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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

Should digital assistants have empathy? Big investors say yes

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Bonding with your digital assistant might be more likely than you expect with ElliQ. The rising numbers of AI assistants have created unique interactions.

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ElliQ assistant

It sounds crazy to think that you could form an actual bond with something like Siri or Alexa, but actually, humans are pretty dang good at forming emotional connections to machines. For instance, a Canadian company threw an entire retirement party for five mail delivery bots. People will use Roombas as a substitute for companionship, not unlike a cat or dog. Humans just seem to enjoy connection – even if it’s with a lifeless robot.

Intuition Robotics is taking this desire for emotional connection a step further by working to create digital assistants that can more easily bond with their human companions. At the moment, their biggest product is ElliQ, a robotic digital assistant designed to bond with eldery users. In fact, according to Intuition Robotics, their average demographic falls between ages 78 – 97.

And ElliQ seems to be doing its job. The company reports that customers interact with ElliQ regularly throughout the day, even holding conversations with the machine, and are more likely to listen to ElliQ’s suggestions, which often include proactive behavior like getting outdoors or eating more vegetables.

By working to create a more empathetic and emotional digital AI, Intuition Robotics has started to discover a whole world of new possibilities. And they’re just getting started, having recently raised another $36 million to continue research.

One of their plans? Combining these empathetic digital assistants with the automotive industry.

Imagine an assistant that could suggest you pull over when it senses you’re getting drowsy, or provide something to talk to during longer drives. Plus, unlike ElliQ, which stays put while you move around, you and the assistant will be together in a car, making it easier for the AI to learn your preferences and habits.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Intuition Robotics, which has recently majorly expanded its workforce. A digital assistant that can provide a better emotional connection to humans has a world of possible applications, from nursing homes to elementary schools.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about a more empathetic AI – the marketing capabilities alone are something I’m side-eyeing. That said, humans have been befriending vacuum cleaners and we’ve turned out alright, so for now, let’s focus on the positive possibilities that could come with tech from companies like Intuition Robotics.

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Real Estate Technology

Private browsing will be pushed into the mainstream this fall – ready?

(TECHNOLOGY) Private browsing is making strides, and your entire company should be pushing for all teams to use the new features.

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Browser privacy is at the forefront of many consumers’ concerns in a digitally advanced world, so it’s no surprise that companies like Apple and Firefox are expanding their browsing features to encompass more aggressive privacy options. According to Digiday, that push will happen early this fall.

A private browsing company called Neeva will also feature in this fall endeavor, encouraging a shift to their product (an ad-free, subscription-based browser) alongside Apple and Firefox. Neeva would theoretically charge a “minimum” of four dollars per month, allowing users to experience a much more private web browsing experience for far less than the abstract cost of more traditional options.

Neeva’s fundraising fervor can be, in part, attributed to the success of Brave, a similarly privacy-focused browser that makes use of Tor to protect unwitting users from unfriendly data inquiries.

Apple’s foray into more extreme privacy options comes in the form of “Apple Private Relay,” which is a feature that can prevent websites from viewing the identity of a visitor.

Firefox’s approach is a bit more platform-centered, with its initiatives including more active showcasing of its built-in VPN and safety features.

Digiday acknowledges that privacy-forward browsing has been available for years, but it tends to reside “mostly on the fringes of society,” with browsers like Tor succumbing to slow load times and stereotypes regarding things like criminal activity and a disproportionately high conspiracy theorist population.

But data privacy is extremely important, now more than ever – and dispelling those stereotypes in favor of education is crucial if the public is going to shift away from browsers and browsing habits that, respectively, look pretty and feel convenient while continuing to endanger and victimize consumers.

For a company like Apple to be moving toward an increase in privacy feels like a paradigm shift – if for no other reason than when Apple makes moves, everyone else tends to sit up and pay attention. Firefox’s push may be a little less surprising given the features built into the browser, but the timing isn’t a coincidence.

Private browsing, at least to those who know it best, has mainstream value, and it’s on its way.

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Real Estate Technology

Secret list of reasons why your Facebook ad was rejected

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Save your marketing team time with this secret list of Facebook ad rejection reasons.

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facebook ad rejection

You read the rules, spent time optimizing target audience, double checked all the visual elements, and your Facebook ad is finally ready to go to market. You’re expecting the latest email from Facebook to be about billing details, and instead receive the dreaded (albeit common) rejection letter.

You’re left wondering how your your content have possibly violated the Community Standards. Turns out text like “Meet other seniors” or “Depression getting you down?” violates a “personal attributes” rule.

Directly addressing the user with terms like “you” or implications about identity like age, race, and gender aren’t permitted. So you remove that, only to find your ad rejected from the ad auction once again. There are hundreds of reasons the site can reject your ad.

You can quite literally spend hours pouring over Facebook’s Advertising policies, but we have a shortcut – Jane Manchun Wong put has together the most extensive list we’ve ever seen (click to enlarge).

facebook ad rejection reasons

Understandably, illegal content is rejected. You won’t find ads for drugs or counterfeiting services. Likewise, anything even kind of sexual or potentially offensive (like someone flipping the middle finger) violates the standards. No ads for mail order brides or anything the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would regulate either.

Okay, so obviously you can’t advertise illegal things on the mainstream internet. Especially not when Facebook is asking users to respond to surveys about if the company is good for the world.

However, there’s some grey area once you move past obviously unacceptable content. QR codes, a popular ad novelty, are a reason for rejection. Likewise, if your ad features a picture of Mark Zuckerberg, it’ll get slapped down.

Feel like mentioning the spy cameras? Nope. Have an ad about lasers? Nah. Animals? DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Oddly enough, Instagram references aren’t allowed either even though Facebook owns the company.

Although Facebook is trying to uphold their values about safety, voice, and equity, enforcement of these principles is often flawed.

Bra and underwear retailers struggle to get their ads approved even if the content is not sexual in nature. An ad by Harper Wilde, an online bra startup, featuring a plain bra on a colored background was rejected on the grounds that the link leads to a site featuring adult content.

Since Facebook rejects anything focused on a single body part or that is too zoomed in, exposed bodies on an underwear site certainly violate the terms. While Facebook is attempting to hold up a moral code of not offending users, implementation isn’t consistent.

Although Facebook technically has a link to appeal disapproved ads, users report the link is either broken, or returns an auto-generated response with no way to follow up with a person.

We can certainly appreciate that Facebook now bans the obnoxious “before-after” gifs of someone’s belly fat disappearing to the backdrop of a tape measure, and rejects blatantly offensive material.

facebook ad acceptable

Attempting to provide higher quality content that doesn’t shame or offend users is a noble goal.

But when everyday products can’t be advertised, and robots are enforcing grey area, it’s time for a better appeals process. At least now you know what not to include in your next Facebook ad, even if it is legit.

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