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How to instantly make any home smart (even on a budget)

(TECH NEWS) Make it a point to upgrade one dumb aspect of your home to a smart device this year as we all move toward smart home living.

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wifi thermostat

Budget-friendly ways to go smart

Now that smartphones are in our pockets 24-7, we are closer than ever to a fully-automated smart homes without the unsettling plot twist of the eponymous movie. Maybe your pre-war ranch home doesn’t have the wiring or power for a full smart home remodel, but with a few tools, here are a few products you can buy today to make your home much more intelligent by 2018.

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Safe and secure

Virtual doorbell
Imagine your doorbell rings, and you get a notification on your phone. Not only can you see the person at your door, but you can talk to them too. You can protect your castle without actually being home. Also, it can help keep track of those pesky Amazon deliveries (we know you’ll be buying a lot of new smart home stuff soon!). Ring does all of that, and more!

Security camera
Not only can you watch out for intruders with the Nest cam but you can keep an eye on Fido while you’re at work. You can even talk to intruders and pets with Nest’s new talk and listen system. “Hey Fido – Get off the couch!” or “Hey Robbers! I’m calling the cops!” are just two examples of this tool’s usefulness. You’ll also get smart phone notifications when motion is detected in your home and go back through ten or thirty days of footage to see what you missed. It works inside and outdoors.

Smart locks
The day of keyless home entry is here. Never again will you have to fumble for your keys with your arms full of groceries on the front porch. Smart locks are a game changer. Controlled from your smart phone, smart locks like Kwikset’s Kevo Touch can be locked and unlocked remotely, temporary digital keys can be issued to house guests or home workers, all of which makes entry for homeowners is a breeze. Some locks even lock behind you once you’ve gone a certain distance away and most options have an additional keyed backup just in case something goes wrong. Smart locks vary in tech and style so do your research to figure out which is best for you.

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Smart entertainment

Smart TV
The TV is the hub of the home, and making it smarter is one of the easiest ways to upgrade your life. Either upgrade your existing model or use Chromecast, Googleplay, or Apple TV to make it easier to interact with your biggest screen. You can even use a gaming device like the Xbox to smarten up your TV. Cast images from your smart phone to the TV, or use built-in apps to watch Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime,. Apple TV lets you stream your own purchased content on the big screen, which makes a wide range of iTunes purchases (and your weekly binge of Real Housewives) easily accessible. With a new smart TV you can get the same wide range of apps, and in some cases, even Skype! I will say, the smaller plug-ins are more easily upgradable and way more affordable.

Google Home or Alexa
For the latest in smart home tech, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Google Home and Alexa. Prime competitors in the smart home world, both devices can be summoned with a word, can search the web, make shopping lists (or any other kind of list) and even play games with you. These are the in-home assistant hubs that truly make your home feel smarter. And isn’t that the most important thing?

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Save some green

Smart switches
Control any overhead light or fan with a smart switch like the Caseta. It works like a normal switch but can be operated remotely via smartphone. Lights can be dimmed, fans can change speed, vent hoods can be summoned with a voice command while you’re ducking beneath the kitchen smoke. Anything that has a connected switch in your home can be turned on or off from anywhere at anytime.

Smart lightbulbs
Smart lightbulbs are a game changer in any smart home. Hue can go into any light fixture, be any possible color, and can be controlled by your smart phone or smart home assistant. Set up preset times for lights to turn off and on, set up different lighting modes (movie mode, sleep mode, reading mode) and control it all via voice with your smart phone. http://drift-light.comDrift bulbs will dim once you flip them off, and slowly lull you to sleep as they dim to black over thirty-seven minutes.

Thermostat
The smart thermostat is a no brainer for smart homes. Heat up the house from your warm bed, or cool it down before you get home, smart thermostats like the Ecobee can make your home more comfortable. Remote sensors can tell if you’re gone or sleeping, and some thermostats can even learn your habits and fully customize the climate zones of your home.

Smart plugs
Control anything that plugs in with a smart plug. A couple of needle nose pliers is all you need to install one of these babies. Go ahead and turn off your computer all the way from the other room, or plug your iron into it so when you’re at work you can make triple-sure you didn’t leave it on. Or if you did leave it on, with the tap of a screen it won’t burn your house down. Plug in your crockpot and turn it on at the exact right time to have dinner ready when you get home. You can even update your plugs to have motion sensor capabilities, so that the fan tursn on when you enter your office, or goes off when you leave. Try theWemo switch or Summit Link’s budget-friendly version.

