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Where are we at with the smart home IoT takeover? #rollcall

(TECH NEWS) Whether you think it’s the robot apocalypse or our first step toward Star Trek, it’s now part of the world. So where do we stand?

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Google home IoT

Three kinds of people

Tech-literate humanity pretty much falls into three categories right now, all predicated on their response to the phrase “Internet of Things” (IoT). First, there are the people with serious concerns about the complex, imperfectly secured, largely user-inaccessible communications network that is currently the “Internet of Things.” I can respect that. No one wants their toaster plotting against them.

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Second, you have people thrilled their devices are learning to network without them. We’re getting past the nonsense necessary to kludge together a half-functional home from a pile of disagreeing, disagreeable electronics. I respect that too, as only someone who recently spent six hours on the Herculean task of getting my computer to recognize the existence of the smartphone sitting on top of it can.

Entering Phase One

But it’s the third group I want to talk to today, the group that exists with every issue: people too busy doing actual stuff to have any investment in the question. Here’s the deal, people with lives: “Internet of Things” means getting a human space to provide digital services without an intervening interface. It’s happening, now. We’re officially into Phase One of stepping into a room, telling it what you want in normal human words, and the room doing it. It’s pretty cool.

“Zero UI”

The oft-quoted goal for IoT devices is “zero UI.” “UI” is User Interface, how you get your gadget to do things. It used to be punched paper cards, then a command line. Now it’s graphical bits and bobs you poke and swipe, but the Holy Grail has always been no interface at all. You talk, it does.

Apple, Amazon, and Google have products out right now meant to do just that. CRT Labs recently spotlighted these tech giants, who are shaping the future of IoT through voice control.

How you like them Apples?

Apple’s entry is Siri. Y’all know Siri. Everybody knows Siri. Well, except the actual Siri, who didn’t know she existed until well after she did. But most everyone else is at least acquainted with the disembodied voice of the Colossus of Cupertino. As a rule I’m not a big Apple fan, but even I grant that Apple interfaces set the standard for clarity and convenience. Oddly, of the three big players, Siri is probably the least user-friendly, with voice input limited to fairly formal commands.

Siri — or more accurately Apple Home, the app that lets Siri take over your house — is only compatible with a short list of devices, most Apple-branded. However, Apple has a huge plus: no new equipment. The Google and Amazon options require users to purchase a dedicated hub. Apple provides a simple upgrade for owners of various iThings that lets the gadget run others. If you’re already an Apple user, that’s a darn good reason to stick with Siri.

What Amazon brings to the table

Of the two dedicated-technology solutions, Amazon is the most complete. In keeping with Siri’s “evil computer from a 70s Sci-Fi film” naming convention, Amazon’s voice assistant is called Alexa. But it seems she can be trusted to open the pod bay doors. Amazon’s entry is the most user-friendly of the three biggies, with programmable algorithms that improve understanding of voice commands over time.

Unlike Siri, Alexa is also designed for ease of integration with third party tools. This makes her less likely to go into a sulk and stop speaking to your stereo, or interrupt a Netflix binge to have a Bluetooth shouting match with your TV. Amazon offers more options besides Alexa. Tap, Echo Dot, and Echo are entry, core, and premium respectively, but all of them will broadcast Pandora or order a pizza if you ask – and they smoke Google on price. The entry-level Tap hub is $49.99, less than half the $129 Google Home.

Google’s take

Google Home is hard to review because frankly, it’s not done yet. As with lot of Google products, it has impressive technical crunch: like Alexa, it’s designed to learn over time. And Google Assistant, in addition to not sounding like it wants to play Global Thermonuclear War with Matthew Broderick, can even answer questions and consider context like time of day. But its list of compatible gadgets is short. Comparable to Siri, but without Siri’s certainty that at least Apple-branded products will work.

Review aside, the vital point is this: the Internet of Things is here. Whether you think it’s the robot apocalypse or our first step toward Star Trek, it’s now part of the world. Get a piece.

#GetSmart

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Real Estate Technology

10 UX /UI design trends leading the way for 2022 and beyond

(TECHNOLOGY) Keeping your website and mobile up to date is the first step. Check out these UX and UI design trends that will dominate the future of tech.

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An overhead look at a person working on a no-code design website on a laptop on a desk.

A new year means new trends, here are the top 10 trends in UI/UX development and how they can be implemented. With consumers interacting with the online world more in 2022 than ever before, being ahead of the curve can help content stand out. Let’s take a look at the top 10 trends in UI/UX design for 2022.

