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Throw a smart bulb away, give out your passwords

(TECH NEWS) It turns out that Internet of Things, like smart bulbs in homes, are not secure and give up your info – here are some security tips.

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smart bulbs

Most of us know that we need to protect our computers from hacking, identity theft, and other security hazards. But now that more and more everyday items in our households – from light bulbs to washing machines to baby monitors – are connected to the internet, we need to make sure that these items are secured as well. Because they’re not.

Unfortunately, Internet of Things (IoT) devices are notoriously unsecure, and a troubling investigation by hacker, Limited Result, reveals that some IoT devices are not only potential targets when connected to your home internet network, but could even pose a security threat after you’ve thrown them in the garbage.

Limited Results investigated several budget smart lightbulbs and found that many of them have no security features protecting the information held on the microchips inside the bulb.

Some lightbulbs could be taken apart, and the chips removed and hacked to reveal unencrypted data, including the Wifi password for the network to which it had formerly been connected.

“Seriously, 90 percent of IoT devices are developed without security in mind. It is just a disaster,” Limited Results told TechCrunch.

There were other safety issues beyond the security of personal data. Limited Results also found that inexpensive smart lightbulbs were so cheaply-made and poorly insulated that they posed a serious risk of electrical fire.

So how can you make sure your IoT devices are secure?

For starters, don’t just go for the cheapest version available. Although there’s no guarantee that the top dollar devices are secure either, be mindful of installing smart devices outside of your home. For example, you may want to sacrifice being able to tell Alexa to turn on your porch lights. Dispose of smart light bulbs carefully, and don’t donate them to second hand stores.

Another option is to create a subnetwork or guest network for your connected devices. And as always, make sure everything is password protected and change your password often. Especially your wifi passwords.

The conveniences of IoT devices need to be weighed against the potential security risks, at least until IoT manufacturers create regulations and standards for security.

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Real Estate Technology

Drones inspired by birds

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Newly developed drones incorporate a flapping X-wing design that allow them to fly, thrust, and maneuver much like a bird.

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X-wing drones

The next generation of drones will master the art and aerodynamics of flight with actual wings! This complex engineering feat adds both stability and an unforeseen agility to drones, which means they will be more useful than ever before.

Darting, flapping, swooping, hovering, and soaring are a few of the improved capabilities these cross-wing ornithopters have, making them far superior to the often wobblier, stiffer versions on the market now. The creators of the ornithopters used reverse engineering based on detailed observation and study of how birds move to create a winged version of the flying robot drones.

Instead of the propellers and fixed-wings used in conventional drones, these new drones flap their wings and raise their tails in order to create a forward thrust, similar to how birds and insects fly. The X-wing designs make these flying robots better at maneuvering tight spaces, giving them greater control at varying speeds.

How exactly does the X-wing design excel where other flapping-wing designs have failed? The inventors form a team of researchers from Singapore, Australia, China, and Taiwan. In a recent Science Robotics magazine article, they explain:

“One difference is that our ornithopters make use of the “clap and fling” effect. The two pairs of wings flap such that they meet, like hands clapping. This makes enough extra thrust to lift their body weight when hovering.”

The ornithopters have control over nose and tail as well, and can quickly change from moving horizontally to moving vertically. They also use up to 40% less energy to run, and can be flown like a regular plane, or hover like an existing drone in order to conserve even more energy. Because of the greater control and increased capabilities of these drones, they also have more uses including being safe enough to fly inside.

One of the researchers responsible for creating this ornithopter, Lau Gih-Keong, an associate professor in mechanical engineering at Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, spoke to CNN about specific future uses of these flying machines. The new drones can be used to maneuver in and out of nearly inaccessible, tight spaces. For example, they can easily fly in and out of a ventilation duct, where regular inspections are difficult but essential to system upkeep.

If you want to see how these next gen drones work, The Conversation published three videos of these marvels in motion. They look small, about the size of a hummingbird or even a large, flying insect. One can only imagine their potential after seeing how agile they are. In that same article, the researchers have said they will continue to refine and develop these and newer drones, based on the evolution of birds.

