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6 kick ass drone tools every real estate pro should know

(TECH NEWS) Drone technologies are emerging rapidly, and improving real estate marketing like never before. Here are some tools to know about before embarking upon your drone journey.

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Have you noticed the globe’s recent fascination with drones? They’re practically everywhere – agriculture, the news, outside your twenty-second story window — and what has essentially become a distinct subculture (similar to GoPro’s preferred demographic, but different in its own right) which has grown far too quickly to be regulated as strictly as one might think.

Practically anyone can obtain a drone these days; thanks to recent developments in this revolutionary technology, you can be part of the aforementioned “anyone.”

Note from the Editor: Before you put a drone in the air, consult local and federal laws (or consult your lawyer).

First, check out the no-fly zone maps

To start, you’ll want a comprehensive app that keeps you updated on flight alerts. Such an app does, indeed, exist – a testament to the prevalence of this subculture in and of itself – and it goes by the elusive name Hover.

Hover provides you with No-Fly Zone maps, both temporary and permanent, as well as consolidated weather and an integrated flight log. If you have the slightest inclination to avoid accidental stalking or becoming a threat to national security, Hover has your back.

Next, you’ll probably want some hardware to accompany your software. In a rapidly expanding drone market, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that absolutely outdoes every other item; however, for your convenience, we have assembled a list of choice picks.

1. A stabilized drone that shoots in 1080p

The Phantom 2 Vision+: A stabilized drone that shoots video in 1080p. Autonomous flight is an option, but the Phantom 2 Vision+ truly excels with its input capability; the option to program in specific coordinates and control each minute movement from the ground makes this drone optimal for shooting long, panoramic videos as well as quick, dynamic angles.

2. Throw the drone up, it follows you around

Lily: Also known as the camera that made third-person action possible, Lily is an autonomous drone that is geared towards extreme sporting fanatics. Lily flies behind you and records in 1080p, with the advertised option of slow-motion recording in 720p. Lily is also waterproof, as well as being surprisingly portable.

3. Durable drone controlled by your phone

Hexo+: Approximately the same functionality as Lily, with a few key differences: Hexo+ comes with a dedicated app to consolidate all of the drone’s functions into your preferred smartphone, as well as much more in-depth controls than Lily. Hexo+ is described on its site as “a drone specifically designed to follow and film you—in any situation,” which suggests extreme durability.

4. A waterproof, emergency-ready drone

Splash Drone: Still in prototype with a tentative release date of August 28, this drone is worth keeping an eye on. Besides being built around a reliable waterproof chassis, the Splash Drone comes with an emergency flare system, a payload release system (literally taking autonomous delivery to a new level), and the seemingly obligatory autonomous operational capabilities.

5. Buy footage or hire an operator

Airstoc Footage: Recently, we wrote about GoPro’s campaign to create the equivalent of Shutterstock for video marketing. While there were definitive pros and cons, the overall idea was fairly solid. Airstoc Footage is the drone version of that campaign, offering both the ability to buy footage or hire an operator for a more personal touch — something GoPro’s campaign lacked. Keep an eye on this site as well.

6. Hire a drone operator pro on the fly

Animal Robo: The “Uber of drones,” Animal Robo is an app that allows you to hire drone pilots on demand. Though not terribly revolutionary in and of itself, the concept opens up a job market for anyone with the cash and expertise to own and pilot a drone competently. Brave new world that this is, it seems likely that this is a market that will also eventually see the rise of its own subculture.

So there you have it, folks. If you’re thinking of purchasing a drone, we would strongly advise you to consider the above information when finalizing your purchase — especially the apps, which will probably make your operation easier and definitely spare you significant legal trouble.

Bonus: to learn more about the drone ecosystem, read Greylock Partners’ Chris McCann’s brief visual overview.

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Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Real Estate Technology

Five inexpensive VPN options to keep you all sorts of secure

(TECHNOLOGY) If you work on public internet or are just looking to beef up your internet security VPNs could be your answer. Here are five worth looking into.

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VPN options

We must speak, as we so often do, of l33t h4x0rz.

Let’s get blunt. We have reached the point in the evolution of technology where access to your personal data is equivalent to access to everything you own. Data security breach, which involves fewer twentysomethings with improbable hair and more Russian state actors than 90s movies led me to believe, can be the end of a business, especially a small one.

