized application, such as Groupon, social media is a valuable tool. Social media technology enhances the age-old marketing technique of word of mouth and allows you to interact with customers and encourage them to share your product information with others. Austin’s beloved pizza place, Homeslice, has over 14,000 Twitter followers and uses the platform to keep its loyal fan base up-to-date on everything from special events to daily specials. Their prolific use of social media is likely one of the top reasons this place is always crowded!

Just as social media can be used to promote your business, negative comments or reviews can spread like wildfire. You have to stay on top of social media to address and resolve negativity as it occurs.

Email Marketing

One of the most cost effective ways to reach a large number of customer to market a product or service is through email marketing. Email marketing provides an ideal means to share information, promote new products, offer discounts or share information. Digital newsletters add interesting content to entice customers. No longer do you have to spend money on mailers – with email, reaching customers is FREE. Austin-born lifestyle brand, Kendra Scott, does a fabulous job of keeping customers wanting more with its glossy weekly emails touting new products and flash sales. A solid marketing campaign is no doubt one of the reasons Ms. Scott now has dozens of stores across the country.

Use of In-House Technology

For businesses with brick and mortar locations, in-store technology is another rapidly changing arena. Technology such digital signage allows businesses to capture the customer’s attention and market specific products. Innovative point of sale systems provide employees with real-time information about a customer’s preferences as well as inventory tracking. Portable point of sale systems, using cellphones and tablets, provide easy transactions and eliminate the concept of standing in line to check out. These new technologies have enabled small-time businesses to provide their customers with a less cumbersome way of collecting money than insisting on cash or check. Take, for instance, vendors at Austin’s City Wide Garage Sale, Austin’s monthly vintage market featuring wares from antique dealers and fine junk aficionados from all over the state. In previous decades, vendors had to keep lots of cash on hand to make change or hope that customers had their checkbook. These days, you’ll see many vendors swiping credit cards with a simple device attached to their phones.

Cellphone Marketing

Cellphone marketing allows the small business to send text messages to alert customers to specials and promotions. Many businesses have cellphone applications to provide information about products, provide coupons and offer discounts to customers. Customer loyalty cards are rapidly being replaced with cellphone apps. Some businesses, like Rick’s Dry Cleaners, make practical use of cellphones by sending text reminders that their order is ready for pick up.


A small business has to embrace technology to survive in today’s digital world. Like it or not, businesses need to have strategies in place and budgets to allow for digital marketing to provide service to today’s technologically savvy consumer. Businesses have to keep up with current digital trends in order to compete in today’s marketplace.


Find out more about the Austin businesses featured in this article:

Moonraker Marketing

2401 Winsted Ln

Austin, TX 78703

(512) 234-3690


Homeslice Pizza

1415 S Congress Ave

Austin, TX 78745

(512) 444-7437


Kendra Scott

3800 N Lamar Blvd

Austin, TX 78756

(512) 879-3422


Austin City-Wide Garage Sale

900 Barton Springs Rd

Austin, TX 78704

(512) 441-2828


Rick’s Cleaners

3411 N Lamar Blvd

Austin, TX 78705

(512) 323-0188

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Modern Moving Day Gets a Boost

From pioneers who moved all of their possessions via wagon on the rough Oregon Trail to the modern day family who hauls their stuff from one suburb to another, moving has long been the bane of the American existence. Census bureau data indicates that nearly 12% of Americans will move this year, but thankfully, technology is continually evolving to simplify the moving process.

Back in 1945, Sam and Anna Mary Shoen created a company that one might argue was the first disruptive innovation in the moving industry. Looking for a way to economically relocate from their home from L.A. to Portland, they were shocked to discover there were no DIY truck rental options available. Seeing the need for this, they went on to found U-Haul, which today, still helps millions of Americans move for less than hiring a professional moving company. Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard, first recognized the term disruptive innovation in 1995. U-Haul would meet his criteria for a disruptive innovation because it disrupted the traditional model for moving, displacing the standard professional mover and allowing individuals an alternative means of getting their household goods from one location to the next.

As we move further into the 21st century, there are a number of technologies that have continued to disrupt the moving industry, while improving the overall experience of those moving. Here we look at three ways the moving process has been improved by contemporary technologies:

Finding a New Place

There are many reasons that people move – a new job, to be closer to family, change in climate, or just for fun. If one can help it, it’s ideal to find a new abode before packing up your old one. In the olden days, one had to call a realtor and sift through print outs of MLS listings. Having MLS access cost thousands of dollars, a year, so it wasn’t a service attainable to the average Joe looking for a house. Realtors were the gods of real estate; they held the keys to Oz in their hands. Then came Zillow.

While Zillow can be a realtor's nightmare, it makes it easy for consumers to search for houses on their own.

