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Smart home technologies have a data problem, so read up before making recommendations

The advancement of smart home technology has allowed homeowners to their home through thermostats, smoke detectors and security cameras that can be monitored from afar. How are they dealing with all that data?

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Technology has connected users more closely to products such as wireless printers and computers in their home for several years. The advancement of smart technology has allowed homeowners to their home through thermostats, smoke detectors and security cameras that can be monitored from afar.

Analytics and collected data

The services provided can be fine-tuned to your use through predictive analytics by using data collected from these products. Most notably are the smart thermostats including Nest Learning Thermostat, Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat and the ecobee Smart Si Thermostat, each of which can save you money and allow you to remotely set the temperature in your home. Nest is on track to expand its reach in the smart home market as discussed in detail in this recent article by Richard Nieva of CNET.

Smart tech’s greatest challenge

While the smart technology is still in its infancy, appliance brands are jumping on the bandwagon to enhance their customer experiences through interconnectivity. The greatest challenge for many manufacturers is how to turn data collected into relevant information, as eMarketer’s Maria Minsker addressed in her interview with Christine Robins, president and CEO of grill manufacturer Char-Broil in this recent article.

Robins stated that the “long-duration cooking products have the most valuable potential for connectivity” which encompasses the smokers and roasters that Char-Broil offers. Their products rely on home wireless system as well as a cloud-based system and Bluetooth connection, and uses predictive analytics to predict and alter cooking times.

For their data infrastructure, Char-Broil partnered with Dado Labs, a Platform as a Service (PaaS) that integrates consumer appliances with smartphone and tablet technology. Robins stated in the interview that Dado Labs handled “the electronic module, all of the firmware, the cloud-based capabilities, the storage and the analytics components. They also helped us develop the mobile app”.

Selling an experience

In response to inquiry on how marketers are leveraging the data to deliver a better experience, Robins stated that “there are intelligence, memory, and social usability elements as well” but goes on to reassure that they are not initially concerned with upselling or cross-selling. “We just want people to have a great brand experience without feeling bombarded,” Robins concludes.

The future of the smart home

This point of view is quite the opposite of Nest, who released their Weave software in October, which has 12,500 developers working on connecting over 80 products with Nest devices. “We’re going to see a [move] toward an ecosystem. Suddenly everything would be interconnected and controllable for Nest” stated Brian Solis, analyst at the Altimeter Group, in Nieva’s article.

#SmartHomeData

Debbie Cerda is a seasoned writer and consultant, running Debra Cerda Consulting as well as handling business development at data-driven app development company, Blue Treble Solutions. She's a proud and active member of Austin Film Critics Association and the American Homebrewers Association, and Outreach Director for science fiction film festival, Other Worlds Austin. She has been very involved in the tech scene in Austin for over 15 years, so whether you meet her at Sundance Film Festival, SXSWi, Austin Women in Technology, or BASHH, she'll have a connection or idea to help you achieve business success. At the very least, she can recommend a film to watch and a great local craft beer to drink.

Real Estate Technology

COVID-19 remote work is no reason to spy on employees

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) COVID-19 related remote work is bringing with it some remote surveillance…and it can be a lot. With the new blend of work and home, privacy is paramount.

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Think that remote work means you’re off the hook when it comes to being monitored on your productivity? Unfortunately, the technology that makes working from home possible also provides supervisors with the means to keep an eye on your efficiency.

In other words, surveillance doesn’t stop just because you aren’t in office anymore.

Take, for example, a software called Sneek, which promises “human contact for remote teams.” It’s a group conference call that is always on by default and can take photographs of users upwards of once every minute. Yikes. Now, Sneek representatives insist that the software wasn’t intended for “spying,” but that’s no guarantee for how some employers will utilize it.

Even if Sneek isn’t explicitly designed for monitoring employees, though, there are plenty of applications that have been created for that purpose. TeamViewer, for example, gives employers a real-time glimpse into what’s happening on employees’ monitors, and it’s just one of many applications designed to provide real-time updates on potential productivity – or lack thereof.

Of course, this sort of questionable violation of privacy is insane by any standards, but the whole thing is made more ridiculous by this entirely unprecedented pandemic situation. Not only are we all dealing with the stress of an overarching pandemic, but there’s been a lot of major adjustments to how life works now. With both schools and work pivoting to remote access, families are being cooped up together. On the flip side, others who relied on the office as a way to connect to the world are now completely isolated as quarantine continues for many parts of the United States.

