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New real estate search engine reveals “the truth” about properties

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Is Localize changing the house hunting game or are they just fooling themselves?

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When I heard Localize describe itself as “Netflix but for houses,” I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow (is anyone else exhausted with the X but for Y techie trend, or is it just me?).

That tagline is not just tired, it’s also confused. Judging by its description on producthunt.com, this new NYC-based startup is much more like Carfax-meets-Nextdoor than Netflix.

Localize is a real estate search engine for house hunters. Their claim to fame is how they record complaints about the properties and neighborhoods in their listings, as well as providing details like nearby transportation, construction, crime rates, and demographic stats for the area.

They are currently only operating within New York and Chicago, with plans to expand to other US cities and Canada.

Localize does sound promising – it tries to give users an impression of what it might be like to live somewhere long before they decide to move in. I could see this service encouraging more direct lines of accountability between property managers and potential (or even past) residents. Listing accessibility concerns like elevator functionality within apartment complexes is a great move too, since that can be a make-or-break factor for disabled and aging people.

A few aspects of Localize give me pause, though. For one, it has a strange fixation on emphasizing that they will provide users with “the truth” in their marketing language. Yes, their goal is to improve transparency in the process of searching for housing, but it’s also like they’re trying to imply that their competitors are lying, and that’s a pretty cheap trick.

Huge real estate players like RE/MAX and sites like realtor.com all rely on local Multiple Listing Service (or MLS) information, which comes straight from individual realtors – who are, by the way, legally obligated to disclose “the truth” about their properties.

Plus, there’s something kind of tone deaf about Localize’s model. There are lots of issues with trying to find housing in cities like New York and Chicago: They are expensive and competitive markets, and right now lots of New Yorkers and Chicagoans are housing insecure because of the economic impact of COVID-19.

On their blog, Localize highlights how it conveniently lets users browse detailed listings while staying quarantined.

But I admit that I have serious doubts that this does anything to really address the needs that the majority of their target demographic currently faces. Sure, Localize could help folks find their dream home, but is that really a viable business plan for the present moment? Especially with so many people struggling to just keep a roof over their head?

I’ll give them this: there’s little doubt that Localize’s mission is sincere – plenty of attempts to “disrupt” an industry are. But sincerity and naivety are by no means mutually exclusive.

Desmond Meagley is an award-winning writer, graphic artist and cultural commentator in D.C. A proud YR Media alumn, Desmond's writing and illustrations have been featured in the SF Chronicle, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, The Daily Cal, and NPR among others. In their spare time, Desmond enjoys vegetarian cooking and vigorous bike rides.

Real Estate Technology

Meet Cam: Using cool widgets to improve our video calls

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) With video calls here to stay, any tools to improve them are more than welcome in our book. Let’s take a look at what Meet Cam has to offer.

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Video conference call on skype, without Meet Cam widgets.

Let’s face it. Video calls are here to stay, and anything that might make our meetings remotely better is worth checking out. So, take a look at Meet Cam.

Meet Cam is a virtual camera for macOS that lets you overlay visual widgets on top of your camera image, such as a timer, agenda, or GIFs. The app works with any app that uses a camera. This means it works with popular video meeting apps like Zoom and Google Meet.

The app has a variety of features that help bring order to meetings, but make them fun at the same time.

Let’s get down to business.

We all have at least one meeting that manages to always go over. Either enough time wasn’t scheduled to go over a project, or people were going on and on without getting to the point.

Meet Cam has a couple of cool features that will help meetings stay on track and not run long.

There is a Meeting Timer widget that displays how much time is left in the meeting. The timer is located on the top right corner of the video, and everyone can see the timer on their screen. So, as less time remains and the numbers start turning red, you know it’s time to wrap things up.

Not to be confused with the Meeting Timer, the Countdown Timer widget, is a timebox used to specifically keep track of time being spent per activity. A countdown timer is displayed in the block of the person who is speaking. This gives them a certain amount of time to get through X, Y, Z. With everyone having the same allotted time to talk, everyone can pace themselves without worrying about not everyone putting in their input.

If you’re someone who really likes checking things off a list, the Agenda widget might be just what you’ve been looking for. This widget displays like a typical list, and it can be used to structure your meeting. As you go over each item on there, you can mark them off as you go. This makes it clear for everyone to know what topics have been discussed and what other topics are still pending.

It can’t be all work and no play.