While Zillow can be a realtor’s nightmare, it makes it easy for consumers to search for houses on their own.

An article recently published by LinkedIn makes the assertion that Zillow is like the Uber of the moving industry. Uber came in and flipped the taxi industry upside down. Now, with Uber, practically anyone with a car and valid driver’s license can offer transportation services like a taxi would. Gone are the days of needing to obtain a pricey taxi license and overpriced fares. This revolutionary technology makes hitching a ride cheaper and easier for riders as it better matches market demand and supply.

In a similar vein, when Zillow was introduced almost a decade ago, it greatly reduced people’s reliance on a realtor to help them with the home search. With Zillow, anyone can see what any house on the market is going for, and even go on a virtual tour through pictures or videos. No longer is access to the MLS the golden ticket to a real estate agent’s success. This isn’t to say that realtors are necessarily the ones facing “displacement” by this technology. As Brad Inman points out, agents are still “grinders”; they are absolutely essential to negotiations, closing, home inspections, titles, appraisals, and more. Some would argue that Zillow’s technology merely just disrupts the real estate advertising industry. Fewer real estate agents place ads in newspapers, in phone books (do those even exist anymore?), flyers, etc. Now the industry is all about having an online presence, which Zillow enables with its Zillow Premier Agents, a title anyone can by for the right price.

But what Zillow may most disrupt is the National Association of Realtors. This age-old professional organization gave birth the idea of online, publicly-available listings when it launched back in 1996. In the last 2 decades, this site has been outranked and outdated by the highflying Zillow platform, which some argue threatens to eradicate the Association’s importance. Over the past year, and Zillow have gone head to head in legal battles. It’s yet to be seen who will emerge on top.

Getting Rid of Stuff

After locating a new home and signing on the dotted line, the next natural step is starting to pack up. Most moving experts, like Great Guys Shipping, which specializes in long distance moving and car transport, suggest that you start packing at least a month in advance of moving day. This includes not only packing boxes, but arranging for things like auto shipping. But before you bust out the boxes and tape, you will want to start purging unwanted items prior to the moving truck’s arrival. Hanging onto worn-out, unwearable, and unusable things just costs more to move and is a headache to unpack. Enter Craigslist.

If you're not in the giving spirit, you can sell all of that unwanted stuff you've accumulated over the years on Craigslist or cPro.

If you’re not in the giving spirit, you can sell all of that unwanted stuff you’ve accumulated over the years on Craigslist or cPro.

Craigslist has long been a household name. Since its inception in 1996, the online classified has allowed millions of people to arrange everything from selling their sofa to buying a used car. Originally a pretty rudimentary desktop application, Craiglist now comes as a sleek mobile app, under the name cPro or cPlus. Craigslist challenges traditional newspaper classifieds, another dagger in the heart of the dying printed newspaper industry. Now it’s easier than ever to snap a picture of your old stuff, post it to Craigslist, and see who’s interested. There’s no need to haul your entire living room set outside so curious neighbors can pick through your things at a Saturday morning yard sale. Craigslist makes purging before your move pretty convenient and pain-free.

The Actual Move

Finally, when it comes to the logistics of the actual move, there are several new movers and shakers rattling the professional moving industry. Leading the charge is Dolly, a pioneer in the moving app niche, which has already raised $8 million in funding. Instead of hiring a professional mover or renting a U-Haul, now people moving can use a convenient peer-to-peer app for those hard to move items like couches, tables, etc. The app looks to eradicate having to bribe a buddy to borrow his truck for an upcoming move. Instead of hassling friends, one can arrange a pick up with a local truck owner who will come pick up the load either on-demand or at a scheduled time. Dolly helpers, much like Uber drivers, have been vetted and background-checked by Dolly. Additionally, all payment occurs seamlessly through the app, so there’s no messy exchange of cash or checks.

Dolly allows consumers to easily find local truck owners who are willing to help them move a load or two of things.

Dolly allows consumers to easily find local truck owners who are willing to help them move a load or two of things.

Not only is Dolly convenient for moving an apartment, but according to the Dolly site, the service is also useful for making charity donations, picking up Craigslist finds, or getting your new washer and dryer set home from the store. Dolly found initial success in the Chicago market, and has since expanded to Denver, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Seattle. And Dolly isn’t alone – there is a plethora of other similar apps including BuddyTruk, Wagon, and Lugg, among others. Yet, most moving companies aren’t quaking in their boots. These new apps take little business away from most moving companies. None of these apps is ideal for long distance moving, as they primarily target small, local moves. Dolly seems to best cater to Millennials who would otherwise borrow a friend’s truck. It may take away a small chunk of business from local movers who specialize in apartment moves in major metropolitan areas like Chicago or New York City.

