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It’s complicated, but how does one move out of a smart home?

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) We live in a world of the latest, greatest tech gadgets for a smart home, but what happens to them and the information they’ve collected when you’re ready to move?

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One of the attractions to a smart home is customization; you can customize everything from the temperature, to the amount of light in a particular room. Smart homes can accommodate nearly every preference and in most cases, anticipate what you need, but what happens to all this technology, and more importantly, the data this technology has collected, when you decide to move out of your smart home?

Hardwired versus stand-alone
Most smart homes have a stand-alone hub (or central control) that connect your lights, thermostat, sprinklers, and everything else, while some more involved, automated units require panels to be directly wired into the walls. As you can imagine, the wired-in units, are obviously not going to be walking out the door with you quite as easily when you leave, as a stand-alone hub (like Alexa or Google Home). More importantly, however, where is the data going that your thermostat, security cameras, voice-activated controls, and everything else have collected when you leave? How do you lock down those devices and data so the next occupant cannot access your sensitive information?

Locking it down and resetting devices
Your first priority should be to make certain your software is up-to-date and that you are using the latest security and encryption protection that’s compatible with your system. Each aspect of your smart home likely has a “disconnect” or “uninstall” process and you’ll likely need to consult with each one to insure you have a smooth and safe transition to your new home. Even if you’re taking the components of the system with you, you’ll need to reach out to customer support and let them know your new location. If you’re leaving them behind, tech support will likely recommend that you reset it to the factory default, so the next family will be able to connect their system and adjust to their preferences.

Protecting data and IoT
While dealing with the actual devices is important, as an entire connected home can become quite expensive, even more crucial, is ensuring that your data is protected when you move. This brings us back to a topic we have long and frequently discussed: the IoT (Internet of Things) and who in fact owns the information collected from a smart home?

In general, if you own your home, you own the data, although, each app/program/vendor/utility can vary so always, always, always, read the terms and conditions before you click “accept” when you begin using a new program or app. The ToS will likely tell you what the company will do with the data it collects from your devices and you need to protect the ownership of your data. Also, read the privacy policy as some data can be sold to 3rd parties (for massive profit) if you blindly click “accept.”

If you still think it’s no big deal, you might want to read about who will profit from the IoT. Also dig in to who owns what type of data, because let’s face it, you want to know where and how video footage, door lock access codes, and security alarm entries are being stored.

If you take nothing else away from this article, let it be to double-check your encryption setting and your preferred apps’ data storage/sales policies because these are the two most important and proactive steps you can take to prevent your data from falling into the wrong hands, not only when you leave your existing smart home, but also in general while you are using and enjoying your automated technology.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Real Estate Technology

How to spot cyberbullying, sexual harassment within a remote team

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) With more people working remotely, cyberbullying may rear its ugly head. Here’s what to look out for and how to handle the problem.

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cyberbullying

Cyberbullying doesn’t occur only between children. Adults are often the perpetrators. A study published in 2017 found that 80% of the respondents had been a victim of cyberbullying in the previous 6 months. Many other studies have confirmed that cyberbullying is a problem in the workplace.

Suzanne Lucas, EvilHRLady.org, reminds us that cyberbullying and sexual harassment can still be a problem when we’re working at home. Don’t think because your staff isn’t within physical proximation of each other that they are all suddenly angels. Employers should be on alert for bad behavior through remote channels.

What is cyberbullying?

Bullying behavior presents itself in many forms, from sarcasm, the invisible treatment, deliberate sabotage and physical assault. Cyberbullying occurs when these behaviors are done over electronic devices.

A cyberbully might purposefully delete a person from an email list, then follow up with that person. Sext messages sent between employees. “Accidentally on purpose” not wearing pants during a video-conference, then getting up so that everyone can see you. Trolling a colleague’s social media to post mean or destructive comments. One of the biggest problems with bullying is that it can be difficult to recognize, because it takes so many different forms.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to know whether it was a one-time slip-up or a deliberate action. Generally speaking, if it’s a pattern of behavior, it’s bullying.

Steps to take to reduce the risk of cyberbullying

Lucas recommends that employers take complaints of cyberbullying seriously. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employers could be held responsible for employees who cyberbully. Employers have a legal responsibility to address cyberbullying.

