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How to move out of your smart home safely while protecting your data

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Customization is a draw of owning a smart home, but what happens to the tech and data that has been collected when you decide to move out?

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smart home gadget, ring doorbell

One of the attractions of 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 connects 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

Your office could benefit from a more open floor plan

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) Science proves that open floor plans are more conducive to office productivity, but will it work for everyone?

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open office

If you walk into a tech startup, nine times out of ten you’ll find an open seating/bull-pen style seating. Whereas traditional work environments are divided up into departments with individual offices and cubicles, open office floor plans put all employees in the same room. Studies have shown that cubicles don’t increase productivity. As a matter of fact, people are more productive when they are sitting close together, but can see each other.

Pros of openness

Some of the advantages of an open office floor plan are obvious. These kinds of offices are economical because you can fit more people and more desks in less space, and because it is more efficient to heat, cool, and light one large room than several small rooms.

Open office plans also facilitate communication between managers and their employees, and between departments.

Rather than taking the stairs or hiking down the hall to collaborate with another person, you can simply holler across the room.

Cons of openness

Unfortunately, all of that hollering can sometimes be pretty distracting. A University of Sydney study found that half of workers in open offices say that the most frustrating part of their workplace is the “lack of sound privacy.”

Open offices are not only noisy, but are also less secure, since everyone can overhear one another.

Employees may get peeved if they can’t concentrate because of all the noise around them, or can’t make a phone call without being overheard.

Dr. Who inspired solution

A startup called Framery Acoustics offers a solution.

They create soundproof phone booths and meeting pods designed to complement open office floor plans.

One of the founders, who previously worked in an open office, complained that his boss talked too loudly on his cellphone. His boss replied, “Well, get me a phone booth.” Thus, Framery Acoustics was born.

Simple solutions

Framery Acoustics is just one company that offers a product suited to appease open office dissenters. Framery Acoustics isn’t ready to give up on openness and neither should you. So, when it comes time to return to your office (if you haven’t already), look for ways to make your office more flexible. Whether it is by providing a quiet capsule for private meetings and phone calls or just having a designated section for meeting, the solution is out there.

Compromising allows you to reap the benefits of an open office plan, while still ensuring that you and your officemates have privacy and quiet when it is needed.

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Real Estate Technology

3D printed homes are now gaining traction outside of the US and China

(TECHNOLOGY) Other countries are now using 3d printing to build homes to underscore their infrastructure. This shows the viability of the technology!

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3D printing

Recently, we reported that Lennar was using 3D printing to build homes in Austin. In 2014, the BBC reported that China was printing up to 10 homes a day at the low cost of $5000 per home. This trend is making strides in the real estate market, even though there’s still a long way to go. In a move that should give the industry confidence in 3D printing, Indonesia’s Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR) Ministry announced that they are using concrete 3D printing to build homes in rural areas. Eventually, plans are in the works to construct schools.

Using 3D printing to build an infrastructure

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country. As with most countries, housing expenses are climbing in both urban and rural areas. According to Habitat for Humanity, 11.3% of the population lives below the poverty line. For comparison, in September, the U.S. Census Bureau released information that the U.S poverty rate increased to 11.4%, one percentage point over the same time in 2020. Affordable housing is a problem in Indonesia.

“This technology really helps us, so we can build faster, more accurately, and with precision,’ explains Kusumastuti, Indonesia’s Director General of Human Settlements.” The PUPR reports that 3D printing reduces waste and improves construction quality. Considering that up to 70% of housing is built by individuals, not private developers or the government, using 3D printing under the PUPR Ministry is an upgrade in a country that deals with many types of economic disasters, due to its climate.

3D printing’s potential for real estate

As 3D printing is used in more construction projects, not only in the U.S. and China, it’s hoped that the real estate industry embraces the technology. Indonesia isn’t the only country that is trying out 3D printing. 14Trees constructed a school in Malawi using this method already, with the project taking around 18 hours. The company is undertaking more projects in Africa using this technology and more companies are building houses using 3D printing in the United States. It will be exciting to watch how this plays out in the various markets.

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Real Estate Technology

Why everyone and their mother own spy machines (aka 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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