Squeaky clean

Roomba
Keep that new smart home clean with the ever-popular Roomba, and get rid of those dust bunnies you’ve grown to love. With iRobot’s new Home app, scheduling your top-of-the-line vacuum service is easier than ever. Summon the Roomba immediately with the clean button or schedule a dead-of-night service and wake up to the smell of an allergen-free home. Also, DJ Roomba!

Shower controls
Control shower temps, monitor usage and save water all at the same time. Smart shower controls work with your existing set up and can monitor specific water temperature settings so you never get too hot or too cold. Evadrop adjusts shower pressure depending on where you are in the shower, so you don’t have the water on full blast while you’re just shaving your legs. Some come with an app, like SmarTap, so that you can monitor temps and usage with your phone that keep everyone comfortable, keep your home leak-free, and save our greatest natural resources.

Go forth (and prosper)!

Smart homes are it. And we all have the tools to make our home more accessible, save more energy, and impress more of our friends. Make it a point to upgrade one dumb aspect of your home to a smart device this year. I promise you won’t be sorry.

#BudgetFriendlySmartHome

C. L. Brenton is a staff writer at The American Genius. She loves writing about all things, she’s even won some contests doing it! For everything C. L. check out her website

Real Estate Technology

Copper makes CRM integration even easier with G-Suite partnership

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Newer CRM touts ability to work from within G-Suite 100% of the time. Now, there’s no need to leave your inbox to view your CRM tool.

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CRM solution from Copper

Finding a working CRM (Customer Relationship Management Software) for Gmail is no small feat. Sure, there are options, but do any of them really integrate 100% with G-Suite? Not really, and that’s why Copper, G-Suite’s newest partner in crime, is taking a stab at being G-Suite’s dedicated CRM.

Now, we’ve spoken about CRMs before, like Top Producer CRM, which, in 2013, bragged about its integration with Google Drive. But from what we know, Copper is totally different in that it’s less expensive, has far better reviews, and offers 24/7 support.

Furthermore, what also makes Copper different is that it was created with efficiency in mind. They wanted to remove the negatives of average CRMs, like data entry, administrative hassles, and a generally clunky interface. Their focus is in a positive user-experience, which totally makes sense because hey, if a CRM isn’t easy to use, what sales person in their right mind would want to use it?

I’ve written about some of my experiences with startups before. More often than not, they tend to jump the gun and start with something vastly too complex, like Salesforce. Don’t get me wrong; Salesforce is an amazing tool, but the majority of startups really don’t need something so complicated.

With Copper, your CRM is connected directly to Gmail. As a matter of fact, Google recommends them officially, according to a report by Small Biz Trends. Because of this, Copper touts the ability to do almost everything within Gmail directly, including the ability to update statuses and add sales pipeline “next steps”. It also syncs all your contacts, tasks, and events to your Google Calendar. Plus, with the integration, you’ll get notified when a customer opens your emails.

The CRM also connects directly with Google Drive, offering the ability to use products like Google Sheets with ease.

Kira Lenke is the Vice President of Marketing for Copper. According to Small Biz Trends, she says “At Copper, our focus is on collaboration and ease-of-use. We’re not trying to impose another desktop that users have to work from and learn how to use. Instead, we’re meeting people in a tool they’re already familiar with — G Suite. Placing Copper alongside the collaboration tools people already know and love allows for it to work seamlessly in the background, requiring almost no onboarding. Copper doesn’t demand any heavy administration and will even send reminders to you when it’s time to follow up with a prospect or customer. This gives small business owners time back to focus on what they do best — running their business and delivering exceptional customer experiences.”

And just in case you’re looking for a CRM that cares about the future of their product, and not just the profit it can obtain from customers, you’re in luck. As of this week, the company has hired a brand new Vice President of Product, Wyndham Hudson. According to their press release, “In this role, he will lead the product and design teams, as well as set the product strategy and direction for the company.”

Copper’s CEO, Dennis Fois, also added that “Wyndham’s experience of bringing products to market and scaling a startup globally will be invaluable as we look to elevate our SMB customers to the next level in 2020 and beyond.”

Copper’s target market is SMBs (small to mid-size businesses), so if you’re looking for a pretty healthy looking toolset that lives within your Gmail account, look no further – Copper may be right for you.

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Real Estate Technology

AI can now transcribe podcasts better than people can #robopocalypse

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) AI can do yet another thing better and faster than people, transcribe podcasts. But hey it helps those are disadvantaged so that step forward for good AI!

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podcast transcribe by AI

As we’ve said before, practically everyone is throwing their hat into the podcasting realm. And, there’s a podcast for virtually anything you can imagine (from cool music podcasts, to one all about The West Wing, to one about conversations with spirits – and, with this, I’ve let you know a lot about myself in a little amount of space).