Have you ever wanted to be a TV news reporter? Well, you don’t have to be one to look like one. Meet Cam’s Headline widget appears much like a static news ticker on the lower portion of your video. With it, you can write a sentence to draw everyone’s focus to a specific topic. And, for a livelier touch, you can write a friendly headline to give reminders, such as “Turn on your camera. 📹 Use headphones. 🎧 Be kind. 😃”

Plain text can sometimes get boring, but the Emoji widget can help you express yourself so much better. The large, animated emoji appears right in the center of your screen. So, if someone is doing a good job, you can give them a thumbs up. Also, this helps eliminate any accidental interruptions because the emoji will silently communicate the expression for you.

To take it to the next level, you can also display animated GIFs. This works just like the emoji widget. The only difference (in my opinion) is that it gives your communication so much more pizazz!

From the looks of it, Meet Cam does have some pretty neat features that have the potential to make meetings more productive and fun. The app is relatively new and some features still need to be implemented. If you’d like to check them out, you can visit their website.

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Real Estate Technology

How Cloudflare’s web analytics could give Google’s tools a run for their money

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) In a world where data is king, Cloudflare’s web analytics value user privacy, staking them as pioneers against other analytic tools.

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Web analytics open on a desktop screen on a table.

When it comes to web analytics tools, users are examining comprehensiveness, usability, and price point. Free analytics tools typically come at a price, which is more often than not the data privacy of your customers.

A new competitor for Fathom Analytics, Simple Analytics, and even Google Analytics is Cloudflare’s web analytics tool. Not only is it free but, unlike the competitors, it will not keep visitor’s data and it will not be able to track conversions, making it the perfect tool for small websites, personal pages, and blogs. Sounds great, right?

In their blog, Cloudflare states: “At Cloudflare, our mission is to help build a better Internet, and part of that is to deliver essential web analytics to everyone with a website, without compromising user privacy. For free. We’ve never been interested in tracking users or selling advertising. We don’t want to know what you do on the Internet — it’s not our business.”

Additionally, Cloudflare doesn’t track users using their IP address, User Agent string, or other attributes. They are truly committed to providing metrics without intruding.

Valuing user privacy makes Cloudflare an industry pioneer. And the best part is, you don’t have to be a Cloudflare subscriber to access this feature.

From the blog: “Today, for the first time, anyone can get access to our client-side analytics — even if you don’t use the rest of Cloudflare. Just add our JavaScript snippet to any website, and we can start collecting metrics.”

What’s next for Cloudflare?

Well to start, they are working on integrating their analytics tool with the rest of the Cloudflare tech. This would mean that customers would receive more stats regarding site performance and security, in addition to traffic stats.

They’re also hoping to develop their analytics tool so that it can be a powerful singular product, with support for alerts and updates in real time.

If you’re someone who wants metrics and values privacy (and free things!), keep your eyes on Cloudflare’s analytics tool. I’m excited to see how far they will take a zero-cost, privacy-first product in a world where data is the hottest commodity.

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Real Estate Technology

Should digital assistants have empathy? Big investors say yes

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Bonding with your digital assistant might be more likely than you expect with ElliQ. The rising numbers of AI assistants have created unique interactions.

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ElliQ assistant

It sounds crazy to think that you could form an actual bond with something like Siri or Alexa, but actually, humans are pretty dang good at forming emotional connections to machines. For instance, a Canadian company threw an entire retirement party for five mail delivery bots. People will use Roombas as a substitute for companionship, not unlike a cat or dog. Humans just seem to enjoy connection – even if it’s with a lifeless robot.

Intuition Robotics is taking this desire for emotional connection a step further by working to create digital assistants that can more easily bond with their human companions. At the moment, their biggest product is ElliQ, a robotic digital assistant designed to bond with eldery users. In fact, according to Intuition Robotics, their average demographic falls between ages 78 – 97.

And ElliQ seems to be doing its job. The company reports that customers interact with ElliQ regularly throughout the day, even holding conversations with the machine, and are more likely to listen to ElliQ’s suggestions, which often include proactive behavior like getting outdoors or eating more vegetables.

By working to create a more empathetic and emotional digital AI, Intuition Robotics has started to discover a whole world of new possibilities. And they’re just getting started, having recently raised another $36 million to continue research.

One of their plans? Combining these empathetic digital assistants with the automotive industry.

Imagine an assistant that could suggest you pull over when it senses you’re getting drowsy, or provide something to talk to during longer drives. Plus, unlike ElliQ, which stays put while you move around, you and the assistant will be together in a car, making it easier for the AI to learn your preferences and habits.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Intuition Robotics, which has recently majorly expanded its workforce. A digital assistant that can provide a better emotional connection to humans has a world of possible applications, from nursing homes to elementary schools.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about a more empathetic AI – the marketing capabilities alone are something I’m side-eyeing. That said, humans have been befriending vacuum cleaners and we’ve turned out alright, so for now, let’s focus on the positive possibilities that could come with tech from companies like Intuition Robotics.

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