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3 questions early tech adopters must remember to ask

Early adopters of technology that have been pioneering the use of tools in their business are often the fastest to shell out money for this or that, but there are three fundamental questions that should be asked before clicking the “add to cart” button on any technology.

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Pride in being an early adopter

I pride myself in being a trendsetter when it comes to use of technology in my real estate business. As an early adopter, I bought into online form software while the rest of my former company was still firmly entrenched in paper forms. Now as the broker of my own firm, we frequently test and buy into technology quickly after it hits the market. Most of the time, this is a smart move. Being an early adopter gives us an edge as we frequently are the first in our market to use new marketing channels and real estate software. However, this speed to try new things is not without its risks.

A few weeks ago, I received a marketing email from a company selling a new smartphone app targeted at real estate and mortgage professionals. The copy was exciting and promised that industry professionals who downloaded and purchased this new app would be able to share the app with their clients, and even sell “space” on the app to trusted vendors. It sounded great — and I clicked on the email link which took me to a splash page for the app. Before doing too much due diligence, I admit I sent the developer $149 through PayPal for my own customized smartphone app.

After logging in to customize my app, I quickly figured out this was probably not a smart move. I uploaded info on my trusted lender and home inspector, and invited them to try the app. Both declined. Not interested. Hmmm. So I guess I won’t be collecting part of the app fee from these guys, who normally do pay for sponsorship on my folders and on co-branded ads. Okay. No big deal. If it works, I can afford $149.

The three questions you must ask

One: Does it really solve a problem or is it just fancy bells and whistles?
I show the app to a few select clients of mine. Two of them work for computer firms, and between them probably own every piece of cool tech there is. Both just blinked when I showed them the app. “But you can click my realty app here to get my contact info at your fingertips!” They both gave me a blank stare, and a “Duh” moment. One guy said “But I already have that info in my contact database.” The other guy said “You’re my agent. I know how to find you.” Then I showed them my preferred vendors on the app. Again, both guys have trusted lenders at their disposal and don’t need mine. Okay, so the app is pretty on their phones, but not really necessary for current clients — and that’s who I am supposed to invite to download the app. See the catch 22?

Two: What is the company’s refund policy?
After discovering that I was not 100% thrilled with the purchase, I went online to see how to contact the company. There was no refund policy online, so I sent an email to the address on the web, with no reply. Three days later, I sent another email. No reply. Then I sent an email to the owner of the company (which I tracked down through the PayPal address I sent the money to). He replied that he would refund the money. That was six days ago. I just sent a second email to the owner. I did try to contact PayPal, but their dispute mechanism seems to not relate to software apps as none of the choices apply to my situation, and there is no “other” choice when disputing a charge.

Three: Will this give me an edge in business?
Finally, will buying this new technology give me an edge in my business? How does it read in an advertisement? Try to create a “benefit” statement out of it and see if it makes any sense. If I had done this, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so quick to send that company $149 for the app. “Hire me and I’ll give you a free app to download my contact info and the info of my trusted lender.” Really? Who cares!

I am still proud of being a trendsetter in my industry. My company is the “techy geeky firm” in our area, and I won’t change that. But hopefully next time I get an email urging me to send someone money to download the latest technology, I’ll pause and think this through a bit better. Oh, and I’m giving that app company three days to refund my money before I share the name of that app company. Just kidding, Mike. Or not. We’ll see.

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Roland Estrada

    May 15, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Well first off, every tech journalist I read, listen to and follow would have not problem publicly burning a vendor that screwed them over. Why? Because they are not just reviewers. They feel they owe it to their readers and listeners to warn them of shady vendors. Second, the public forum they have can sometimes help resolve someone else’s  problem. 
     
    I’ve been in the position of jumping to quickly, the price I pay for being bleeding edge. Well bleeding edge when it comes to real estate agents. I remember some arrogant dope at the office asking me how liked my new toy (I got the iPad 1 on the first day). He ended up getting an iPad a year later and I ended up teaching an iPad class for Realtors.
     
    You should be discerning about your tech. Getting the hardware is relatively easy. It’s difficult not getting sucked into apps and services you don’t need, can get cheaper or for free. 

