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Next layer in real estate search: cell phone coverage

When you search for real estate, some offer a layer of lifestyle search so you can see nearby food, yoga, schools, and the like, but the next layer to be looking out for is cell phone coverage.

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Nothing worse than bad cell phone coverage

As a native Texan, I can tell you first hand that not all cell phone carriers are created equal, and driving in and out of the hill country will result in dropped calls, even today. Try getting any carrier to work inside of a stucco house surrounded by hills – it’s impossible. So what do most people do to learn whether a home they’re interested in buying or renting is in a spot their phone will work? Testing in person, which is far from a reliable measure, and looking at the coverage map provided by the carrier is, let’s be honest, a joke.

It’s more than an inconvenience, moving into a home with no cell phone coverage can be a safety issue, makes getting any work done from home impossible, and makes personal communication complicated.

Enter Open Signal, an Android app currently running on over two million devices, which is constantly detecting signal strength automatically, and mapping the trends of which carriers are reliable geographically, down to an individual street address. Anyone can visit the site and check out a map, filtering the map by carrier, as well as 2G, 3G, and 4G coverage.

OpenSignal writes, “If we want to know if a certain network provides coverage in our area we rely on coverage maps provided by that same network. To see how backwards this situation is just consider the analog in any other industry – Would you trust a restaurant review written by the head chef himself? Mobile coverage is too important to remain a black box.”

The company has announced they have released the first version of their API (application programming interface), and note they are actively seeking “developers who are interested in harnessing the data we collect in their own applications.”

Enter real estate search companies

When we learned of OpenSignal’s API, we wondered who would be the first to use their API to add a layer to their existing real estate search, allowing consumers to search by cell phone coverage, which would be particularly useful in rural areas or mountainous or hill country areas.

Lifestyle search already allows consumers to search most major real estate sites by schools, hospitals, restaurants, walkability, and more, but ask any warm blooded American if they would live somewhere that their cell phone couldn’t possibly work, and the answer will almost certainly be an emphatic “yes.”

So will Move, Inc., operator of Realtor.com, be first, or will the newly public Zillow and Trulia get to the finish line on a national scale? Or will it be a younger contender or an IDX company that offers it first? No matter who beats the others to the punch, we anticipate this could become a subtle, yet vital part of real estate search, allowing consumers to make decisions not only on housing, but determining which carrier to switch to should they fall in love with a home with poor coverage.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Steve Albin

    October 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Another useless App

  2. laniar

    October 7, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Steve, thanks for commenting, but I’m dying to know – why do you find it useless? Do you also find the API useless? I’m not sure I get your meaning…

  3. kenbrand

    October 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    That’s super interesting.  I would think anyone who owns a cell phone would want to know what the hyperlocal signal strength was.  I would image mining, smelting and selling the collected app-user data would be valuable.  Hmmmmm.

  4. MattWilkins

    October 7, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    I’m finding buyers are looking at both this and which telecommunications providers are available.

  5. John Treck

    October 8, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Thanks for this map and the Open Signal Website! keep up the good work!

  6. jan de graaf

    October 8, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Thanks for this map and the Open Signal Website! keep up the good work!

  7. Jeff Brown

    October 8, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    I can hear it now. “Don’t buy in that neighborhood if you’re using Sprint. It’s like the black hole.” One wonders if all of a sudden carriers with poor reception, noticing lost business, would erect more towers?

    • ThomasABJohnson

      October 9, 2012 at 2:46 am

      @Jeff Brown The Real Estate cell tower Viagra effect: Tower Erections.

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Quickly delete years of your stupid Facebook updates

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Digital clutter sucks. Save time and energy with this new Chrome extension for Facebook.

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When searching for a new job, it’s always a good idea to scan your social media presence to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure with offensive or immature posts.

In fact, you should regularly check your digital life even if you’re not on the job hunt. You never know when friends, family, or others are going to rabbit hole into reading everything you’ve ever posted.

Facebook is an especially dangerous place for this since the social media giant has been around for over fourteen years. Many accounts are old enough to be in middle school now.

If you’ve ever taken a deep dive into your own account, you may have found some unsavory posts you couldn’t delete quickly enough.

We all have at least one cringe-worthy post or picture buried in years of digital clutter. Maybe you were smart from the get-go and used privacy settings. Or maybe you periodically delete posts when Memories resurfaces that drunk college photo you swore wasn’t on the internet anymore.

But digging through years of posts is time consuming, and for those of us with accounts older than a decade, nearly impossible.

Fortunately, a new Chrome extension can take care of this monotonous task for you. Social Book Post Manager helps clean up your Facebook by bulk deleting posts at your discretion.

Instead of individually removing posts and getting sucked into the ensuing nostalgia, this extension deletes posts in batches with the click of a button.