The point is, now, more than ever before, is a time to cut employees some slack. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of complaints about the rise of coercive surveillance, but the more pressing matter at hand is that things are not normal. Our routines have been upended, collective stresses have increased, and there’s no definite end in sight. The last thing anyone needs is to worry about getting in trouble for something like not promptly replying to a random check-up email.

Employees are humans, not machines, and we’re all going through a hard time right now. A bit of kindness can go a long way.

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Real Estate Technology

20 of the best free professional tools for your business

(TECHNOLOGY) Running a small business is a ton of work and you need all the help you can get. Here are 20 free tools that help make it a little easier.

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When running your business, big or small, you’re only as good as what’s in your arsenal. This applies to your ability to be creative and think on your feet, as well as to having tangible tools at your disposal.

Below, we’ve outlined 20 of the top free tools that are designed to help grow your business – let us know in the comments what you love or what you’d add!

  1. Google Analytics – this is a definite need. With the world continuing to grow more and more digital, it’s necessary to know how your business is operating in the online realm. Google Analytics provides data about your small business, including traffic to your site and clicks on links. It gives you an idea of who is visiting and when, allows you to track your goals, and generate audience reports. Google also offers virtual classes that teach you how to master the platform.
  2. Hotjar – want to understand exactly how visitors are using your site without getting lost in the shuffle of numbers and data? Hotjar is where it’s at. You can see a user’s behavior and their exact process of perusing the site. There are also tools like feedback polls that allow your audience to interact with you when using your site.
  3. Canva – this is one of the best visual tools to create graphics for your company, both to print for physical display and to use on social media. The platform is easy-to-use and allows for a myriad of sizing options, backgrounds, and stock images.
  4. ProProfs Help Desk – this is a ticketing system that allows your visitors to contact customer service and start a thread of communication; all while keeping everything ticketed and organized. This also allows for shared inboxes, ticket resolution via chat, and ticket reduction up to 80 percent with knowledge base.
  5. JungleScout – this is your best friend when it comes to learning to sell on Amazon. Regardless of where you are in your seller journey, this tool will help you maximize your skillset.
  6. Kickstarter – crowd sourcing for your business without giving away the equity. This lets you recruit micro-investors and donors for your new business venture.
  7. MailChimp – This is an all-in-one tool that is necessary for all small business users. According to their website, “Bring your audience data, marketing channels, and insights together so you can reach your goals faster. With Mailchimp, you can promote your business across email, social, landing pages, shoppable landing pages, postcards, and more — all from a single platform.”
  8. Shopify – this platform has helped over one million businesses around the world and is continuing to help small businesses thrive. Shopify allows users to create and design an ecommerce website that is backed by helpful tools that help discover new customers, drive sales, and manage your business’s day-to-day operations.
  9. Buffer – provides simple social media tools that receive authentic engagement. Tell the story of your brand while growing your audience. The platform includes publishing, analytics, and engagement.
  10. Qualaroo – this is a customer and user feedback software that states its value as ten times higher than email surveys. It comes with what you need for useful feedback, including AI-powered analytics and reports.
  11. Zapier – a platform to connect your apps and automate workflow. Zapier moves information automatically between your web applications, allowing for more focus on the most important work.
  12. Doodle – a scheduling platform that allows meetings to be booked faster and smarter. No more need for an hour of back-and-forth emailing in order to nail down a meeting time.
  13. Docracy – a home for contracts and other legal documents, created by the community that uses them. The idea is to make these common documents easily available for everyone.
  14. Slack – the ideal way to communicate with your team and keep everyone on the same page at all times. This is a central communication hub where you and your team will stay in the loop, ask questions, and share updates.
  15. GoDaddy Website Builder – this is an extremely user-friendly tool that allows you to build websites that looks as though you paid someone hundreds to build it for you. There’s many options for customization, and they have the tools that help your site look great on both desktop and mobile.
  16. ToDoIst – For many, it’s impossible to stay organized without use of a to do list. With this tool, you (and your team!) can stay organized with the most important tasks and priorities.
  17. Grammarly – When writing copy for your business’s brand, it is important to have as many eyes read through it as possible for any errors. Grammarly is a tool where you can plug your copy in and it will automatically find and highlight any grammar errors or typos. You can never be too careful!
  18. AdobeSign – Formerly known as EchoSign, this tool allows for paperless signatures that help make signing contracts and agreements as easy as the swipe of a finger.
  19. Sumo – a platform filled with tools to help you grow your website. It’s a free email capturing tool that takes only seconds for sign up.
  20. Pixabay – We don’t always have the time or the money to take photos to go along with our website copy and social media posts. Pixabay helps alleviate that need with free stock images that will help your message pop.

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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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