Frustratingly, the mainstream market hasn’t really produced perfect solutions for that. At present, you really have two options.

Option one, you roll with AppleFacebookGoogleSoft. Different companies, same model: hand your data to a giant organization with an affirmative interest in keeping it confidential. That can work! It can also, y’know, not. A lot.

Option two, full infogeek. Pull together All The Information and put it behind tight security you control. We’re big fans of this. On the other hand, we’re geeks. Doing this successfully requires knowledge, specialty tools and changes in behavior that may not be practical for you.

Ain’t exactly optimal, those options. So for the love of the white hat, what’s to do? Where’s the middle ground between “put it in a big sack and hand it to HugeCorpCo” and “lock every 0 and 1 in a painstakingly handcrafted box?”

Meet your friend, the VPN. Virtual private networks aren’t just the irritating things you have to sign into before another constructive day on the cube farm. For any entrepreneur or freelancer who isn’t into a rad Linux solution, a VPN is a straight-up necessity. They’re how you Internet without people keeping logs (your ISP does), tracking your activity (everybody does), or carrying off your innocent data to the dark web or the Kremlin.

Better yet? There are lots of good ones that are inexpensive, reliable, and only a Google away. Here’s five. Unranked, because every VPN is a beautiful snowflake.

IPVanish wins at efficiency. They own 100 percent of their resources, rather than outsourcing any work to third parties. That means high speed and optimal security, since their commitment to keeping zero information on their clients can’t be undercut by nosy contractors.

NordVPN has tech wizardry going for it, with double encryption and even an optional kill switch that automatically disconnects you from the Internet if anything goes amiss with the VPN. Nord also wins at most devices per subscription, and will happily wrap up to 6 of your robots in the warm embrace of infosec.

Private Internet Access, in addition to winning the Most Straightforwardly Named Product Ever award I just made up, is great for power users, with unlimited bandwidth and a subscription allowing up to 5 devices. It’s also super simple, designed to run in the background while you go about your digital day, so for folks who aren’t looking for bundled apps or a shiny interface, this is your guy.

PureVPN gets compatibility cred, since it’s usable across Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows and even provides proxy workarounds for Chrome and Firefox. It also has a frankly enormous server network, which is good news for speed freaks.

TunnelBear, in addition to being adorable, is extremely user friendly. It’s kind of the anti-PIA, with a rich interface and lots of shiny features. Those features include neat security tricks like Intellibear, allowing users to selectively VPN into particular sites, and Vigilant Mode, which makes like Nord and blocks Internet traffic in case of outages.

Snowflake jokes aside, the list really isn’t ranked, and for reason. Your VPN will be your gateway to the Internet. What works for you is totally contingent on what you do and what you need. There are only two definitive rules.

One, never free. A free trial is fine. “Free VPN” is online shorthand for “place all your information in this bucket, which I will then steal, seal and sell to the Internet’s many, many buyers of evil buckets of data.”

Two, it’s a numbers game. There are countless choices for VPNs on the market. The entries on our list offer substantially similar services to dozens of others. What makes our 5 special?

Twelve bucks. The maximum cost of each of the 5 VPNs above is less than twelve dollars per month. Most cost less: spring for a subscription and you can get the average cost down to 2 or 3 dollars monthly. But month to month, no obligation, even the most expensive entry on the list – that’s a tie between NordVPN and PureVPN – costs you less than twelve dollars a month.

Beat that for peace of mind.

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Real Estate Technology

Using text message marketing? This class action lawsuit may change your mind

(MARKETING NEWS) A new class action lawsuit may have your team reconsidering whether or not text message marketing is worth the risk.

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Imagine sitting on the sofa with your family and your phone vibrates. It’s a text message! You’re expecting your brother to let you know if he’ll make it to dinner tomorrow.

But it’s a text from a real estate brokerage, loudly proclaiming an “OPEN HOUSE THIS WEEKEND” in all caps, with a link to the listing.

How did they get your number? Why are they yelling at you? Why doesn’t the link have a brokerage name in the URL? Why would I click that link? Why am I being bothered during family time? Why, why, why?

Most people would block the number and move on, or text “stop,” in hopes that the future barrage of unsolicited texts would stop. We all get them from every direction, nearly every day now.

