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Zillow may be on its way to becoming a patent troll

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Zillow was granted yet ANOTHER pretty vague new utility patent last month, which leaves us wondering: what are they planning?

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We’ve got our eyes on you, Zillow.

The real estate listing website has been nabbing utility patents left and right. Their most recent one, awarded last month, is for the “automated control of image acquisition via use of acquisition device sensors.”

Basically, they claim to have invented a technique for automatically mapping a space in 3D using imaging sensors in real time, all controlled by an app on a phone or another device. This technology might even have applications like quickly building virtual reality environments using real life references. While Zillow filed for this patent in late 2018, it could prove to be a useful tool for them to have in their back pocket during the COVID age.

But looking at the whole picture, Zillow must be gearing up for something major. They’ve had 17 successful patents in the last ten years, all for inventions that seem a bit extraneous for the humble real estate listing page. Either they’re planning to start punching above their weight very soon, or they’re just well on their way to patent trolling with the best of them.

Quick refresh: A patent troll is a company that secures patents they do not need or use with the primary goal of suing “competitors” that unknowingly reproduce their copyrighted works. This behavior effectively creates a minefield for small businesses that are engaging in good faith product development.

As an aside, Zillow is currently involved in a drawn out drama where accusations of trolling have abounded in both directions. IBM recently filed a lawsuit in response to seven of Zillow’s patents, claiming that they are the original inventors and that Zillow has cost them billions of dollars in losses (note that this is small potatoes for IBM. They have over 110,000 patents, and the US Patent and Trademark Office has given them more patents than they’ve given to any other company in the world). Clearly, they see Zillow as an important rival to keep in check.

However you look at it, the takeaway here is clear: Don’t underestimate Zillow. Even though they’re not an IBM-sized giant right now, they’re still making serious moves with serious implications.

Desmond Meagley is an award-winning writer, graphic artist and cultural commentator in D.C. A proud YR Media alumn, Desmond's writing and illustrations have been featured in the SF Chronicle, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, The Daily Cal, and NPR among others. In their spare time, Desmond enjoys vegetarian cooking and vigorous bike rides.

Real Estate Technology

Google’s project management tool organizes and automates your tasks

(TECH NEWS) The beta is out for Tables, a project management tool that uses automation and a well-rounded user interface to organize teams and productivity.

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Google Tables graphic, Google's new project management tool

Keeping track of different documents and tasks to manage a project can take a lot of time because everything isn’t easily accessible in one place. Hunting down notes from different meetings and emails to keep all this documentation up to date is exhausting. And, there’s always someone who doesn’t have their ducks in a row so you’re having to make sure they are updating their parts, too. The project management aspect takes up more time than many tend to expect.

Google’s Area 120, the company’s in-house incubator for experimental projects, has come up with a very neat tool that should, hopefully, remove a lot of these problems. Tables “helps teams track work and automate tasks to save time and supercharge collaboration—without any coding required,” wrote Tim Gleason, the general manager for Tables, in a blog post.

When you first open Tables, you will land on the homepage. From there, you can access your most recent tables and workspaces. If you want to create a new blank workspace or table, you can do so by clicking the “New” icon. You can also import already created Sheets and .CSV files as custom templates. Also, there are blank templates to help you get started working quickly. Templates for things like managing data, tracking projects, and employee recruiting are among those included.

Tables are made of columns and rows that use structured data. Each column has a defined data type, which enforces the “relationships on data contained in the rows.” Easily displayed icons at the top of each column let you take a “quick glance” of what information is contained in each section. If you double-click on a column, you can make changes to the “structured objects” and changes will be automatically reflected everywhere else on the table.

Plus, Tables lets you build automated actions and triggers by using Bots. With the Bots, teams can schedule recurring email reminders. This means you can nudge that one team member who is always running behind on their projects. Team members can send messages in chat rooms to let everyone know when a new form submission was received, or move and assign a task to another team member when the status on a task has changed.

Because Tables uses structured data, you can configure the data into different layouts. This means you can switch from a grid layout to a Kanban layout view. And, you can also create Forms that let you collect data from people anywhere. Questions in the Forms are directly tied to the existing table columns so setup is easy. And, of course, Tables can integrate easily with other Google products like Google Sheets and Google Groups.

“Tables is like a spreadsheet and a database had a baby and gave it special powers,” said Sam Dresser, VP of education at School of Rock in a video. The performance-based music education school is one of the companies that has already started using Tables. Sam says the school is very collaborative and uses a lot of spreadsheets. Because Tables work well with other G-Suite products, the tool allows them to “jump in and start collaborating and start working right away” on their projects.