As such, more tools are being developed to help podcasters with their project. Recently, we’ve seen many tools that help market a podcast. Now, with the use of our good friend AI, podcasters can transcribe their recordings in minutes (around 12 to be exact).

Podcast Transcribe allows a user to upload the recording of their podcast (in MP3, WAV, FLAC, or MP4) and then AI works its magic to transcribe everything (for just $5 per podcast). Their purpose with this tool is to make podcasts more accessible to everyone – including those who are hard of hearing. Additionally, transcriptions can be useful to students as quoted text is helpful with research. Another element this can be useful with is video podcasts and the ability to create more accurate subtitles to include before uploading.

The website boasts the transcriptions of over 2,700 podcasts, over 1,365 hours of audio, and 213 Beatles songs (because, no matter the capability of a tool, The Beatles are always relevant). They then break the process down a bit further and explain the following steps to successfully transcribe a podcast.

First, download the audio file of your podcast. Second, make sure the file is under 100MB because the platform cannot support anything more at the current time. Third, an advanced mode is available if transcribing podcasts in a language other than English. Fourth, enter your email address to receive the transcribed file. Fifth, find something to do for 12 minutes while the tool transcribes the file.

The number of podcasts you can transcribe is infinite, and is priced per podcast rather than a subscription fee like most other tools. The price is certainly the driving force for this tool, as AI is not always one hundred percent accurate, and a human transcription tool like Rev is likely to be more on point.

Are you willing to try AI for your transcription needs?

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Real Estate Technology

AI can now identify who you are based on your unique typing style #yikes

(TECH) New tech means new security measures and abilities, this AI can recognize and identify individuals based on their typing style and speed.

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typing on a laptop

So I’m not the world’s fastest or most accurate typist, but apparently new tech can identify even me, along with anyone else with 99-99.9% accuracy by analyzing their typing style.

TypingDNA has created an AI system for recognizing and identifying people by their typing styles, using what they call typing biometrics. This is simply noting the timing of how quickly or slowly an individual presses the keys on their keyboard.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s actually tech that’s around 20 years old but until more advanced AI technology progressed, it was too inaccurate. Now though, they can tout a huge accuracy score because of the improvement of modern technology.

The creation of this type of software can be, and is, used to add extra layers of security for banks, payment apps, and even for educational institutions. It’s easy to see the draw of additional safety for banks, but the integration of AI into the school systems is actually pretty inventive. It’s mostly being used to verify that what writing assignments students are turning in are actually their own work and is not plagiarized.

This tech isn’t limited to desktops and laptops, it’s also available for mobile use, which relies on the typing as well as other built-in phone security features. The API is open to be used by anyone with the hopes of developers finding new creative uses for the system, so it’s no surprise that TypingDNA wants their tech out there and in the hands of others who can contribute.

Of course, with any cool, new technology, there’s always the possibility for flaws. For instance, security cameras like Xiaomi have recently been reported to stream photos from an owner’s own device to a neighbor’s Google Home. This obviously concerns consumers about security.

Any new software can have the potential to be exploited by those who want your information, and even with security measures in place, if they’re determined, they’re certain to find a back door. And because this tech is also used in financial institutions, it’s possible your money could be at risk. It’s also being used in online security for banking, to prove that the person entering the login and password are truly the owner of the account.

But what if you’re elderly? What if you have a disabling injury or disease that affects the use of your hands? Or, what if you get a new keyboard and it slows you down? Are these types of things going to affect access to your own information and how the institution views you?

Does anyone else remember key loggers, and how users felt their privacy was being breached? Could users feel the same way about this AI? I think so! Cynical minds like mine may agree that this AI is just another way for every part of our lives to be broken down into data points that are analyzed, tracked, and sold to the highest bidder and I, for one, am against it.

Finally, a question that comes to mind in relation to proper identification of individuals is “is there is a speed limit?” My wife, for example, has a typing speed of 200 WPM (words per minute) – sometimes more. At this point, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify anyone based on their keystrokes because of the pace. Can the system actually differentiate between someone who types 200 WPM and someone who types 201 WPM? It seems to me that this technology just may not be ready for the applications it’s touting.

Regardless though, this technology just goes to show that humans are incredibly inventive, creative, and possibly invasive.

I think this is amazing technology but maybe hunt and peck is the best way to type if you’re nervous about your data. Sure, it’s slow… very slow… OK, really slow, but if it’ll protect your data, who cares if it takes 12 hours to write a paragraph?

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