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Looking smart: AR glasses to actually get excited about

(TECH NEWS) Smart glasses have been predominately hit-and-miss since their inception. North’s Focals promise to disrupt this stereotype. Finally, Kingsman glasses are real!

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The very public fall from grace experienced by Google Glass is still a sore spot for those of us who were looking forward to a viable set of augmented reality (AR) eyewear. Fortunately, a set of glasses backed by companies like Amazon and Y Combinator looks to provide an accessible solution.

While the Google Glass project didn’t technically die, it did veer away from public availability and into the enterprise spectrum; this makes Google Glass relatively inaccessible to any “normal” private citizen, thus negating the fact that — technically, at least — Google Glass is still around. If you’re lamenting the absence of Google Glass in your daily life, however, don’t fret: a company called North has a solution for you by way of a set of smart glasses called Focals.

Focals appear to bridge the gap between the public and what Google Glass could have offered, all without the clunky appearance and questionable marketing techniques. North embodies the idea that the first company to come up with a stylish pair of glasses with “smart” functionality (as opposed to putting the “smart” aspect over form) would earn a memorable spot in AR history: Focals are, first and foremost, eyewear that’s designed to be comfortable and unobtrusive.

Of course, smart glasses should do more than just look nice on your face. Focals boast a range of AR capabilities including personalized updates, messaging, turn-by-turn directions, and information about your surroundings, all of which are rendered in a three-dimensional augmented reality display that only the wearer can see. You can even talk to Amazon’s Alexa or dictate text message responses via the glasses’ built-in microphone, making Focals the ultimate hands-free experience.

Smart glasses feel like the most logical next step in terms of wearable smart technology, especially given the success of items such as the Apple Watch. As society continues to implement strict limitations on the ways in which you can stay connected while working, commuting, or otherwise keeping your hands away from your phone, having the option to review your updates without having to shift your field of vision a whit is particularly enticing.

Focals aren’t currently unavailable for purchase, but you can reserve a pair through North’s Focals webpage. A pair of Focals is expected to set you back approximately $1000 upon release. Enjoy your new life as a Kingsman!

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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

Steam device makes your water heater smart

(TECHNOLOGY) Not only is a smart water heater good for the environment in helping reduce CO2 emissions but it pays for itself in around a year after purchase for a standard 3 bedroom home.

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I don’t usually think of the internet when I think of saving energy and I certainly don’t think of my water heater, but apparently that’s all about to change thanks to an innovative new component called the Smart Water Heating Unit, you (and your clients) can save money on energy.

You may not realize it but we spend nearly 20% of our monthly energy bill just heating the water! Instead, by setting your tank to work at low rate hours and by setting your water temperature to an appropriate level you can gain significant savings.

Because your tank is connected to the Internet via your home Wi-Fi network, you can access and control it from any device and from anywhere in the world.​​ And the good thing is that it requires only a 2.4Ghz band which is available on most routers.

According to Steam’s website, “Steam’s multiple sensors help you find patterns, understand your consumption, and change habits. You adjust the water heating to the optimize comfort level.” Conveniently, you can choose between adjusting the heating unit by yourself, or just let Steam do it for you!

The Smart Water Heating Unit fits onto your existing or new hot water tank, connects to Wi-Fi and then you control it via Smartphone or Tablet, anytime or anywhere. Saving energy was never this easy! HelloSteam.com says that “not only is Steam good for the environment in helping reduce CO2 emissions but it pays for itself in around a year after purchase for a standard 3 bed house.”

Remember, Steam needs 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network in order to connect the Steam box to the Steam backend, which is supported by most routers. For now, the app is only available on Android and iOS but Steam will be supporting a web interface in future versions.

You will also need to have access to your water heater. Steam works best in single-family homes, condos, and townhouses that have their own hot water tank. Steam is powered from the same power lines going to your tank. No additional power is required and currently spends less than 1 megabyte of data per day.

As startups go, this one is hedging its bets on helping us spend less and consume less energy. In my book that’s a winning combination!

