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What the future of smart homes has in store

(TECH NEWS) As IoT pieces begin clicking into place, and as we begin to automate our homes, the future of full integration is definitely worth watching. What are the experts predicting about smart homes?

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smart homes devices

Cool tech, gadgety gizmos

Chris McGugan, General Manager and VP of Innovation at Kenmore, spoke at the Smart Home Summit about the future of the Internet of Things and what our homes will look like in five years.

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Smart home technology falls into two camps. Products that improve the way we interact with our home, and products that are cool. Basically, gadgets that make us feel more secure and gadgets that make it easier to stay on the couch and burn through Netflix episodes without having to get up to switch off the lights or futz with the thermostat.

What consumers want in smart homes

“Most consumers are looking for a gadget today.” McGugan said in a video interview for IoT world news. “[Most folks] are looking for home automation, home security or home monitoring.”

There’s nothing wrong with these upgrades (and here’s a recent article on how to make your home smart on a budget) and they certainly add charisma to any residence. But what McGugan and Kenmore are imagining is a more subtle home integration that focuses more on what we need, rather than the juicy gadgets that we overtly want.

A grander vision

McGugan hopes he can “bring a greater peace of mind to owning a large [appliance] if we change the way consumers interact with them and the way they are serviced and maintained.” Take your washer and dryer, for example: wouldn’t you love a notification on your smart phone when it’s time to change the load? What if you accidentally left your freezer door open? Wouldn’t you rather it send you an e-mail before wasting hours of energy?

These are not glamorous upgrades, and they’re certainly slower innovations since it can be many years before we replace our appliances, but technology like this will have a profound effect on the smart homes of our future. Soon, you likely won’t be able to buy an appliance without integrated features.

Soon, you likely won’t be able to buy an appliance without integrated features.Click To Tweet

Innovation over time, across industry

“If you had asked someone 15 years ago if they thought a home wifi router or a broadband connection was essential, you may have had a very different answer than what you would get today,” McGugan went on. Smart home tech is the same way.

There was a time when it seemed perfectly reasonable to expect people to go to the library to browse the web, or pay a dollar every time they wanted to access the internet from a T9 phone, but now internet access has become a human right – and we expect everywhere we go to not only provide it, but provide it for free.

By the same extension, smart home technology could easily bridge the gap to business use as well.

Imagine rather than waiting in line at your local coffee shop, you could queue on your phone. What if we could summon waiters, order refills, or request an employee to look in the warehouse for an item that is inexplicably not on the shelves, all on our personal devices?

This little computer we carry around in our pockets is capable of so much more than just smart home automation, and I see business IoT integration following closely behind smart home innovations.

Putting the pieces together

McGugan is right when he ended his talk by saying that, “It’s going to come down to the interface we provide for these devices to help consumers see their real value. I would love to say that we’re going to see smart homes as essential, but I think we still have some room to grow.” Interface is key for consumers to jump on the bandwagon.

We have to see inherent value in these tools and not just expensive gimmicks.Click To Tweet

That will easily come as consumers see the usefulness in knowing if their hot water heater is leaking or if their dryer exhaust is hotter than usual. One day we may see serious costs associated with not having integrated appliances, like severe water damage or dryer vent fires.

As IoT pieces begin clicking into place, and as we begin to automate our homes, the future of full integration is definitely worth watching. Maybe in fifteen years home automation will be seen as essential for all of us.

#SmartFuture

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

This tab manager uses AI to organize and focus your web browsing

(TECHNOLOGY) Tabby isn’t the first tab manager we’ve seen, but it is one of the cooler ones. Who wouldn’t want AI to help you organize web browsing?

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Logo for Tabby, a new AI-based tab manager

At one time or another, we have all been a tab hoarder. They start adding up when we are doing research, online shopping, and managing work projects. No matter what it is, we have all let tabs pile up like a stack of dirty dishes. However, several tab manager solutions can help clean up that clutter.

OneTab converts all your tabs into lists that you can later restore individually or all at once. TooManyTabs lets you preview the tabs so you can quickly find what you are looking for. Google Tabs lets you group and color code the tabs for better organization. And now Tabby, an AI-based browser assistant, manages the tabs automatically for you so you are more productive and focused.

“We built it to help everyone navigate on their browser without feeling additional fatigue due to an excess of tabs,” said Merlin Laffitte, one of Tabby’s makers. Because of more online meetings due to the pandemic, Laffitte said that he, along with his colleagues, found it difficult to focus because of the clutter created by the open tabs.

Being in a handful of online meetings myself, I know what he is talking about. Too many open tabs can be distracting and time-consuming. I have heard many people say, “I have the document pulled up.” Then, they can’t find it because it is lost among the ten, twenty, or thirty tabs they have open.

Tabby attempts to solve the pain of tab hoarding by removing unnecessary tabs without a user having to click on anything. In doing so, it makes the browser “focus-friendly.” The way the AI-based plugin works is that it takes into consideration these three main KPIs:

  • The time spent on the tab.
  • The last time you viewed the tab.
  • The frequency of viewing.