  2. franciszrobles

    May 15, 2012 at 6:21 am

    One advantage to 123 Refinance is as you look for a lender to refinance your loan, if the lender you decide to work with fails to come through, you can move on to another lender quickly.

    • Roland Estrada

      May 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

       @franciszrobles Nice SPAM!!

  3. MitchTheGeekGuy

    May 16, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Confused, so after a few days of speaking to a couple of clients you bash the software? Would that not be like bashing Facebook because you can’t get people to like your fan page? Or blaming the website designer because no one visits your website! Did the app work? Did it have the ability to advertise your preferred vendors? Would this not make more sense to give to new clients as opposed to existing clients?
     
    You call yourself a trendsetter, I believe most trendsetters have issues getting people to buy in to their new trends at first.

    • Roland Estrada

      May 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm

       @MitchTheGeekGuy This is a garbage app. It looks like it was written by some dropout teen. These kinds of apps are all the same. They offer a cheap “mobile app” that is nothing more than some basic code. No wonder they won’t give Erica the time of day. Thanks Erica, for outing these losers. I’m sorry, was I to blunt? 🙂

  4. ericaramus

    May 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Mitch — I realized the app was not as useful to me as I had hoped. Yes it worked as in it functioned. But after using it and demonstrating it to clients I also saw the app is not necessary for my business. Therefore I requested a refund. I’ve emailed now 5 times with zero response. When I contacted the VP of sales 8 days ago he replied I would have a refund. However, subsequent emails went unanswered. 
     
    UPDATE 5/16/12… it’s been 8 days now since the app VP of Sales promised me a refund. The app’s name is The Working Business Card. I would definitely not recommend this app to real estate professionals. And based on their poor customer service I’ll be letting everyone know that the refund I was promised never materialized. 

  5. Frugyl

    May 30, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Early adoption is where it’s at! *squeal!*

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Tech News

4 ways startups prove their investment in upcoming technology trends

(TECH NEWS) Want to see into the future? Just take a look at what technology the tech field is exploring and investing in today — that’s the stuff that will make up the world of tomorrow.

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Woman testing VR technology

Big companies scout like for small ones that have proven ideas and prototypes, rather than take the initial risk on themselves. So startups have to stay ahead of technology by their very nature, in order to be stand-out candidates when selling their ideas to investors.

Innovation Leader, in partnership with KPMG LLP, recently conducted a study that sheds light onto the bleeding edge of tech: The technologies that the biggest companies are most interested in building right now.

The study asked its respondents to group 16 technologies into four categorical buckets, which Innovation Leader CEO Scott Kirsner refers to as “commitment level.”

The highest commitment level, “in-market or accelerating investment,” basically means that technology is already mainstream. For optimum tech-clairvoyance, keep your eyes on the technologies which land in the middle of the ranking.

“Investing or piloting” represents the second-highest commitment level – that means they have offerings that are approaching market-readiness.

The standout in this category is Advanced Analytics. That’s a pretty vague title, but it generally refers to the automated interpretation and prediction on data sets, and has overlap with Machine learning.

Wearables, on the other hand, are self explanatory. From smart watches to location trackers for children, these devices often pick up on input from the body, such heart rate.

The “Internet of Things” is finding new and improved ways to embed sensor and network capabilities into objects within the home, the workplace, and the world at large. (Hopefully that doesn’t mean anyone’s out there trying to reinvent Juicero, though.)

Collaboration tools and cloud computing also land on this list. That’s no shock, given the continuous pandemic.

The next tier is “learning and exploring”— that represents lower commitment, but a high level of curiosity. These technologies will take a longer time to become common, but only because they have an abundance of unexplored potential.

Blockchain was the highest ranked under this category. Not surprising, considering it’s the OG of making people go “wait, what?”

Augmented & virtual reality has been hyped up particularly hard recently and is in high demand (again, due to the pandemic forcing us to seek new ways to interact without human contact.)

And notably, AI & machine learning appears on rankings for both second and third commitment levels, indicating it’s possibly in transition between these categories.