UI/User Interface

1) Vintage, 90’s

I guess it’s true what they say; everything old is new again! In the last months of 2021 the 90’s made a huge comeback across the board, from fashion to interior design and now in web design too. Some elements of this style are a mix of bright and pastel colors, shadows, line graphic elements, serif fonts, and round text elements. In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, “I come back stronger than a 90’s trend”.

Source: Plus

 

Example of Vintage trend by Plus

 

2) Scrollytelling

 

A portmanteau of the words “scrollying” and “telling”; scrollytelling is just what it sounds like! A story is told to the user as they scroll down a continuous page. Considering that a large part of what we do on our mobile devices involves scrolling (sometimes with no end in sight) this trend is a natural next step.

 

Source: Bluemarinefoundation

 

Example of Scrollytelling Trend by Blue Marine Foundation

 

3) 3D and 3D animations

 

3D design is a trend that has been steadily increasing over the years, but will peak in popularity this year! From Apple showing off their newest device concepts via 3D animation, to car websites showing off their car models, 3D animation can be invaluable to showing off every aspect of a new product. 3D animation will be the most popular in ecommerce, architecture, and business, and also make an appearance in fashion, education, and culture.

 

Source: The Originals Museum Renault

 

Example of Originals Museum Renault 3D trend

 

4) Minimalism

 

Since the days of Marie Kondo and ridding yourself of objects that “spark no joy” minimalism has been a fast-growing trend, and 2022 is no exception. Minimalism is all about free space, contrasting text, graphic elements, and space. Minimalism is simple and free of distractions and is pleasing to the user.

 

Source: Neuro

 

Example of Minimalism Trend by Neuro

 

5) Brutalism

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum to the aforementioned minimalism trend, we have brutalism. Brutalism is chaotic and attention-grabbing (and maybe a little headache-inducing). It consists of huge titles, bold fonts, and bright and neon colors splashed all over the webpage. It is about creativity and challenging regular design rules. It is sure to garner attention in 2022.

 

Source: MSG

 

Example of Brutalism Trend by the MSG Brand

 

UX/User Experience 

 

1) AR/VR

 

Unsurprisingly, the augmented and virtual reality trends will extend to UX designs. Since Meta announced the Metaverse and the VR Oculus headsets (which are also owned by Meta) coming out with new versions, and gaining popularity it only makes sense that AR and VR trends would extend to web design as well. The biggest practical application is in e-commerce. Ikea released Ikea Place, where you can place furniture in your home via VR prior to purchasing it. The AR/VR trend will steadily grow in popularity for years to come; especially as the Metaverse gains ground in the future.

 

Source: The Wall Street Journal

 

Example of VR Trend by Metaverse

 

2) Audio Only

 

Music giant, Spotify launched a live audio app, called Greenroom. Greenroom allows creators to interact with fans in real-time, by creating rooms, selecting speakers, and discussing topics. With podcasts and audiobooks at an all-time high, coupled with security concerns over messaging communication and a dash of healthy contempt for video calling, it makes sense that audio-only apps would make an appearance. It is also easy and requires no links or registration. Where tech giants like Spotify lead, other companies are sure to follow.

 

Source: Spotify

 

Example of Audio App Trend by Greenroom

 

3) Customization

 

From the customization of features inside an application such as the name, appearance, and color of chats inside social media sites like Instagram or Facebook to the customization of just about every feature of a smartphone, the last several years have been huge for environment customization. Where frequent and long-term interactions are expected, this 2022 trend is a great option.

 

Source: Instagram, Telegram

 

Example of UX Design Trend by Instagram, Telegram

 

4) Mobile-first design

 

With smartphone sales reaching 1.53 billion in 2021, and with the portability of smartphones, it is no surprise that consumers prefer interacting with websites via their mobile devices. UX developers can take advantage of this by utilizing chatbot and push notifications, keeping only the necessary elements, designing user-friendly call to action to drive sales, and most importantly, keeping it simple. This trend is a safe bet since it is guaranteed to grow exponentially in the coming years.

 

Source: Statista

 

Number of smartphones sold to end users worldwide from 2007 to 2021 representing mobile design trend

 

5) Page Speed Prioritization

 

Going hand in hand with mobile design, 2022 will see an emphasis on page speed prioritization. It may seem like a no-brainer but, in a world where rapid consumption of content is expected, fast page speeds should be a given. Websites need to be optimized so that photos and videos do not slow the page when they are loading. One way to help with page speed is to use small fonts, and only one per title and one per body text. This is especially true for startup sites looking to build an audience (which can never happen if users jump ship immediately due to slow loading times). Google’s algorithms love well-optimized pages, which rank at the top. This means the burden is on the designer to create a well-optimized page without sacrificing design. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned UI/UX pro, these trends are sure to help create.

