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Your robot devices might be selling you out and you don’t even know it.

(TECH NEWS) Your devices might be being used to attack the internet without you knowing.

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robot

Robot rising

Well, shoot. I’ve dubbed myself lead correspondent for American Genius on the robot apocalypse, and I put my money on “probably not.” I even had a look at the state of the Internet of Things, consumer edition and concluded Siri and Alexa were flawed but interesting home conveniences rather than what they clearly were, the chill metal claw of mechanized conquest, their soothing voices soon to be calling out our shift assignments in the tungsten mines.

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Sure enough, turns out your DVR is plotting against you, like Palpatine if he were tiny, rectangular and full of “Grey’s Anatomy” reruns.

Just kidding!! Mostly …

The good news, if that’s what we’re calling this, is that you’re probably not being hacked in the sense of endangering your personal data.
Instead, the goal is to build a botnet, a network of thousands or millions of blissfully unaware people’s devices that gives hackers all their processing power at once.

Lots of computers, one task

Having several thousand computers working on the same task enables some pretty high-end shady dealings.

The most popular are DDoS attacks.

DDoS attacks overload web services with input until they crash, or brute forcing passwords, running millions of possibilities in a short period of time in order to access a valuable service.

How the robots could win

Thankfully, as wiser minds than mine have pointed out, the robot apocalypse is unlikely because robots are clueless.

The only reason the botnet scenario is possible is because we’re being more clueless, and when I say “we,” that definitely includes “I” because I’ve done this.

More accurately, I haven’t done it: change all my passwords. Your Internet-enabled Things often ship with a stock default password. Some don’t come with set passwords at all. You have to do it yourself.

This is why we can’t have nice things

The scumbags pulling this digital nonsense are doing so via the mastermind tactic of R-ing TFM (which is geek speak for reading the effing manual) and finding out what the default passwords are.

Make sure you change those up, try not to repeat passwords you use for other important things, and with any luck you’re off the list for the tungsten mines.

Real talk: when smart people say they’re worried about the Internet of Things, this is why.

Its forgettable

The trouble with tech running passively in the background is that you, I and every other h. sapiens will kind of forget about it, the same way we forget about the mechanical interactions in our doorknobs.

We trust the machines to interact with one another: knob turns, latch releases, door opens. We don’t keep the schematics handy.

Concerns over the Internet of Things are that phenomenon writ large, the recognition that the IoT equivalent of something going ‘ping’ in your doorknob could put the same password you use with your bank in the hands of a scumbag with a laptop and unpleasant intentions.

Keep your security fresh

There may be a large-scale answer to some of this soon: in data security, smart people are working overtime to plug the holes in the Grand Network of Stuff. In the interim, however, simple information security should enough to keep you out of a criminal conspiracy with your Bluetooth-enabled blender.

Switch up your passwords. Make sure nothing’s on default.Click To Tweet

And keep an eye on that Tivo of yours. Looks shifty.

#WatchYourBots

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Real Estate Technology

New tool translates your phone calls into 29 languages – LIVE

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) There’s no need for a language to language dictionary any longer. A lingvanex tool allows for real-time translation on phone calls in different languages.

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lingvanex translates in real time

If you’ve read a few things that I’ve written on here, you know that I often marvel at how far remote work has come. The fact that I write this as my dog sits beside me is no small feat.

What teams can accomplish in a virtual setting is pretty impressive, and tools like Slack and Trello are very helpful in this regard. However, remote workers still utilize the tried and true phone call as it remains a tool of efficiency.

This can be especially helpful if you’re working with team members or clients in other countries when a translator may need to be involved. This concept was the inspiration behind the Lingvanex Phone Call Translator.

The new tool translates voice calls into 29 different languages in real time. Working on both mobile phones and landlines, users can call countries all around the world (150 countries in total are available through the app).

This option is cheaper than roaming calls, starting at 18 cents per minute through use of VoIP. The conversation is then transcribed in real time with the details of the conversation being available only to the user, as Lingvanex does not store conversation data.

“We are happy to represent you the Phone Call Translator – a real-time voice translator, which was created to help in solving questions in travel situations and urgent business problems with foreigners or help in communicating with friends abroad,” says Lingvanex. “You can speak your native language when you call through the app. Your partner and you will hear the translation of both callers during the call, the original speech and translation will also be duplicated on the phone screen.”

The app works in a few simple steps: first, download to your device (works on both Android and iOS). Next, register and create application account – during this, you’ll select your default language. Then, you will select the language of the person you are calling. Make the call by dialing the phone number with the country code. Finally, chat it up walkie-talkie style.

Say what you need to say, then Phone Call Translator takes your words and transcribes them for the person on the other end. This could be very helpful as it gives you an extra moment to think about what to say next!

Do you think this will be helpful for you? Let us know below!

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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

Moving just got a lot easier with this NAR invested app

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Worried about moving? There’s an app for that, updater, and NAR has taken notice. They want to help their customers from beginning to end.

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updater app

Moving isn’t exactly a walk in the park. There’s coordinating movers, finding boxes, cancelling services, changing your mailing address on, well, everything, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! With so much to do, it’s easy to get overwhelmed but good news: turns out, there’s an app for that. And it’s promising enough that the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) have invested in it.

The app in question is Updater, which serves as a one-stop shop for everything you’d need for a move. Not only can the app help you craft your moving “to-do” list, but with its connection to all sorts of businesses involved in the moving process (from moving truck companies to cable services) you can keep all your prep in one place. Essentially, Updater is designed to make moving as stress-free as possible.

Updater’s current successes have drawn Second Century Ventures, the venture capital section of NAR, to invest in Updater. Which is cool, but why would a company focused on realtors want to help a company that focuses on what happens after a realtor has done their job?

“Updater’s platform delivers unique value to Realtors®, property managers and consumers alike,” said Mark Birschbach, senior VP of Strategic Business at NAR, “This investment is well aligned with SCV’s mission to support and advance technologies throughout the entire real estate ecosystem.”

Plus, Updater is a great tool for realtors to have in their back pocket. If a client seems nervous about moving or overwhelmed, Updater is a great recommendation. Not only does it help the mover, but it shows that the realtor cares about their client’s well-being, even after the deed is signed.

So, what’s next for Updater? Growth. Recently, Updater acquired Bridgevine, a company that works with home subscription services like cable and internet. This merger will allow Updater to offer more options to users while also increasing their reach. This is the first in what will likely be many growth initiatives for Updater.

David Greenberg, founder and CEO of Updater, is also looking forward to the partnership with NAR. “We’re excited to deepen our great relationship with SCV and NAR by investing heavily in the real estate industry and by enabling Realtors® and property managers to deliver an unrivaled moving experience.”

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