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What can Google Home do that Amazon Echo can’t?

(TECH NEWS) Home assistant devices were all the rage this holiday season, with millions of Amazon Echo and Google Home units sold. So who should you look to as your new robot overlord?

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A pretty decent chunk of Americans are now asking Google or Amazon to turn up the air for them if they’re chilly. Home assistant devices were all the rage this holiday season, with millions of Amazon Echo and Google Home units sold. So who should you look to as your new robot overlord?

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Here’s where Google Home takes Echo to the parking lot after school and metaphorically beats it up.

Major considerations

Price point
At $130, Google Home is less expensive than Amazon’s top-tier Echo option. Its Chromecast add-ons are also less expensive than Amazon’s TV options.

Speakers
You can set up Chromecast Audio to speakers throughout your house and play music in specific rooms. You can achieve this through grouping speakers, a feature only available with Google Home. And friends, this is one hell of a quality speaker, beating out standard home audio systems in our opinion.

Voice Control
The Google Assistant is more conversational than Alexa, with the ability to learn from your questions. Natural conversations are likelier due to its “memory” for things you have previously brought up.

You can ask Google Home a question like, “OK Google, what is the real name of the singer in Blondie?” then “OK Google, where is she from?” and it will remember the context of your previous question.

Where Google takes home the prize

Music
Unlike the Echo, Google Home has access to YouTube. It also seems to have a better understanding of more complicated commands regarding music. For example, CIO reported that asking both Alexa and Google Home to play Indian music left Alexa baffled, even though it definitely had access to that music. Google Home was able to process relatively vague requests and access a wider variety of music.

Search
While the Echo is understandably Amazon-centric, shopping with Google Home allows users to research more in-depth information about products they’re interested in purchasing.

Google Home’s search capabilities surpass Alexa’s, because duh, Google is Home’s parent. Of course a device filled with the knowledge of an omniscient creator is better at searching things, not just shopping.

Privacy
You can tell Google Home to stop listening in addition to using a physical button. Right now, Alexa only offers a physical button to turn off listening. Additionally, you can see all the data Home has sent by checking your Google activity.

Appearance:
Although it is a matter of personal preference, I think the Google Home has Amazon beat in terms of appearance. Where the Echo looks like a small tubular fan, the Google Home is sleek and customizable. Ability to customize appearance of Google Home with optional bases purchasable in variety of colors and finishes.

On the whole, Google offers more in terms of a robot friend you can ask semi-complicated questions and hold a conversation with. The Google Home also seems like a better bet for those who are more interested in the “I’m sick of typing things into Google” vibe.

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Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Real Estate Technology

Cam’s 360 degree view means live streaming interactive home tours

(TECH) Virtual tours just got awesome. Luna, a 360 degree camera in beta, is the size of a golf ball, waterproof and streams its video feed live.

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Homebuyers know that no matter how many videos they watch, or photos they click through, nothing can replace the experience of walking through a potential home. Although photos and videos will never fully replace the experience of being somewhere in person, Luna, a new 360-degree camera, promises to bring users one step closer to the real life experience by providing them with panoramic photos and videos.

With its unique dual-fisheye-lens design, Luna is a great marketing tool for real estate professionals that want to give customers a 360° virtual home tour. The spherical camera is about the size of a golf ball, just six centimeters in diameter and a little over 180 grams. Users just click the top of Luna one time to take a panoramic 360° photograph, two times to take a video, or hold down the button to shut off the camera completely.

The camera uses intelligent auto-stitching software, so images are automatically created in the panoramic view and users need not bother with the hassle of other stitching programs.

There are few places that can’t be captured by Luna’s unique camera, especially with it’s host of accessories that make it possible to fly Luna on a drone or attach it to a fishing rod. With its waterproof enclosure, agents can use Luna to show customers the bottom tiling of a swim pool, or create a video of the property grounds despite the drizzling rain. And, with Luna attached to a flying drone, why not take a closer look at the roofing?

Luna’s convenient size and easy-use features make it possible for agents to take and operate the camera almost anywhere. And with a whole host of accessories, the exploration opportunities are virtually endless.

From a marketing perspective, perhaps Luna’s best quality is its ability to stream 360° content live over the Internet. Consumers can watch on their phone or device as their agent gives them a live preview, or they can take independent control over the camera and decide where to look. This feature allows customers to explore interactively with a unique 360° view, as if walking through the house on their own.

it promises to be a great device for real estate agents looking to bring their remote consumers one step closer to a real walk through experience. The unique 360° photos and video can be used to create interest in their properties online, and hopefully convince potential homebuyers to take a live-streaming virtual tour.

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Real Estate Technology

Hackers target associations – how to protect your brokerage, yourself

(TECHNOLOGY) Hackers are increasingly targeting associations, and while they set their own policies to protect themselves, here’s how to do the same for you and your company.