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Real Estate Technology

How AI boosts sales skills, not replaces them

(TECH NEWS) Artificial intelligence will drive the future of sales with time-saving solutions, not career-destroying deviance.

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Artificial Intelligence is getting pretty wild, y’all. Google and Uber are both working on developing AI systems with self-doubt, the University of Cambridge added a “Superintelligence” modification to popular computer game Civilization, and Japanese scientists can basically read minds with deep neural networks now.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) broadly covers the idea of machines and technology carrying out “smart” tasks. AI is driven by machine learning (ML), which allows devices to analyze data and learn through pattern recognition.

AI’s potential is widespread, from personal assistants like Siri and Alexa, to services like Pandora and Netflix. Utilizing machine learning (ML) software, these services apply algorithms to data sets to analyze and learn user preferences.

Whenever you like a movie or show on Netflix, you get suggestions of what you may like based on previous reactions, watching history, and Netflix’s extensive dataset. Machine learning does the analysis work, while Netflix as a service is considered something that uses AI.

Many companies use AI and ML to evaluate and manage data. In 2016, $20-30 billion was spent worldwide on AI. Of this, ninety percent went to research and development, which speaks to global interest in improving and increasing AI technology.

As the amount of worldwide data increases, AI and ML can help manage information and deliver insights across a variety of industries, including retail, real estate, education, energy, manufacturing, and so many others.

Sales can particularly benefit from AI since it reduces the manual labor of researching prospects and qualifying leads. With AI, sales teams can determine when to engage prospects, and which information will be most relevant.

Additionally, AI provides insight into which content is doing well so sales teams can better optimize high-performing strategies. In turn, this can improve engagement based on insights instead of intuition to increase close rates.

Close analysis of data doesn’t have to be a tedious administrative task with AI and ML. By finding out what your customers need based on close data analysis, you can create targeted, personalized solutions.

Plus, AI can help reduce lost sales by evaluating product availability, and implement dynamic pricing along and demand forecasting.

In terms of customer support for sales, you can already easily implement chatbots that use machine learning to answer frequently asked questions and generate leads.

We’re not exactly at Westworld levels of automation yet, but the future is leaning towards AI. Those in the sales industry can greatly benefit from implementing artificial intelligence solutions to save time and increase productivity for anyone who’s still human on the team.

And now for a neat graphic to digest:

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Real Estate Technology

How to run a phone system inside of Slack (no phone required)

(TECH NEWS) Ottspott is a phone system that runs inside Slack. You don’t even have to own a telephone set – you can make and receive all of you calls through your computer browser, without leaving Slack.

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If you’re already running everything in your business though Slack, you might want to keep an eye on Ottspott, a startup currently registering early adopters in beta.

Ottspott is a phone system that runs inside Slack. You don’t even have to own a telephone set – you can make and receive all of you calls through your computer browser, without leaving Slack.

No coding or technical skills are required. Sign up takes less than a minute, and your entire team is integrated into the system – no need to invite team members or have them sign up individually. You simply select a phone number from a list of 9,000 cities in 40 countries, and Slack takes care of the rest. Included are major tech cities such as Dublin, Amsterdam, London, San Francisco, and New York. Ottspott is a great tool for global businesses that want to keep local phone numbers for their customers.

Ottspott can help you with internal communications, as well as calling clients and customers.

You can label calls for efficiency (for example “urgent” or “sales”), and you can have calls automatically forwarded to the appropriate member of your team. Your Gmail contacts are integrated with Ottspott to provide caller ID. You can also create folders of contacts to share with your team. Ottspott can even facilitate conference calls using Slack’s slash commands.

Ottspott notifies you instantly when you receive or miss a call, or when you get a new voicemail. You can then click-to-call from these notifications or from within voicemail, so you don’t need to dial the number.

You can also use OttSpott’s analytic metrics to measure your sales team’s phone performance.

And what if you’re away from your computer? No problem. Ottspott has a built-in voicemail system, and can also forward calls to your cell phone or landline.

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