Tables is a work-tracking tool that does look very user-friendly. Just by looking at it, you can see the familiar clean and tidy feel that all Google pages have. The idea of being able to have all your notes in one place that can be updated automatically without all the manual work is worth checking it out. Currently, Tables is in beta in the U.S. The free plan gives you 100 tables, 1,000 rows, 1GB for attachments, and 50 bot actions. If you need more wiggle room, you can get 1,000 tables, 10,000 rows, 10GB for attachments, and 500 bot actions for $10 per month. So, do you think it works as good as it sounds?

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Real Estate Technology

Freelancers, easily sort out your admin tasks with new pack of Notion goodies

(TECH NEWS) Notion is one of the favored tools for freelancers, and with this new pack made by Ben Issenmann, it’s even easier to sort out your administrative work.

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Notion Pack advertisement image, showing features for freelancers.

Time is a valuable thing, and it’s one of the most important things for freelancers. There are only so many hours in a day, and only so many things you can get done in each 60-minute window. Being self-employed is rewarding because you get to work on the things you love. (At least, I hope you do.) However, this also means all those boring administrative duties fall into your laps. So, time needs to be set aside for the not so fun paperwork duties.

But, freelancers, fret no more! Ben Issenmann, founder of Supercreative, has created a pretty neat template pack that will help save you time. His company provides tools, ideas, and courses for professional designers. And, his new product is Notion Pack, a pack for freelancers that want to collaborate with their clients.

In a recorded interview, Ben shared how Notion came about when he had a conversation with his friends. Because of that conversation, he wrote an article explaining how his designer and freelancer friends were using Notion to collaborate with their clients. He received a great number of responses from people who wanted to use his product. Excitedly, Ben said, “And I was like, okay. There’s definitely something I can do with this!” A few weeks later, Notion Pack was born.

According to his website, the pack has “all the freelance documents you need.” It comes with 20 different templates. The pack contains templates for quotes, invoices, sales proposals, contracts, etc. “It’s going to save freelancers a lot of hours spent on admin, time they can use on creative activities instead,” wrote Ben on Notion Pack’s Product Hunt page.

And every hour saved means more time to work on new projects that put more money in your pockets. Yay to that!

Notion Pack is divided into two parts. The Template Generator gives you access to the 20 templates. By clicking on a template, you can generate a new Notion page. Each page is color-coded. Yellow highlights the fields that you need to change for every client. While red highlights the things you need to configure beforehand when you set up each pack.

The Freelance Workspace has an out-of-the-box structure. When you press “Create new client”, it will generate all the templates in the correct order. From there, you can collaborate with your clients directly in Notion or export a PDF. To add a personal touch, you can add a video to say a quick hello to your client. Also, instead of having to share 10 different pages, the workspace will capture everything you need in one organized shareable page.

Another cool thing about Notion is the ability for clients to schedule time with you. Powered by Calendly, an online appointment scheduling software, a collaborator can book a time to follow-up with you straight through their workspace. I like the idea of that!

The Notion Pack is available in English and French. But according to a comment on their Product Hunt page, it might eventually be available in more languages.

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Real Estate Technology

Organize your to-do list and journal in one place with this sleek app

(TECH NEWS) New desktop and phone app allows for journaling, to-do list making, and notetaking to be done all in one (shareable, but safe) place.

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Colorful sunrise mountains with text saying "Take back your day: journal, to do list, organization", advertising Daynote

Outside of one-hit-wonder pop culture, my hobbies include journaling and to-do list making. So, imagine my delight when I learned of a platform that offers both – plus notes – all in one place.

Daynote urges its users to “take back your day.” With so much happening all at once, there is a lot of information to keep straight. With that in mind, it’s nice to have the option to keep all of that information in one place.

This simple yet sleek platform allows you to navigate between your journaled thoughts, items to tackle, and notes of ideas. We all know that journaling is good for relieving stress and anxieties, and with Daynote, your journal’s privacy is protected.

You are able to search previous entries, receive yearly reminders of what happened previously on this date, and you can upload photos. Daynote is also teasing that more features are coming soon.

I’m the biggest proponent of to-do lists. They make you more productive and it just feels good to check stuff off. With Daynote’s to-do lists, you can schedule lists and to-do items, shuffle between lists, and share with others.

Notes is almost like a combination of a journal entry and a to-do list. My personal notes are just a collection of ideas and reminders of things to come back to later. According to Daynote’s description, “Record anything you’d like to remember for later. Wine lists, books you want to read, products you want to buy, travel itineraries. Anything.”

The opportunities of what to note-take are endless! Through this app, you can search all notes, share notes with others, and schedule notes for later dates.

Daynote operates on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and the web. Early access is available upon request.

I’m an iPhone user (and I would imagine there is a very similar tool on an Android or any other smartphone) and, minus the scheduling capabilities, you can pretty much do all of this through the notes app. Personally, I’m a pen-to-paper gal who keeps all of this info physically written down.

However, Daynote could certainly be useful for people who need more reminders for to-do lists and notes; and this is something that could be helpful for teams.

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