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It all seemed so routine. For officials of both the Henderson (TX) and Boulder Valley(CO) public school districts, the email that they received from an existing construction vendor asking them to update their automated payments to new bank information was nothing seemingly out of the ordinary.

Only when vendors began to inquire about the status of payments that the districts had sent did the districts come to realize that the routine change had made themselves the victims of a scam known as a BEC, or a Business Email Compromise.

In each case, the losses ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars before being discovered. Henderson ISD lost approximately $610,000 to the hackers and Boulder Valley Public Schools lost approximately $870,000. The fiscal hit was accompanied by reviews of and changes to their operating procedures to ensure that such a loss wouldn’t happen again in the future.

While the districts tied their losses to public transparency, with information about the vendors and the scope of work that each was involved with available on their websites, government officials said that such schemes are typically quite sophisticated and ongoing long before any request for money, in order to establish a level of trust with their victims.

Secret Service Agent Bill Mack, speaking to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, noted that “[w]e’ve seen an uptick in the number of cases…Contact is often made long before the request for money. Criminals will use a compromised network to gather information about the target. Then, appearing to be a legitimate representative of the vendor, they will often request a simple change in account numbers.

With FBI estimates as to the annual cost of cybercrime reaching over $2 billion dollars annually, and those losses only partially recovered through either the efforts of law enforcement or insurance, it’s important to recognize the fact that as scammers and hackers expand beyond the tired trope of the 419/Nigerian Prince, they’re now targeting new avenues, such as governmental entities and private associations (perhaps even your local real estate board/association).

While professional associations have been the targets of hackers since at least 2010, according to Ed Schipul, they’re coming under increasing levels of attack.

As a professional member of an organization, we depend on their advice, counsel, and information about upcoming trends and events. We rely on the communication that we receive from them to be timely, accurate, and most importantly, not be harmful to us, professionally or personally.

Assuming that the associations themselves are taking steps to protect their cybersecurity, how do we, as members protect ourselves from hackers?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has tips on staying safe from hackers in an ever-connected world:

• Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly online and asks for your personal information.
• Only open emails that look like they are from people or organizations you know, and even then, be cautious if they look questionable.
• Be especially wary of emails or websites that have typos or other obvious mistakes.
• Verify the validity of a suspicious-looking email or a pop-up box before providing personal information.
• Don’t immediately open email attachments or click on links in unsolicited or suspicious-looking emails.
• Install good anti-virus software that periodically runs to search for and remove malware.
• Be diligent about using spam (junk mail) filters provided by your email provider.
• Don’t visit untrusted websites and don’t believe everything you read.
• Criminals might create fake websites and pop-ups with enticing messages intended to draw you in and download malware.

In the case of officials at the districts, one measure that was implemented in each is worth remembering in a click-and-send era; they promised to have their respective staffs pick up the phone and call the vendor when any type of banking information was requested, to verify the request before providing information.

When dealing with our associations, if we receive an email or other outreach that seems out of character for them, it’s a good reminder to call and ask them if they’d intended to send it out before we take electronic action.

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Real Estate Technology

By now, all brokerages should be using Click-To-Call tech

Click-to-call tech is not just a sales tool, but an expectation of consumers, leading to a much healthier pipeline.

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Consumers are doing more and more online these days – but that doesn’t mean that the era of the phone call has ended. In fact, research is confirming that, when people are shopping or looking for a service, they often combine mobile web searching with a phone call to the business. Users first research the products online on their mobile device, then call the business to get more details or make the purchase.

That is why having a click-to-call option on your mobile website or app is more important than ever.

Invoca reports that 45 percent of all calls to businesses are inspired by a mobile search, compared to just 9 percent of phone calls prompted by a desktop search.

A study in the UK found that 94 percent of customers expect that your site will have a call-to-click option, and we would suggest the findings would be similar in America.

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In a survey of 1500 mobile users, 42 percent of users reported that they had used click-to-call, usually because they simply wanted to speak to a real person. Needing a fast answer to a question, or wanting more information than was listed on the website were two other oft-cited motivations for using click-to-call.

And these calls aren’t just casual chats – more often than not, they are inquiries that lead to sales. Click-to-call phone calls last an average of six minutes, with a high rate of sales conversion.

Mobile phone call conversation rates are four times higher than desktop. Take pause to think about that.

While the benefits of having a click-to-call option are obvious, it’s also important to note that not having click-to-call could actually hurt your business.

The study found that customers are more likely to trust a business when they list a phone number; a business with an unlisted phone number makes customers suspicious and unlikely to buy. The aforementioned UK study found that about a third of customers will actually be frustrated, annoyed, or disappointed if you don’t have click-to-call.

With an estimated $1.94 trillion in sales coming from click-to-calls by 2019, there’s really not excuse not to have it.

This story was first published in 2016.

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