Select a specific time range or search criteria and the tool pulls up all relevant posts. From here, you decide what to delete or make private.

Let’s say you want to destroy all evidence of your political beliefs as a youngster. Simply put in the relevant keyword, like a candidate or party’s name, and the tool pulls up all posts matching that criteria. You can pick and choose, or select all for a total purge.

You can also salt the earth and delete everything pre-whatever date you choose. I could tell Social Book to remove everything before 2014 and effectively remove any proof that I attended college.

Keep in mind, this tool only deletes posts and photos from Facebook itself. If you have any savvy enemies who saved screenshots or you cross-posted, you’re out of luck.

The extension is free to use, and new updates support unliking posts and hiding timeline items. Go to town pretending you got hired on by the Ministry of Truth to delete objectionable history for the greater good of your social media presence.

PS: If you feel like going full scorched Earth, delete everything from your Facebook past and then switch to this browser to make it harder for Facebook to track you while you’re on the web.

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Why are all apps starting to look exactly the same?

(TECHNOLOGY) As apps evolve, they are beginning to look uniform – is this a good or bad thing?

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Have you noticed that all apps are beginning to look a lot alike? Many popular social media apps are utilizing minimalist designs, featuring lots of black and white with negative space and little color.

At a glance, you may not be able to differentiate what’s Airbnb and what’s Instagram. Normally, something like this could be argued to be unoriginal and boring. However, let’s look at the positives.

If every app – for the most part – is operating with the same design, they’re not trying to constantly one-up each other with the next big look. As a result, they have more time to focus on what’s important – the content found on the app and the functions of the app.

While many apps offer similar features (like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram both having Stories), every social media app has its own flair that keeps users coming back. And, user retention is higher if they feel comfortable using the app – which is another plus of them all having similar designs.

If you have 12 different social media apps with 12 different interfaces and means of operation, it’s unlikely that a user will keep up with all 12. But, if they know exactly how to use them, the user can flip back and forth like it’s nothing.

However, “app fatigue is a real thing,” said Yaz of UX Collective. “Most people have grown tired of bouncing between too many apps or learning how to use a new interface after every new download.”

Below is Yaz’s exploration of the uniformity in apps:

Research has found that a quarter of all apps are deleted after just one use. People tend to stick with the apps that they have found made a positive impact in their lives – either for communication with others or apps that save them time.

Uniformity means developers can spend more of their time on creating the content that will aid in better communication and more time saving options.

Again, what it comes down to is the content and function. That’s where the true creativity comes in. People aren’t using Airbnb because the app or the website are ridiculously exciting; they’re using it because it offers a service that is beneficial.

What are your thoughts on app uniformity? Unoriginal, or a stepping stone for what’s really important?

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Google Home Hub is a camera-free (yay!) smart home control center

(TECH) The Google Home Hub will soon ship to homes and offices, and they might win in the long run for simply not including a camera – why?

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We all know this classic problem. Technology gets more and more capable and convenient every day, but with that convenience comes a risk to your privacy. Sure, you’d like to get a smart home set up in your house, but you don’t need hackers, corporations, or The Man listening in on your private conversations, or peeping in on you from your own private camera system. While I personally subscribe to the philosophy of “if you’ve got it, flaunt it,” but for the rest of you there is now hope.

Google has unveiled the new Google Home Hub, a device that acts as a brain for all the other “smart” electronics on your property. Whether it’s lights, thermostats, locks or even (if you must) security cameras, your smart tech will need a hub to be the go-between for all this technology.

Warning: before you watch this video, know that he says “Hey Google” several times and will set off all of your Google devices. You’ve been warned.

While other similar devices exist on the market (such as the Amazon Echo Show) what sets the Home Hub apart is the fact that no camera exists on the device. If you decide to disable the microphone as well, then suddenly you have a smart home that absolutely, positively, under no conditions can ever see you naked.

This decision was deliberate on Google’s part. With many holdouts still desiring security over comfort, Google’s not including video cameras in their Home Hub could mean deeper market penetration for a more wary customer base.

There are other considerations to take as well. The lack of camera means the device is cheaper to produce and sell. The Google Home Hub will retail at $149, about $80 cheaper than their closest competitor, the Amazon Echo Show. On the downside, no camera means that video calls through the device are not possible (though nearly any smart phone can do this for free, so it’s not really much of a downside).

Aside from the lack of camera, the Google Home Hub functions similarly to the Amazon Echo Show (that is, as a very specialized tablet you stand up in a corner and don’t move around too much). It connects to not only all your smart tech but also all your Google accounts.

You can check your mail, access photo collections, play music, look up directions, or even watch youtube videos. About they only thing they don’t seem to be able to do is interact with Amazon products, meaning those of us with a collection of Amazon Echo Dots around the house will need to wait a bit before wading into these new, secure, camera-less waters.

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