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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

Transcribe your flood of meetings with Tony

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) With all the audio meetings that have to take place now it might be useful to get a transcriber, TonydoorAI is a free one that’s perfect for you.

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While meetings sometimes (rightfully) get a bad rep for being a waste of time, there are often moments where meetings are crucial for the betterment of your work. And, in these cases, meetings can be particularly daunting.

You’re worried about how to dress, what to say, and how to say it, all while retaining the information presented and taking helpful notes for your future self. It’s impossible to do all of that at the same time and feel like you hit it out of the park.

Even with our current world of video meetings from home, it can still be hard to manage all of those components and take detailed notes that will make sense in the future. However, there may be a friend who can help.

TonyDoorAI is an AI assistant for calls and video meetings. Users can turn it on to record meetings on Zoom or Google Meet.

The AI can transcribe in 120 languages and can summarize in two minutes with 95 percent accuracy. This is a largely untapped system of record that is designed with remote teams in mind.

The system also provides time-stamped notes and works to keep the communication between customers or employees smooth and transparent. TonyDoor has strong analytic skills built into the platform that track a conversation’s theme and structure – in only one hour, the system will review an hour-long meeting into your CRM.

There are plans tailored for all business types, including a free plan that offers four hours of transcription per month, records Zoom and Google Meet, provides time-stamped notes, and integrates with Slack and Calendar.

On the website, Tony states that only the user owns the data and that they do not sell or use data for their interests. Additionally, Tony explains the encryption of data as, “We encrypt your data at rest, including emails, calendar events and other personal identifiable metadata. We use a 256-bit AES encryption in storage and a 256-bit SSL/TLS encryption in transit. Our database is hosted in a Virtual Private Cloud with AWS.”

Tony sounds like an ideal helper for new client calls, interviews, and anything where you want to retain information. Give us your thoughts on AI transcription in the comments!

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Real Estate Technology

Toronto neighborhood of the future gets canceled, thanks COVID-19

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Google partner company cancels technological utopia project in Toronto, Ontario, amid pandemic financial uncertainty. Damn you COVID-19!

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Sidewalk Labs has announced the termination of a new-age urban paradise to be built in the world’s societal paradise due to the pandemic-induced apocalypse: the new-and-improved Quayside, Canada will not be.

The project was a 12-acre technological utopian neighborhood on the Toronto eastern waterfront. Sidewalk Toronto would combine “forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology to create people-centred neighbourhoods that achieve precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity.”

The project was a collaborative effort between Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation company owned by Alphabet (the parent company of Google) and Waterfront Toronto, the local nonprofit steward of the area. Launched in October 2017, Sidewalk Labs committed to a $50 million USD investment for initial planning and testing.

According to the announcement by Sidewalk Labs CEO Daniel Doctoroff, the work completed to date on Quayside “represent[s] a meaningful contribution to the work of tackling big urban problems, particularly in the areas of affordability and sustainability. This is a vital societal endeavor, and Sidewalk Labs will continue our work to contribute to it.”

Sidewalk Labs has made many a grandiose proclamation for the contributions of this project to inspire new models for sustainable transportation, waste management, and affordable housing. But the execution of this vision has not been without controversy. The project has been criticized over the years by Toronto residents for its dubious regard to privacy standards and personal data collection, such as motion-sensor cameras to track people’s movements and manage transportation accordingly. At one point, Sidewalk Labs proposed to expand the project to a 350-acre plot of undeveloped land.

Despite Sidewalk Labs emphasis on the importance of the project and its significance in the context of the social and physical shifts the world has made to adapt to COVID-19, the announcement gave no indication that the project will be reinitiated at a later time.

For now, the announcement only indicates that Sidewalk Labs will continue other internal projects and external investments. Some of Sidewalk Labs other projects include Proto-Model X (PMX), a digital model for manufacturing tall timber buildings, and a Clean Recycling pilot to help apartment habitants improve waste and recycling habits. Sidewalk Labs also invests in other companies working on the front lines of urban innovation.

While the world may be no worse for the wear without a heated-sidewalk Zion, the project cancellation is definitely a disappointment. I was really looking forward to moving to Google Town after coronavirus decimates my local population and economy.

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Real Estate Technology

Google Duo expands to support 32-people calls to compete in new Zoom world

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Google Duo is expanding to include 32 people on a call to compete with WhatsApp. Zoom had better watch out, here is another competitor coming up.

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Google Duo is expanding and at it couldn’t come at a better time for the renaissance of video calling. While social distancing is keeping us away from friends and loved ones, messaging services are keeping connections alive and remote working viable. Google Duo is making plans to expand group calls to accommodate 32 people, becoming a stronger competitor with Zoom and Google Meet.

Duo is catered towards families and friends through its features like doodles, masks, and the recently-launched Family Mode. Thanks to Google’s popularity with contacts and gmail accounts, it’s betting users will find convenience in the platform fluidity.

Well, WhatsApp didn’t take this challenge laying down. The app announced its moving towards support video calls with up to 50 people. The feature (currently in beta version in the desktop app), functions by transferring users into new Facebook Messenger Rooms. As of this publication, the WhatsApp mobile version only supports 8 users per call. Since it was purchased by Facebook, WhatsApp, combined with Messenger, could rise to become a widely utilized video call platform.

What’s a little confusing is why Google has 3 separate video conferencing tools at all. Google Hangouts, Google Meet, and Google Duo. Why is Google competing with itself? Surely they are splitting users between the 3 instead of backing 1 to take the top spot from Zoom. Which hand isn’t talking to a 3rd foot?

While more seems like a good idea, we’re all figuring out that there’s a critical threshold where online video call devolve into a garbled mess where people can’t get a word in or progress the conversation in a meaningful manner. Every company seems to be trying take away Zooms domination of the market by being able to add more people to a call, but why not better compression, more security, ease of use, better UI. These are the features we demand out of other programs, but I have only heard complaints, but seen no solutions.

In the meantime, we as consumers will have plenty of options to continue navigating communication and workflow in a COVID-19 world and beyond.

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