Connect with us

Real Estate Technology

Smart homes spy on you, here’s how to spy back

(TECHNOLOGY) Wow surprise, smart homes spy on you constantly. Here’s why it matters, and how to spy back.

Published

on

smart homes

We’ve long talked about the risks and rewards of technology, especially IoT devices in the home. For every cool gadget, there’s a chance your information will get hacked or tracked.

Last year, Congress thought it would be fun to give Internet Service Providers (ISPs) power to spy on customer internet usage data and sell it. Which means your ISP can see all the data from your smart devices and profit from selling you out to third parties.

Some folks at Gizmodo decided to conduct an experiment to see how much data can be tracked from smart homes.

Back in December, Gizmodo senior reporter Kashmir Hill set up just about every smart device imaginable in her apartment including an Amazon Echo, smart TV, smart lights, toothbrushes, baby monitor, and even a mattress.

Hill’s colleague Surya Mattu, Gizmodo data reporter, configured a router to track the device’s network activity and give the duo the same view as Hill’s ISP.

They found that since the router’s installation in early December 2017, there was not a single day without activity from the router.

At least once a day, at least one of the smart devices sent data packets to the ISP, manufacturer, or third parties. If Hill told the living room to turn on the lights, Phillips got alerted. If the family watched something on Hulu, the smart TV sent information to data brokers.

Every action could be (and in most cases was) tracked and recorded, creating a vast data set about Hill’s daily routines and schedules.

Routine tracking may seem mundane since right now most of the data isn’t being used, just monitored and recorded. However, this data may have more impact in the future.

We already have car insurance companies that offer discounts for safe driving if you use their driving monitors. Cybersecurity expert David Choffnes points out we’re not too far from a world where smart toothbrushes may connect to dental insurance rates and discounts. We’ve explored how smart watches and even browser history could impact your health insurance rates and insurability. Right now it’s all theoretical, but the bones are there to create a tech-inspired Frankenstein.

Plus, it’s inherently creepy to think that an ISP could deduce your family’s schedule based on use of smart devices.

So how can you spy back to see what kind of data is being reported?

Well, for starters you’ll need to have some computer knowledge. Or a pal who is willing to help you out in your endeavor to be a smart home spy.

For the Gizmodo experiment, Mattu built a customized router using a Raspberry Pi 3, which is a tiny computer you can custom program. If you want to replicate their test, these run around $35 for a single board.

Fortunately, the Raspberry Pi 3 comes with built in wifi hardware so it should be fairly easy to configure it as a router if you already know how to use one.

Once connected to the internet and set up as a wifi router, you’ll add the script to monitor network traffic. For this part, you need an understanding of Git and Github.

Next, set up a server so you can store traffic. Mattu and Hill used Amazon Web Services, but you can use your own server if you want. They also crafted a front-end interface to analyze the data.

Note the times when you connect and use the devices for easier analysis. If you want more details about setting up your very own smart home data traffic monitoring router, check out their article.

Some of the information collected from the devices may seem trivial. After all, what does it really matter if Philips knows what time you get up in the morning? Hill noted the data being sent is “basic, boring, information, but revealing information about how we live our life.”

This data could start to matter if companies and ISPs use your information control how you use their devices and how products are sold to you.

TV watching data is already being sold to data brokers. It’s just a matter of time before your sleep score from a smart mattress gets reported to your health insurance to determine coverage or something equally Big Brother-like.

Smart homes are predicted to be a $27 billion market by 2021, with an unprecedented number of new devices in our homes. Before rushing out to get the latest smart device, make sure you’re fully aware of what data you may be inadvertently sharing with companies.

Check out different products’ privacy policies before buying to make sure you’re cool with what information the device will be sending. And if you don’t want your ISP to know how often you make lattes, maybe opt for a coffee maker that isn’t wifi-enabled.

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Real Estate Technology

Drones inspired by birds

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Newly developed drones incorporate a flapping X-wing design that allow them to fly, thrust, and maneuver much like a bird.

Published

on

X-wing drones

The next generation of drones will master the art and aerodynamics of flight with actual wings! This complex engineering feat adds both stability and an unforeseen agility to drones, which means they will be more useful than ever before.

Darting, flapping, swooping, hovering, and soaring are a few of the improved capabilities these cross-wing ornithopters have, making them far superior to the often wobblier, stiffer versions on the market now. The creators of the ornithopters used reverse engineering based on detailed observation and study of how birds move to create a winged version of the flying robot drones.

Instead of the propellers and fixed-wings used in conventional drones, these new drones flap their wings and raise their tails in order to create a forward thrust, similar to how birds and insects fly. The X-wing designs make these flying robots better at maneuvering tight spaces, giving them greater control at varying speeds.

How exactly does the X-wing design excel where other flapping-wing designs have failed? The inventors form a team of researchers from Singapore, Australia, China, and Taiwan. In a recent Science Robotics magazine article, they explain:

“One difference is that our ornithopters make use of the “clap and fling” effect. The two pairs of wings flap such that they meet, like hands clapping. This makes enough extra thrust to lift their body weight when hovering.”

The ornithopters have control over nose and tail as well, and can quickly change from moving horizontally to moving vertically. They also use up to 40% less energy to run, and can be flown like a regular plane, or hover like an existing drone in order to conserve even more energy. Because of the greater control and increased capabilities of these drones, they also have more uses including being safe enough to fly inside.

One of the researchers responsible for creating this ornithopter, Lau Gih-Keong, an associate professor in mechanical engineering at Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, spoke to CNN about specific future uses of these flying machines. The new drones can be used to maneuver in and out of nearly inaccessible, tight spaces. For example, they can easily fly in and out of a ventilation duct, where regular inspections are difficult but essential to system upkeep.

If you want to see how these next gen drones work, The Conversation published three videos of these marvels in motion. They look small, about the size of a hummingbird or even a large, flying insect. One can only imagine their potential after seeing how agile they are. In that same article, the researchers have said they will continue to refine and develop these and newer drones, based on the evolution of birds.

Continue Reading

Real Estate Technology

This note-taking app adapts to your thought process

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Relanote is a dynamic alternative to the age-old practice of taking notes.

Published

on

relanote notes

Taking notes is a process that has evolved substantially to fit individuals and has stayed relatively static in overall execution. It may be surprising, then, for us to say that a new take on note-taking is worth your immediate and full attention–but that’s exactly the case.

Relanote is a fresh entry in the arguably oversaturated “Notepad” app category. All of the features you’d expect in a minimalist note-taking app are there–encryption, note sharing, a free version, access across the four main computer and mobile platforms–but what makes it truly interesting is its hierarchical system of organization.

Somewhat like Slack, Relanote allows you to tag other notes by using the “@” symbol, and you can classify your notes by using hashtags within them. This is a super simple but effective way to organize, find, and utilize your notes without having to do any kind of copying and pasting, split window view, or swiping back and forth.

Once you’ve tagged a note in another note, you can zoom out to see how the two (or more) notes connect to each other in a visual “graph” that displays each of your tagged notes in a web. You can even filter different tags on the graph so that any irrelevant information is left out when looking for something specific.

The app also has a file-and-folder storage option to help organize your notes in a “physical” manner. “By leveraging the power of both methods, Relanote adapts to your way of thinking,” Relanote’s product page claims.

Relanote outlines quite a few upcoming features on their website, some of which include importing, exporting, themes, and templates for your notes. If you’d like to access these features, you’ll need to upgrade to the pro version ($4 per month) or the team version ($9 per month). However, Relanote makes it clear that the core principle of their app is present in the free version–and that’s enough to get you started.

A note-taking app that adapts to your particular process of writing, organizing, and revising sounds like a steal, especially when you consider that the base version is free for unlimited use. Especially if you’re a visual person who’s looking for a new way to record information, Relanote is worth your time.

Continue Reading

Real Estate Technology

Grapevine is the new Snapchat for work and team meetings

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) In an era of offensively inefficient video communications, Grapevine appears to be a breath of fresh air.

Published

on

grapevine zoom competitor

If you’re anything like us, you’re completely burnt out on Zoom meetings that, quite frankly, could have been much, much shorter (or completely relegated to the email medium). Should you find yourself experiencing the same frustration, cheer up–there’s a solution.

Grapevine, an asynchronous meeting app designed specifically for remote teams, is a clear answer to the question, “what if I’m not free at that time?” Their slogan–”Team updates without team meetings”–perfectly summarizes what they’re about: Efficiency of information dissemination without the abhorrent time suck that is your average Zoom call.

It’s also worth noting that Grapevine is an amicable solution for employees working in patchy Wi-Fi zones or operating on cellular data (as it seems to go these days). The same could be said for issues related to time zones, appointments, or other inconveniences that arise all too frequently in the remote work atmosphere.

The way Grapevine works is devilishly simple: Think Snapchat, but for work.

Any member of a team can record, view, and respond to one-way video recordings inside of the Grapevine framework. There’s even a feature that functions as a morning briefing of sorts, allowing you to catch up on all of the content from work that you missed overnight, while on vacation, or so on.

Video comments can be shared or pinned to answer questions efficiently rather than having to re-record or paraphrase a response, and these comments form threads that can be accessed at any time, making the process of checking feedback simple and quick, as opposed to the general nightmare that is scrubbing through a Zoom recording.

Grapevine also allows you to divide into teams and function within those groups separately, making it a bit of an amalgam between Slack and the aforementioned Snapchat.

All of that is pretty great, but perhaps the best aspect is that Grapevine is free to use–at least in its current form. While the Grapevine team promises to bring premium access and features to the app soon, the basic version of Grapevine will remain free, and the premium access will take the form of an “affordable subscription.”

You don’t have to ditch Zoom entirely, but if you want your employees or coworkers to stop sticking needles in your effigy after hours, Grapevine is a great alternative.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Our Partners

Get The Daily Intel
in your inbox

Subscribe and get news and EXCLUSIVE content to your email inbox!

Still Trending

Get The American Genius
in your inbox

subscribe and get news and exclusive content to your email inbox