The lowest level is “not exploring or investing,” which represents little to no interest.

Quantum computing is the standout selection for this category of technology. But there’s reason to believe that it, too, is just waiting for the right breakthroughs to happen.

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Tech News

Internet of Things and deep learning: How your devices are getting smarter

(TECH NEWS) The latest neural network from Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows a great bound forward for deep learning and the “Internet of Things.”

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Woman using smart phone to control other devices in home, connected to deep learning networks

The deep learning that modifies your social media and gives you Google search results is coming to your thermostat.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a deep learning system of neural networks that can be used in the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Named MCUNet, the system designs small neural networks that allow for previously unseen speed and accuracy for deep learning on IoT devices. Benefits of the system include energy savings and improved data security for devices.

Created in the early 1980s, the IoT is essentially a large group of everyday household objects that have become increasingly connected through the internet. They include smart fridges, wearable heart monitors, thermostats, and other “smart” devices. These gadgets run on microcontrollers, or computer chips with no processing system, that have very little processing power and memory. This has traditionally made it hard for deep learning to occur on IoT devices.

“How do we deploy neural nets directly on these tiny devices? It’s a new research area that’s getting very hot,” said Song Han, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at MIT who is a part of the project, “Companies like Google and ARM are all working in this direction.”

In order to achieve deep learning for IoT connected machines, Han’s group designed two specific components. The first is TinyEngine, an inference engine that directs resource management similar to an operating system would. The other is Tiny NAS, a neural architecture search algorithm. For those not well-versed in such technical terms, think of these things like a mini Windows 10 and machine learning for that smart fridge you own.

The results of these new components are promising. According to Han, MCUNet could become the new industry standard, stating that “It has huge potential.” He envisions the system has one that could help smartwatches not just monitor heartbeat and blood pressure but help analyze and explain to users what that means. It could also lead to making IoT devices far more secure than they are currently.

“A key advantage is preserving privacy,” says Han. “You don’t need to transmit the data to the cloud.”

It will still be a while until we see smart devices with deep learning capabilities, but it is all but inevitable at this point—the future we’ve all heard about is definitely on the horizon.

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Tech News

Google is giving back some privacy control? (You read that right)

(TECH NEWS) In a bizarre twist, Google is giving you the option to opt out of data collection – for real this time.

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Open laptop on desk, open to map privacy options

It’s strange to hear “Google” and “privacy” in the same sentence without “concerns” following along, yet here we are. In a twist that’s definitely not related to various controversies involving the tech company, Google is giving back some control over data sharing—even if it isn’t much.

Starting soon, you will be able to opt out of Google’s data-reliant “smart” features (Smart Compose and Smart Reply) across the G-Suite of pertinent products: Gmail, Chat, and Meet. Opting out would, in this case, prevent Google from using your data to formulate responses based on your previous activity; it would also turn off the “smart” features.

One might observe that users have had the option to turn off “smart” features before, but doing so didn’t disable Google’s data collection—just the features themselves. For Google to include the option to opt out of data collection completely is relatively unprecedented—and perhaps exactly what people have been clamoring for on the heels of recent lawsuits against the tech giant.

In addition to being able to close off “smart” features, Google will also allow you to opt out of data collection for things like the Google Assistant, Google Maps, and other Google-related services that lean into your Gmail Inbox, Meet, and Chat activity. Since Google knowing what your favorite restaurant is or when to recommend tickets to you can be unnerving, this is a welcome change of pace.

Keep in mind that opting out of data collection for “smart” features will automatically disable other “smart” options from Google, including those Assistant reminders and customized Maps. At the time of this writing, Google has made it clear that you can’t opt out of one and keep the other—while you can go back and toggle on data collection again, you won’t be able to use these features without Google analyzing your Meet, Chat, and Gmail contents and behavior.

It will be interesting to see what the short-term ramifications of this decision are. If Google stops collecting data for a small period of time at your request and then you turn back on the “smart” features that use said data, will the predictive text and suggestions suffer? Only time will tell. For now, keep an eye out for this updated privacy option—it should be rolling out in the next few weeks.

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