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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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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

Could your office benefit from an 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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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 offices have floor plans that 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

Google’s project management tool organizes and automates your tasks

(TECH NEWS) The beta is out for Tables, a project management tool that uses automation and a well-rounded user interface to organize teams and productivity.

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Google Tables graphic, Google's new project management tool

Keeping track of different documents and tasks to manage a project can take a lot of time because everything isn’t easily accessible in one place. Hunting down notes from different meetings and emails to keep all this documentation up to date is exhausting. And, there’s always someone who doesn’t have their ducks in a row so you’re having to make sure they are updating their parts, too. The project management aspect takes up more time than many tend to expect.

Google’s Area 120, the company’s in-house incubator for experimental projects, has come up with a very neat tool that should, hopefully, remove a lot of these problems. Tables “helps teams track work and automate tasks to save time and supercharge collaboration—without any coding required,” wrote Tim Gleason, the general manager for Tables, in a blog post.

When you first open Tables, you will land on the homepage. From there, you can access your most recent tables and workspaces. If you want to create a new blank workspace or table, you can do so by clicking the “New” icon. You can also import already created Sheets and .CSV files as custom templates. Also, there are blank templates to help you get started working quickly. Templates for things like managing data, tracking projects, and employee recruiting are among those included.

Tables are made of columns and rows that use structured data. Each column has a defined data type, which enforces the “relationships on data contained in the rows.” Easily displayed icons at the top of each column let you take a “quick glance” of what information is contained in each section. If you double-click on a column, you can make changes to the “structured objects” and changes will be automatically reflected everywhere else on the table.

Plus, Tables lets you build automated actions and triggers by using Bots. With the Bots, teams can schedule recurring email reminders. This means you can nudge that one team member who is always running behind on their projects. Team members can send messages in chat rooms to let everyone know when a new form submission was received, or move and assign a task to another team member when the status on a task has changed.

Because Tables uses structured data, you can configure the data into different layouts. This means you can switch from a grid layout to a Kanban layout view. And, you can also create Forms that let you collect data from people anywhere. Questions in the Forms are directly tied to the existing table columns so setup is easy. And, of course, Tables can integrate easily with other Google products like Google Sheets and Google Groups.

“Tables is like a spreadsheet and a database had a baby and gave it special powers,” said Sam Dresser, VP of education at School of Rock in a video. The performance-based music education school is one of the companies that has already started using Tables. Sam says the school is very collaborative and uses a lot of spreadsheets. Because Tables work well with other G-Suite products, the tool allows them to “jump in and start collaborating and start working right away” on their projects.

Tables is a work-tracking tool that does look very user-friendly. Just by looking at it, you can see the familiar clean and tidy feel that all Google pages have. The idea of being able to have all your notes in one place that can be updated automatically without all the manual work is worth checking it out. Currently, Tables is in beta in the U.S. The free plan gives you 100 tables, 1,000 rows, 1GB for attachments, and 50 bot actions. If you need more wiggle room, you can get 1,000 tables, 10,000 rows, 10GB for attachments, and 500 bot actions for $10 per month. So, do you think it works as good as it sounds?

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Real Estate Technology

Freelancers, easily sort out your admin tasks with new pack of Notion goodies

(TECH NEWS) Notion is one of the favored tools for freelancers, and with this new pack made by Ben Issenmann, it’s even easier to sort out your administrative work.

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Notion Pack advertisement image, showing features for freelancers.

Time is a valuable thing, and it’s one of the most important things for freelancers. There are only so many hours in a day, and only so many things you can get done in each 60-minute window. Being self-employed is rewarding because you get to work on the things you love. (At least, I hope you do.) However, this also means all those boring administrative duties fall into your laps. So, time needs to be set aside for the not so fun paperwork duties.

But, freelancers, fret no more! Ben Issenmann, founder of Supercreative, has created a pretty neat template pack that will help save you time. His company provides tools, ideas, and courses for professional designers. And, his new product is Notion Pack, a pack for freelancers that want to collaborate with their clients.

In a recorded interview, Ben shared how Notion came about when he had a conversation with his friends. Because of that conversation, he wrote an article explaining how his designer and freelancer friends were using Notion to collaborate with their clients. He received a great number of responses from people who wanted to use his product. Excitedly, Ben said, “And I was like, okay. There’s definitely something I can do with this!” A few weeks later, Notion Pack was born.

According to his website, the pack has “all the freelance documents you need.” It comes with 20 different templates. The pack contains templates for quotes, invoices, sales proposals, contracts, etc. “It’s going to save freelancers a lot of hours spent on admin, time they can use on creative activities instead,” wrote Ben on Notion Pack’s Product Hunt page.

And every hour saved means more time to work on new projects that put more money in your pockets. Yay to that!

Notion Pack is divided into two parts. The Template Generator gives you access to the 20 templates. By clicking on a template, you can generate a new Notion page. Each page is color-coded. Yellow highlights the fields that you need to change for every client. While red highlights the things you need to configure beforehand when you set up each pack.

The Freelance Workspace has an out-of-the-box structure. When you press “Create new client”, it will generate all the templates in the correct order. From there, you can collaborate with your clients directly in Notion or export a PDF. To add a personal touch, you can add a video to say a quick hello to your client. Also, instead of having to share 10 different pages, the workspace will capture everything you need in one organized shareable page.

Another cool thing about Notion is the ability for clients to schedule time with you. Powered by Calendly, an online appointment scheduling software, a collaborator can book a time to follow-up with you straight through their workspace. I like the idea of that!

The Notion Pack is available in English and French. But according to a comment on their Product Hunt page, it might eventually be available in more languages.

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