Dave headed to CES last week, and wrote an excellent blog post about some of the smart home integrations he saw. Next week, Dave will be writing again about CES, including some promising new tech on the horizon. So, for Facebook Live Office Hours, he talked about his time at CES and answered some questions about the latest and greatest. As always, you can join us live on Fridays by liking our Facebook page. See you next week!
In this week’s Things Thursday, we look at the pros and cons of the Amazon Echo and Google Home, as well as what makes a smart city valuable and who were the let downs at CES. Oh, speaking of CES, tomorrow our own Dave Conroy will give you a download of his findings at CES during our Facebook Live Office Hours at the NEW TIME of 3p EST!!!
- 5 key books to put on your reading list to understand IoT (via ReadWrite)
The space is moving fast and there are a lot of challenges around IoT. This list is has a good mix of what’s happening, what’s coming and what you need to look out for. These will be in CRT’s library for sure.
- How a Smart City Tackles Rainfall (via Data-Smart City Solutions)
Smart city data will become one of those components that will transform real estate. We will know more about how we’re living and that will go a long way to impact how people feel about properties, how we develop and impact decisions on where to live. One way we can get ahead of this is by seeing what’s out there and better understanding the technology and the opportunities and challenges it presents. One of the larger efforts happening in this arena is right here in Chicago. The Array of Things is coming online and this article talks about how it is already helping city planners think about how they tackle issues like stormwater runoff. Creating a green infrastructure is happening all over the world and smart city initiatives like the Array of Things will most likely lend to an increase in this trend. This is a good read.
- CES 2017: How the tiny Intel Compute Card could revolutionize IoT device management (via TechRepublic)
This idea makes sense to me. It’s in line with how the Array of Things (above) is looking ot operate. Hot-swappable hardware that can be upgraded on the fly. Intel’s version is a credit-card sized computer that can be removed and upgraded in the future, thus helping with the cycle of security and maintenance updates needed for devices. This is a great step in getting there. Still, if you have a ton of devices with these in them, it could become costly and onerous to manually move and update…but then again, you’d need to install new equipment anyway. You see my problem? I’m never happy. Kudos to Intel for thinking in this way. Let’s see if others follow this modular approach.
- Wading through the Internet of Crap (via Engadget)
I kind of wish Engadget would stop pulling punches with these unclear headlines. 😉 – Seriously, they’ve got some opinions. There were a lot of head scratchers at CES and I agree with the list pretty much down the line. They quote Nick Offerman – ‘sometimes the best tech is low-tech’. I agree. Tomorrow, our own Dave Conroy will give you a download of his findings at CES during our Facebook Live Office Hours at the NEW TIME of 3p EST!!!
- Part A: What can Amazon Echo do that Google Home can’t? (via The Real Daily)
Part A is a very good overview of the benefits of the Amazon Echo over the Google Home. For fair comparison, only the Echo and Home were compared and not the cheaper Echo Dot because there is no Google Home equivalent. Great and fair comparison. Echo currently leads in smarthome integrations, but my opinion is this is temporary. A huge puzzler for me is how well Google Calendar works with the Amazon Echo, but not with Google Home. Not sure how Google missed that…
Part B: What can Google Home do that Amazon Echo can’t? (via The Real Daily)Part B looks at where Google Home shines. It doesn’t shine in an existential debate with itself, that’s for sure. For me? I like the speaker better and it seems the voice search capabilities are MUCH better. Of course, Amazon doesn’t have 18 years of web search history to train its voice assistant either. To me, Google seems the more natural to communicate with of the two by way of functionality. In fact, my parents, who are typically pretty technophobic, bought one after visiting my house for the holidays and using one. I would say definitely read these companion pieces and decide which fits your needs better. On a side note, either one of these devices would make a GREAT CLOSING GIFT!!!!
A flight home from CES 2017, credit reddit user fantomknight1
Very much like last year, the halls of CES 2017 were packed to the brim with smart home technology. Now although there were a few new products, the majority of vendors mainly showed off upgraded versions of their lights, lock, security cameras, switches and other smart home hardware. It seems the major smart home announcements at CES 2017 were about new integrations between existing products. This trend is a big win for the industry and consumers who are currently dealing with a fragmented user experience.
For the second year in a row, Amazon’s personal voice assistant has dominated the floors of CES. Without being present in any formal capacity, the personal assistant seemed to be absolutely everywhere. Most impressively, Alexa has broken free from just being a smart home product and is now showing up in nearly all industries at CES. Vendors are building their products with Alexa built in, negating the need for consumers to even own an Amazon Echo. For example, both Ford and Volkswagon announced that the virtual assistant will be coming to their connected cars to allow search, shopping, and smart home control while driving. Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Huawei is launching an android phone that will prominently feature Alexa. Lenovo has created two versions of their own personal assistant that has Alexa built-in . The standard – starting at $129.99, and the Harmon Kardon Edition, which offers better sound quality, starting at $179.99. (very comparable to the price of an actual amazon echo).
The number of applications (or skills) available in Amazon Alexa store is increasing at an incredible rate. With only 1,000 available last June, the store now hosts over 7,000 skills that allow you do to basic things like set timers and alarms, to ordering Uber’s or Lyft’s and checking wait times at airports.
While Apple Homekit seems to currently to be losing the integrations “arms race”, CES 2017 was still full of vendors announcing their HomeKit Enabled Devices. Integrations with Apple take longer for third party vendors as there is a strict set of hardware and software requirements Apple imposes before it will certify a product as HomeKit compatible.
- Yale Real Living Assure Locks
- Yale NexTouch Wireless Locks
- Kwickset Premis smart lock
- iDevices Instant Switch
- