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Toronto neighborhood of the future gets canceled, thanks COVID-19

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Google partner company cancels technological utopia project in Toronto, Ontario, amid pandemic financial uncertainty. Damn you COVID-19!

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toronto quayside

Sidewalk Labs has announced the termination of a new-age urban paradise to be built in the world’s societal paradise due to the pandemic-induced apocalypse: the new-and-improved Quayside, Canada will not be.

The project was a 12-acre technological utopian neighborhood on the Toronto eastern waterfront. Sidewalk Toronto would combine “forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology to create people-centred neighbourhoods that achieve precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity.”

The project was a collaborative effort between Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation company owned by Alphabet (the parent company of Google) and Waterfront Toronto, the local nonprofit steward of the area. Launched in October 2017, Sidewalk Labs committed to a $50 million USD investment for initial planning and testing.

According to the announcement by Sidewalk Labs CEO Daniel Doctoroff, the work completed to date on Quayside “represent[s] a meaningful contribution to the work of tackling big urban problems, particularly in the areas of affordability and sustainability. This is a vital societal endeavor, and Sidewalk Labs will continue our work to contribute to it.”

Sidewalk Labs has made many a grandiose proclamation for the contributions of this project to inspire new models for sustainable transportation, waste management, and affordable housing. But the execution of this vision has not been without controversy. The project has been criticized over the years by Toronto residents for its dubious regard to privacy standards and personal data collection, such as motion-sensor cameras to track people’s movements and manage transportation accordingly. At one point, Sidewalk Labs proposed to expand the project to a 350-acre plot of undeveloped land.

Despite Sidewalk Labs emphasis on the importance of the project and its significance in the context of the social and physical shifts the world has made to adapt to COVID-19, the announcement gave no indication that the project will be reinitiated at a later time.

For now, the announcement only indicates that Sidewalk Labs will continue other internal projects and external investments. Some of Sidewalk Labs other projects include Proto-Model X (PMX), a digital model for manufacturing tall timber buildings, and a Clean Recycling pilot to help apartment habitants improve waste and recycling habits. Sidewalk Labs also invests in other companies working on the front lines of urban innovation.

While the world may be no worse for the wear without a heated-sidewalk Zion, the project cancellation is definitely a disappointment. I was really looking forward to moving to Google Town after coronavirus decimates my local population and economy.

Heather Buffo is a Cleveland native, a recovering Bostonian, and an Austin newbie. Heather has her Bachelor of Arts in Neurobiology from Harvard University, and is a City Year Boston AmeriCorps alum. When she's not writing for AG, you can find her pouring beers at the Brewtorium, but only one at a time.

Real Estate Technology

Accessibility now has its own section in Google Maps

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Google Maps makes it easier to see which locations are wheelchair-accessible. Accessibility Is now marked easily as an icon next to the name of locations.

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If you are one of the 13.7% of adults in the US who have a disability which makes it difficult to walk or climb stairs, it is now easier to find out accessibility details of businesses or other destinations using the Google Maps app.

Though the feature was previously available, it required users to seek it out separately for each destination in the “About” section of the app. The new “Accessible Places” feature rolled out on Global Accessibility Awareness Day marks destinations that have wheelchair-accessible entrances with a prominently displayed icon, and information about the availability of accessible seating, parking, and restrooms.

Though accessibility features are often initiated through work and advocacy to help people with disabilities, it is something that even those without mobility challenges often seek out, and from which they can benefit. For example, if a person is pushing around a stroller with a 30-pound toddler inside; they might want to know the accessibility details when planning their outings to know where they will or will not encounter an accessible entrance. This is also a helpful tool for those planning for groups with varying levels of mobility.

Right now the Google Maps app has wheelchair accessibility information for more than 15 million places around the world, according to the Google produced blog The Keyword. This number is continuously increasing as volunteers and business owners add updates.

If you run a business with accessible entrances, seating, parking, or restrooms, you might want to give the feature a try, and make sure that all of the efforts you have put into making your location accessible are noted accurately. If you have updates to add, you can do so here. Google reports that 120 million Local Guides have already shared accessibility information from around the world for this feature.

To enable this update on the Google Maps iOS or Android app, go to “Settings”, select “Accessibility,” and turn on “Accessible Places.”

google maps settings

The rollout of this feature started with the United States, Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom; with Google claiming support for more countries is on the way. According to The Wheelchair Foundation there is a global population of over 130 million people who use wheelchairs. This user-friendly feature has a large potential audience to benefit from having accessibility information at their fingertips.

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Real Estate Technology

Instagram’s new ‘Guides’ puts businesses right in front of consumers

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Instagram rolls out Guides section to share information, and ramp up word of mouth marketing for influencers, and eventually small business owners.

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Instagram guides

Marketers know that the number one most successful type of marketing is word of mouth. It can be extremely powerful and effective to have someone you know and trust to share about a product or service with you.

Granted, it is usually an endorsement for something you believe to be interested in, or can be persuaded to be, but we love having someone we like give us recommendations – whether it be for new restaurants, a reliable hairdresser, a not-too-salesy car dealership, or a trustworthy auto body shop. We also are influenced by our circles to try things that we believe we need like new make-up, a local beer brewing company, a family friendly walking trail, or even suggestions on DIY home improvement projects.

According to Social Media Today, Instagram has added a new way to connect users to resources and products. They’ve started this by rolling it out with influencers, and due to the crazy times we are living in (aka a Global pandemic), they have started with health and wellness products. Essentially, the selected Influencers can add the “Guides” section to their profiles (so it sits where Stories Highlights sit), and they can share a wealth of information related to their brand (in the health and wellness industry). This information is highly curated and specific to a current topic, and can include recommendations, tips, and other content in a dedicated tab.

You can see a few examples here:
“Instagram Guides are available on selected profiles from today, including @afspnational, @heads_together, @vitaalere, @klicksafe, @headspace_aus, @deepikapadukone, @sudahdong and @eenfance.”

This has a ton of potential to expand to other industries as well as creating a lot of partnerships and cross-promotions that make a lot of sense. We can also see this working really well for small business owners that might be able to highlight their recommendations for local services as well as highlight resources that work well together (Hair & Make-Up Artist + Photographer), and even times of supporting activists who are working diligently to get their messages out. Allowing them to add Guides could help them share a very specific and accessible amount of information with their following.

With more and more people getting their information from social media, this seems to be a great product extension that of course, it’s fair to assume, Instagram may look to monetize, but it can also be cost-effective and likely reach a lot of eyeballs so may be worth the content creators time. It can also be incredible exposure for the partners that they decide to recommend and/or feature. Soon, if you’re a business owner, you might be looking to see who you can ask to feature you within their “Guide”.

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Real Estate Technology

Transcribe your flood of meetings with Tony

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) With all the audio meetings that have to take place now it might be useful to get a transcriber, TonydoorAI is a free one that’s perfect for you.

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Tony doorAI TonydoorAI

While meetings sometimes (rightfully) get a bad rep for being a waste of time, there are often moments where meetings are crucial for the betterment of your work. And, in these cases, meetings can be particularly daunting.

You’re worried about how to dress, what to say, and how to say it, all while retaining the information presented and taking helpful notes for your future self. It’s impossible to do all of that at the same time and feel like you hit it out of the park.

Even with our current world of video meetings from home, it can still be hard to manage all of those components and take detailed notes that will make sense in the future. However, there may be a friend who can help.

TonyDoorAI is an AI assistant for calls and video meetings. Users can turn it on to record meetings on Zoom or Google Meet.

The AI can transcribe in 120 languages and can summarize in two minutes with 95 percent accuracy. This is a largely untapped system of record that is designed with remote teams in mind.

The system also provides time-stamped notes and works to keep the communication between customers or employees smooth and transparent. TonyDoor has strong analytic skills built into the platform that track a conversation’s theme and structure – in only one hour, the system will review an hour-long meeting into your CRM.

There are plans tailored for all business types, including a free plan that offers four hours of transcription per month, records Zoom and Google Meet, provides time-stamped notes, and integrates with Slack and Calendar.

On the website, Tony states that only the user owns the data and that they do not sell or use data for their interests. Additionally, Tony explains the encryption of data as, “We encrypt your data at rest, including emails, calendar events and other personal identifiable metadata. We use a 256-bit AES encryption in storage and a 256-bit SSL/TLS encryption in transit. Our database is hosted in a Virtual Private Cloud with AWS.”

Tony sounds like an ideal helper for new client calls, interviews, and anything where you want to retain information. Give us your thoughts on AI transcription in the comments!

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