Based on these interactions, Tabby scores each tab by relevance, and makes its decision on which tab to close. Whenever a tab is removed from your browser view, Tabby will send you a notification. On the tool’s homepage, you can find the removed tabs and choose whether you would like to restore one. From there, you can also set your preferences to customize Tabby’s behavior. As you continue using it, Tabby will adapt to your habits and learn when to remove a tab when it is not being used.

Tabby is “meant to help you declutter your browser view by removing unnecessary tabs.” Currently, the product has a 5/5 review on Product Hunt, and users seem to like it. With only 25 reviews as of this writing, Tabby is still in its infancy. It’ll be interesting to see how well it does among other tab manager tools as it gains more users.

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Real Estate Technology

This law-tech tool helps tenants navigate eviction notices

(TECHNOLOGY) Law-tech tool Hello Landlord helps struggling tenants meet the eviction moratorium’s rules, but it’s greatest benefit may lie in communication.

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Man seated in trunk of car, head in hands as he considers eviction. New tools may help.

For tenants behind on rent during the pandemic, being shielded from eviction for nonpayment requires strictly following rules in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s eviction moratorium that began September 4 and runs through the end of 2020.

Now the makers of website Hello Landlord, which helps tenants give notices to their landlords, have updated their free tool to meet the CDC requirements.

At HelloLandlord.org, tenants submit their information and answer a series of questions, including their landlord’s name and how much money they owe. The site automatically generates a customized letter to the landlord that outlines the tenant’s circumstances and includes a promise to pay the back rent. Tenants also get a declaration document that follows the moratorium order.

In the declaration, tenants must swear they:

  • Earn no more than $99,000 annually (or $198,000 jointly).
  • Can’t pay their rent because of loss of work or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  • Have done their best to get available housing assistance;
  • Would become homeless or have to move into a home with many people, potentially spreading the COVID-19 virus;
  • Will try to make timely partial payments.

No documentation is required, and there are no official forms.

If renters don’t qualify for protection under the new order, the site will create a letter that asks the landlord for flexibility with making rent payments.

Relationships between landlords and renters often start going south because of communication issues. That’s something Hello Landlord’s letters might head off by helping tenants communicate effectively. The letters meet the legal requirements but also sound, well, human, despite being automated. The language is informal, even conciliatory. The tenant empathizes with the landlord – acknowledging that this time is financially hard on them, too – and pledges to work together.

Some sample language: “Although the CDC’s Order may prevent my eviction, I want you to know that I am willing to work with you moving forward during this challenging time.”

Hello Landlord debuted in 2019 and was originally created by SixFifty, a software subsidiary of technology law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. They collaborated with LawX, the legal design lab at Brigham Young University’s Law School, and the Innovation for Justice (i4J) Program at University of Arizona College of Law to research causes of and solutions to the eviction crisis.

A second tool, HelloLender.org, helps homeowners create letters to their mortgage lenders asking for accommodation in payments under the CARES Act stimulus program.

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Real Estate Technology

Beef up your security against COVID with this new environmental sensor suite

(TECH NEWS) This new security sensor can help protect your company from COVID-19 and monitor the overall health of your building.

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Office setting, with spaced employees for security against COVID.

Verkada, the cloud-based physical security company, is modernizing the world of enterprise building security by enabling customers to proactively respond to COVID-19 in the office.

In June, Verkada introduced its COVID-19 Response Suite. Part of the this release included People Heatmaps. This new feature allows organizations to “identify areas that are prone to overcrowding, and find ways to disperse traffic”. In other words, it helps ensure employees are practicing social-distancing.

This week, Verkada announced the release of its new environmental sensor product line, and its product, SV11. This all-in-one environmental sensor monitors changes that are happening in your physical space. The product is made from photochemically engineered stainless steel mesh that filters out large particles. The integrated sensors measure air quality, temperature, humidity, motion, and noise. Then, all the data is reported back to users for regular monitoring and analysis.

“The SV11 sensor is a cloud-based sensor that seamlessly integrates with the Verkada ecosystem of products,” said Jeff Chase, a product marketing manager for Verkada, in a recent video. “The SV11 can be used across all indoor environments and can meet the needs for a wide range of use cases, including simple remote monitoring of facilities.”

In the security system’s web-based command platform, users can see all the sensors, and can quickly scan real-time data for each location. Live footage and current readings are easy to view. Custom thresholds can be set for each sensor so a user can receive alerts as they happen. This is helpful so you can know when a server room is getting too warm, or when the TVOC (total volatile organic compounds) level is too high.

“Our customers are responsible for the systems that keep facilities online, and our mission is to give those administrators the best possible tools to do their jobs,” said Filip Kaliszan, CEO and co-founder of Verkada. “Whether it be monitoring the status of a server room, the temperature of a patient room in a hospital, or the air quality of a school, the SV11 gives facilities and staff unprecedented visibility and control over the sites they’re responsible for keeping safe and secure.”

With more companies bringing their workforce back into the office, Verkada’s security system can give them visibility on what’s going on at work. And with the valuable information rendered by the sensors, they can gain insights into what they can do to keep their employees safe.

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