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Real Estate Technology

This note-taking app adapts to your thought process

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Relanote is a dynamic alternative to the age-old practice of taking notes.

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Taking notes is a process that has evolved substantially to fit individuals and has stayed relatively static in overall execution. It may be surprising, then, for us to say that a new take on note-taking is worth your immediate and full attention–but that’s exactly the case.

Relanote is a fresh entry in the arguably oversaturated “Notepad” app category. All of the features you’d expect in a minimalist note-taking app are there–encryption, note sharing, a free version, access across the four main computer and mobile platforms–but what makes it truly interesting is its hierarchical system of organization.

Somewhat like Slack, Relanote allows you to tag other notes by using the “@” symbol, and you can classify your notes by using hashtags within them. This is a super simple but effective way to organize, find, and utilize your notes without having to do any kind of copying and pasting, split window view, or swiping back and forth.

Once you’ve tagged a note in another note, you can zoom out to see how the two (or more) notes connect to each other in a visual “graph” that displays each of your tagged notes in a web. You can even filter different tags on the graph so that any irrelevant information is left out when looking for something specific.

The app also has a file-and-folder storage option to help organize your notes in a “physical” manner. “By leveraging the power of both methods, Relanote adapts to your way of thinking,” Relanote’s product page claims.

Relanote outlines quite a few upcoming features on their website, some of which include importing, exporting, themes, and templates for your notes. If you’d like to access these features, you’ll need to upgrade to the pro version ($4 per month) or the team version ($9 per month). However, Relanote makes it clear that the core principle of their app is present in the free version–and that’s enough to get you started.

A note-taking app that adapts to your particular process of writing, organizing, and revising sounds like a steal, especially when you consider that the base version is free for unlimited use. Especially if you’re a visual person who’s looking for a new way to record information, Relanote is worth your time.

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Real Estate Technology

Grapevine is the new Snapchat for work and team meetings

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) In an era of offensively inefficient video communications, Grapevine appears to be a breath of fresh air.

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grapevine zoom competitor

If you’re anything like us, you’re completely burnt out on Zoom meetings that, quite frankly, could have been much, much shorter (or completely relegated to the email medium). Should you find yourself experiencing the same frustration, cheer up–there’s a solution.

Grapevine, an asynchronous meeting app designed specifically for remote teams, is a clear answer to the question, “what if I’m not free at that time?” Their slogan–”Team updates without team meetings”–perfectly summarizes what they’re about: Efficiency of information dissemination without the abhorrent time suck that is your average Zoom call.

It’s also worth noting that Grapevine is an amicable solution for employees working in patchy Wi-Fi zones or operating on cellular data (as it seems to go these days). The same could be said for issues related to time zones, appointments, or other inconveniences that arise all too frequently in the remote work atmosphere.

The way Grapevine works is devilishly simple: Think Snapchat, but for work.

Any member of a team can record, view, and respond to one-way video recordings inside of the Grapevine framework. There’s even a feature that functions as a morning briefing of sorts, allowing you to catch up on all of the content from work that you missed overnight, while on vacation, or so on.

Video comments can be shared or pinned to answer questions efficiently rather than having to re-record or paraphrase a response, and these comments form threads that can be accessed at any time, making the process of checking feedback simple and quick, as opposed to the general nightmare that is scrubbing through a Zoom recording.

Grapevine also allows you to divide into teams and function within those groups separately, making it a bit of an amalgam between Slack and the aforementioned Snapchat.

All of that is pretty great, but perhaps the best aspect is that Grapevine is free to use–at least in its current form. While the Grapevine team promises to bring premium access and features to the app soon, the basic version of Grapevine will remain free, and the premium access will take the form of an “affordable subscription.”

You don’t have to ditch Zoom entirely, but if you want your employees or coworkers to stop sticking needles in your effigy after hours, Grapevine is a great alternative.

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