Page speed trend

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Real Estate Technology

Tech trends: What’s emerging that is now impacting the real estate industry

(TECHNOLOGY) Tech and its effects impact all aspects of life. What are the top tech trends impacting the real estate industry now?

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home for sale representing tech trends in real esate

Several hundred Realtors® met this week to discuss emerging tech trends impacting the real estate industry. With the real estate market seemingly ready to bust, it’s important to consider how technology may affect home buyers and sellers.

Data trends to know

Jane Dzielski, Google’s Principal Analytical Lead, presented important information about home buying trends. Prior to the pandemic, about 10% of households moved each year. Over the past two years, 25% of consumers have moved. Another 24% plan to move in the next year. She also reported that internet searches for buying a second home have “surged” since the second half of 2020.  Second homes are considered a great investment to earn money renting while having access to a vacation home.

Tech trends to pay attention to

Ashley Stinton, Second Century Ventures, brought her experience in marketing to the session by discussing investment in real estate technology companies. She reported that “over $31 billion was invested in 2021.” She also said, “We’ve seen 12 new prop tech unicorns as well as over 150 merger and acquisition transactions.” SCV has a program to support new tech to bring innovations to the real estate industry.

Other speakers went on to discuss the impact of the metaverse on real estate. Meta is investing $10 billion per year over the next decade to the metaverse. As the metaverse impacts how we interact with and use the internet, it’s going to change how people buy and sell homes.

Cryptocurrency and blockchains will also impact the real estate landscape. According to one of NAR’s directors, over 11% of first-time homebuyers sold cryptocurrency as part of their down payment in 2021. This figure is trending upwards since 2019. Many experts expect it to continue to rise.

Tech has certainly made an impact on home buying and selling since the pandemic. Home appraisals are being conducted without needing to physically visit the home by desktop appraisals. Closings are being conducted virtually. Expect tech to innovate to give home sellers and buyers more options in the future years.

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Real Estate Technology

How to avoid hackers and being sued by customers for being hacked

(TECHNOLOGY) Real estate transactions are being targeted by cybercriminals. One company just got sued by customers for being hacked. Are you safeguarding your company and clients?

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Lock and card on laptop representing being hacked.

Can you imagine your company being hacked, and your customers’ information being used by these criminals, and then you are held liable? It got us to thinking – if hackers are targeting real estate transactions, can brokers or teams be vulnerable here?

To get the answer, we chatted with Katie Johnson, General Counsel at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and if you’re a real estate professional, you should keep reading to learn how to minimize your risk.

Something NAR’s been thinking about

NAR has a tremendous number of resources on this topic, and they’ve clearly been pondering how to safeguard the industry for quite some time.

In her own words, Johnson offers three ways that you can safeguard yourself and your customers from being hacked:

1. Create, maintain, and follow a comprehensive Data Security Program. Many states require businesses to maintain written data security policies regarding the collection, use, distribution, and destruction of consumers’ personally identifiable information. Going through the process of creating such a policy will help members understand what type of personally identifiable information they receive from clients, how it is received (e.g., email, hard copies, text, transaction management tools), and whether it is necessary.

The policy should also address how to properly dispose of such information. NAR has published a Data Security Toolkit to assist members with creating that policy. We also offer a 4 hour course for members.

2. Implement good email practices. We are increasingly hearing about data breaches resulting from a hacked email account. Therefore, it’s important for all email users to change passwords on a regular basis and to use complex passwords that would be difficult to guess.

Also, avoid sending sensitive financial information via email whenever possible. If necessary, then use encrypted email. Use up-to-date firewall and anti-virus technologies. Avoid using free Wifi to send emails or conduct business. Clean out your email account on a regular basis and avoid opening suspicious email or attachments.

3. Be paranoid. This is advice that my colleague, Jessica Edgerton gives, and it’s very true. If an email, phone call, or social media posting looks suspicious, it probably is best to avoid engaging. If a member thinks a breach has occurred, then all affected or potentially affected parties, as well as proper law enforcement, should be notified as soon as possible.

Moving forward, better informed

Further, Johnson notes that they are not aware of any legal liability imposed on NAR members to-date, but she notes that “the possibility is always there as cyberfraud in real estate transactions persists.”

“In addition to legal liability,” Johnson adds, “data breaches can have other harmful effects on a member’s business such as time and resources spent implementing new security measures, training, and having to contact clients that may be affected by the breach.”

Can you honestly say you’re already doing all of these things? If not, spend some time this month to protect yourself, your team, and most importantly, your customers.

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