But not Floridian Steve Grossberg, who took a screenshot of a text message from a Coldwell Banker agent, and hired an attorney. A class action lawsuit has since been filed in the Southern District of Florida, and a court date is set for this Friday, April 12, for Judge Federico A. Moreno to review the case.

The lawsuit claims the text messages were sent without written permission from the recipients (required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since 2012), causing the Defendants “injuries, including invasion of their privacy, aggravation, annoyance, intrusion on seclusion, trespass, and conversion.”

Class action status is being sought for this case – Grossberg’s attorneys claim individual cases for all those impacted would overwhelm the court system and be too financially cumbersome for potential individual plaintiffs.

They’re seeking up to $1,500 in damages for each violation, which they say exceeds the $5,000,000 threshold for federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). The “Class” would include anyone in the past four years that have texted by Coldwell Banker or anyone on their behalf, using automated equipment (or an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS)). Interestingly, in the “Class” description, the attorneys don’t include permission status at all, just “anyone” that has been auto-texted by the brokerage.

Court documents outline in detail the technologies used that allegedly violate federal statues, and Grossberg isn’t just suing the local agent or brokerage, but the international company, Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, claiming the text messages sent violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The lawsuit does not outline in such detail, the chain of permission that was or was not given.

Real estate professionals that hire a marketing firm or a tech startup that promises to modernize their marketing, have an expectation that their money is being spent on something that is in compliance with all laws, be they local, state, or federal. Especially if that is what the company being hired specializes in.

Laying it at the feet of the end user (brokerages) is unfair, and it is curious that no service provider is named as the Defendant. Perhaps Coldwell Banker’s pockets seem deeper.

Additionally, the topic of permission is convoluted, as website visitors will often fill out their information when viewing homes, and the IDX provider will use that contact information to send even more information, thus written permission to contact.

Lumping the above activity in with telemarketing spam would be inaccurate. If a brokerage bought a list of phone numbers to cold text without consumers’ permission, that would, however be illegal.

Regardless, in the text message showcased in the lawsuit, the URL provided (ishomenow.com) forwards to listingstoleads.com – Listings-to-Leads (L2L) which says it is a “leading inbound marketing platform with a lead generation system.”

It appears to us that the lead generation company is the originator of the text message, not a specific Coldwell Banker agent or broker.

This Friday will determine next steps in this case, but for now, it is worth investigating your own text message marketing efforts (whether done yourself or through a third party) to make sure proper permissions have been obtained, and that all use is within current federal guidelines, because a potential $1,500 per text message sent in violation of the law would hurt any brokerage.

Be sure to read the lawsuit in its entirety as it outlines the specific behaviors in question, and review this potentially helpful compliance checklist in the meantime.

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Real Estate Technology

The app for pros that rely on their network for sales

(TECH NEWS) When you network frequently as part of your sales strategies, connections can get confused and become impersonal. This app intends on fixing that.

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Part of any successful professional’s life is networking in person, be it within your network, or among consumers. But keeping everyone straight takes a lot of brain power and skill.

You can never have too many apps when it comes to networking. Which is why I’m thrilled that with the arrival of Hippo, we have a meaningful entry in the field.

Like its distant cousin “personal finance and budgeting,” there are more apps out there than I have fingers and toes. Yet Hippo is attempting to do what dozens of other networking apps are trying to do as well: Get and keep your attention.

That said, it appears that Hippo is trying to tap into your vein of nostalgia by letting you know that networking is akin to happiness. In other words, the more people you know, the happier you are – their premise is supported by a giant TED talk on their website’s landing page.

The Hippo app lets you personalize your entries: names, ages, descriptions, personal notes, special dates.

For anyone involved in sales, Hippo could offer one hell of an advantage.

For those of us used writing things down about the people you meet, Hippo makes your conversations instantly searchable. Hippo can find notes using any obscure keyword you can remember. The search is brilliant.

The app promotes the idea of the “Farley file,” wherein Franklin D. Roosevelt’s campaign manager, James Farley kept notes of every single person they came across, including personal details that could be accessed by Roosevelt days, weeks, or even months later to improve the personal touch of any conversation. This was not the standard method at the time and many believe it changed how politicians were expected to communicate.

Hippo is just waiting to be downloaded.

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