Even with all of the advancements in technology for the moving experience, it can still be a real drag. Now we just need someone to master teleporting…

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How Meal Delivery Services are Shaking Up Dinner Time

These days, it seems families are busier than ever. Between work, school, activities, volunteering, and socializing, finding the time to cook nutritious, unique meals is difficult. For so long, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and other fast-food drive-thru joints have been the only solution for grabbing a fast dinner on the go. In 2004, the documentary Super Size Me, starring Morgan Spurlock, shed light on the dangers of eating the highly processed and unhealthy foods these fast food restaurants serve up. More recently, documentaries like Fed Up and Food, Inc. have pointed out both the questionable practices of the American food industry and the importance of a well-rounded, balanced diet for one’s overall physical and mental well-being.

In the last couple of years, meal delivery services have been popping up left and right, offering an alternative to the traditional idea of fast food. They provide pre-measured ingredients and recipes so you can make amazing and healthy homemade dinners without the hassle of meal planning and grocery shopping. Read the descriptions below for more information about some of the most popular meal delivery services and how they can help you save time and your sanity!

Blue Apron

With services like Blue Apron, you can cook fresh, healthy meals at home without having to make a trip to the store.
With services like Blue Apron, you can cook fresh, healthy meals at home without having to make a trip to the store.

Blue Apron’s focus is helping everyone and anyone learn how to cook with step-by-step instructions and pre-measured ingredients. They deliver high-quality, sustainable ingredients to make dinners in a range of cuisines. Their how-to videos and interactive recipe pages make this the perfect service for someone who wants to expand their palate and skill set in the kitchen. Blue Apron’s website even offers a shop with pantry items, gadgets, and cookware you’ll need to stock your kitchen like a true chef. Meals are just $9.99 each for the couple’s plan and $8.74 each for the family package. You can choose your 2-4 meals from the weekly options for your plan; the couple’s recipes focus on seasonal produce while the family recipes are healthy but more kid-friendly. To see how this meal delivery service stacks up against the competition, get the full Blue Apron comparison.

Green Chef

With all so many other weekday commitments, making a healthy meal sometimes isn’t in the cards. It is often easier to pick up fast food or microwave frozen TV dinners. Green Chef provides organic, GMO-free, sustainably-sourced produce and meats to your door in a refrigerated box. You get the ingredients for 3 meals per week on the delivery day of your choosing, plus you can skip weeks if you want. This Colorado-based start-up also caters to more dietary needs than other services, including vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and gluten-free package options. Meals range from $10.49 to $14.99 each and take just 30 minutes to prepare!


Skip the French fries and make easy homemade meals with Plated.
Skip the French fries and make easy homemade meals with Plated.

Plated offers simpler, yet still healthy, meals in comparison with the other two services. That’s why it is great for people who aren’t looking for anything fancy, just some help with their weeknight cooking. You can choose from 9 new recipes each week, making this the most customizable service. They send just the right amounts of the ingredients you need, along with easy to follow recipe cards so you can try new foods and hone your skills with minimal effort. Plated also offers dessert recipes as an option for those who have a sweet tooth. Meals are $12 each and come in plans of 2-4 meals a week for 2 people.

Meal delivery services are the new answer to convenience foods. Rather than depending on frozen or processed junk, American families can order healthy, hearty dinners right to their doorsteps. This way, you can save time and stress by not shopping or planning, reduce food waste, eat healthier, and still spend less time in the kitchen than it takes to make a frozen pizza.


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How Uber Has Disrupted the Transportation Sector

History says that the ancient Romans created the first version of a taxi meter. Some linked metals discs count off the turning of a cartwheel and marked the distance by pebbles falling into a box. If this story is true you can bet that rules and regulations were imposed pretty quickly after that. Horse drawn carriages in London and Paris regulated carriages as early as 1600. In North America, cities started limiting and licensing taxis just after the Great Depression.

Municipalities try and find a balance that offers the right amount of cabs. Too many and quality and wages suffer, too few and passengers suffer. When there are too few there are “driving services” or gypsy cabs that show up to fill the void. Getting a taxi license in any major city is an expensive and difficult caper, these keeps a reasonable number of cabs on the road.

Along Came Uber

Based out of San Francisco, Uber calls itself a “peer to peer” ride sharing service. It uses a smartphone app using GPS to match customers to nearby drivers. Riders can track the whole trip in real time and pay the fare electronically. Uber has only been in business about 5 years but it has expanded to more than 200 cities spread over 6 continents. The company is now valued at somewhere near $50 billion. It doesn’t much care about the rules that govern taxis in each municipality either.

A Not so Warm Reception

Despite the explosive growth, Uber has faced its fair share of legal challenges along the way. In the US alone more than 50 lawsuits were filed in Federal court and in Canada the city of Toronto filed for a court injunction against Uber claiming that since 2012 it has been operating an illegal taxi and limo firm. Uber has maintained that they are a technology company and not obligated to conform to the licensing standards in various cities.