Lucus suggests:

  • A dress code for video-conferencing to prevent “accidental” excuses.
  • A reminder to everyone that their camera is on when using video.
  • Don’t make employees leave their camera on when working at home unless in a conference.
  • Have permissions set high to prevent camera-sharing.

Employees may need to be reminded of what is acceptable and what isn’t. If your organization doesn’t have policies in place about responding to bullying, you need to get on the ball. While people are working from home, it can be good to have a training on recognizing bullying behavior, on- or off-line.

COVID-19 has disrupted everyone’s life, but it can’t be used to excuse bad behavior. You can’t wait to deal with complaints of harassment.

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Real Estate Technology

Seeking accessibility options? Google Maps can help you find them

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Google Maps makes it easier to see which locations are wheelchair-accessible. Accessibility Is now marked easily as an icon next to the name of locations.

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If you are one of the 13.7% of adults in the US who have a disability which makes it difficult to walk or climb stairs, it is now easier to find out accessibility details of businesses or other destinations using the Google Maps app.

Though the feature was previously available, it required users to seek it out separately for each destination in the “About” section of the app. The new “Accessible Places” feature rolled out on Global Accessibility Awareness Day marks destinations that have wheelchair-accessible entrances with a prominently displayed icon, and information about the availability of accessible seating, parking, and restrooms.

Though accessibility features are often initiated through work and advocacy to help people with disabilities, it is something that even those without mobility challenges often seek out, and from which they can benefit. For example, if a person is pushing around a stroller with a 30-pound toddler inside; they might want to know the accessibility details when planning their outings to know where they will or will not encounter an accessible entrance. This is also a helpful tool for those planning for groups with varying levels of mobility.

Right now the Google Maps app has wheelchair accessibility information for more than 15 million places around the world, according to the Google produced blog The Keyword. This number is continuously increasing as volunteers and business owners add updates.

If you run a business with accessible entrances, seating, parking, or restrooms, you might want to give the feature a try, and make sure that all of the efforts you have put into making your location accessible are noted accurately. If you have updates to add, you can do so here. Google reports that 120 million Local Guides have already shared accessibility information from around the world for this feature.

To enable this update on the Google Maps iOS or Android app, go to “Settings”, select “Accessibility,” and turn on “Accessible Places.”

google maps settings

The rollout of this feature started with the United States, Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom; with Google claiming support for more countries is on the way. According to The Wheelchair Foundation there is a global population of over 130 million people who use wheelchairs. This user-friendly feature has a large potential audience to benefit from having accessibility information at their fingertips.

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Real Estate Technology

The real reasons we’re all obsessed with spy machines (I mean smart speakers)

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Regardless of privacy issues with them, what does information about smart speakers, ownership, and usage tell us about future trends?

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smart speakers scare me

I don’t trust smart speakers, but even I can (begrudgingly) admit why they might be convenient. With just a simple wake word, I would be able to do anything from inquire about the weather or turn down my own music from across the room. And the thing is, plenty of people have bought into this sort of sales pitch. In fact, the worldwide revenue of smart speakers more than doubled between 2017 and 2018. And it’s projected that by 2022, the total revenue from smart speakers will reach almost $30 billion.

With over 25% of adults in the United States owning at least one smart speaker, it’s worth figuring out how we’re using this new tech…and how it could be used against us.

First things first: Despite the horror stories we hear about voice-command shopping – like when a pet parrot figured out how to make purchases on Alexa – people aren’t really using their smart speakers to buy things. In fact, in the list of top ten uses for a smart speaker, making a purchase is at the bottom.

Before you breathe a sigh of relief, though, it’s worth knowing where advertisements might crop up in more subtle places.

Sure, people aren’t using their smart speakers to make many purchases, but they’re still using the speakers for other things – primarily asking questions and getting updates on things like weather and traffic. And I get it, why scroll through the internet looking for an answer that Alexa might be able to pull up for you instantly?

That said, it also provides marketers with a great opportunity to advertise to you in a way that feels conversational. Imagine asking about a wait time for a popular restaurant. If the wait is too long, it creates the perfect opportunity for Alexa to suggest UberEats as an alternative (promotion paid for by UberEats, of course).

Don’t get me wrong, this is already happening when you search Google on your phone or computer. Search for a tire company, for instance, and the competitors are sure to appear in your results. But as more and more consumers start turning their attention to smart speakers, it’s worth being aware that they won’t be the only ones.

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