Using Toronto as an example, taxi drivers must pay $5,000 per year for a permit and insurance runs about the same annually. Bear in mind that this is fairly cheap when you put the fees up against cities like New York or Chicago where taxi permits can be sold for $1 million. Uber drivers come along and pay none of those fees, while charging the same rates as a traditional taxi. Taxi drivers have been livid, and justifiably so. City coffers have been taking a hit too so they aren’t in love with Uber either.

Riders Love Uber

As much as Uber is loathed by the taxi industry it is loved by the public. It is easier than hailing a cab, wait times aren’t as long and it is easier to pay. The public have even started petitions in cities like Vancouver where there are strict regulations governing taxis. The public also views it as government trying to crush the small business owners by not allowing Uber to operate. Not being regulated is not without risk and it Uber has come under fire more than once for less than professional conduct by the drivers and the lack of screening process. Here is a video of some Uber horror stories.

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5 of the Coolest Disruptive Technologies of the 20th Century

There is no doubt that technology is changing our world and how we live in it. Some industries that have been critical parts of our world will be forced to completely restructure how they do business or they will never survive. Here are 5 of the coolest disruptive technologies of the 20th century.

1. Napster/iTunes/YouTube and the Music Industry

It all started with Napster, if you were around in the early 2000’s chances are you downloaded a song or two from Napster. Napster was a file sharing site specializing in sharing files in the MP3 format, the most common type of audio file. They weren’t the first file sharing site but they were one of the most successful, they proved that music could be distributed digitally on a free site. At one point Napster had more than 80 million users, then the music industry came calling…with lawyers. Continuing legal battles finally forced the shutdown, but by then the damage was done and piracy wasn’t going away.

iTunes was the first legitimate digital music store to change the music industry and compete with piracy. iTunes blended the popularity of the iPod and online piracy into a successful venture. No longer were consumers forced to by an entire album just for one hit song. It turned the $.99 download into a staple and it allowed Indie artists to get noticed. Now music is all about the single and not the album and in the process recording artists got paid faster.

YouTube and the music industry are like an old married couple, mutually dependant and constantly fighting in public. YouTube has been responsible for amateur artists getting visibility and eventually getting signed, Justin Beiber is shining example of what YouTube can do for your career. Artists like Psy and his huge hit Gangam Style with more than 1 billion views made him more money from YouTube than he ever did from his record label. YouTube does try to protect copyrighted material and pay artists their fair share, the music industry claims they are not doing enough or paying enough.

2. Airbnb vs the Hospitality Industry

Founded back in 2008 Airbnb has defined itself as “a social website that connects people with space to share with those looking for a place to stay”. Like Uber has done to the taxi industry it has taken an established industry flipped it on its ear and left it fighting for survival. Hosts can list a spare room, or their entire or apartment or house they decide a nightly or weekly rate for Airbnb guests. Again like Uber they operate with little or no regulatory control. For the consumer they get furnished accommodations with the conveniences of home at a fraction of the cost of a hotel. It hasn’t seen the explosive growth of Uber but thus far it has cost the hospitality industry roughly half a billion dollars every year.

3. Netflix takes on the Cable Companies

There is no doubt Netflix has changed the way we watch TV, binge watching is now very much a thing. Not only are people opting to cut the cable cord in droves. For the first time cable companies are experiencing negative growth and that because of streaming services like Hulu, Amazon and Netflix. Netflix costs around $8 per month while cable subscriptions are somewhere around $80.

Netflix lineup has grown every year and now it produces its own programming that is as good if not better than network television. Despite not offering the extensive programming that cable does Netflix is slowing gaining ground on them every year. In addition to offering shows to binge watch there are documentaries and a long long list of movies to watch. You can thank Netflix for never having to pay a Blockbuster late fee ever again.

4. Self Driving Cars

While that technology is not quite here yet it will change the entire automotive industry. Tech giants like Google are trying to get self driving cars on the road by 2017, they have done test runs but are not quite ready for mass production. Think of the sheer volume of goods and people that are transported around every day, the costs and the environmental impact of doing that are huge. Self driving electric cars could drastically cut these costs. It will be interesting to see where this technology takes us.

5. Zillow/Trulia and the Real Estate Industry

Traditionally when buying or selling a home you got in touch with a realtor who gave you listings to look at if you were purchasing. If you were selling the realtor did an evaluation of your home and gave you an idea of a price to list it at. Now you can do all of this on your own sitting at your computer. Trulia offers a huge database of listings including the For Sale by Owner listings that realtors didn’t always have access to or wouldn’t show you because of the lack of commission. Zillow has its Zestimate feature which can give you a pretty accurate estimate of your home’s value. The two companies have since merged essentially offering you all the services a realtor performed without the 6% commission.

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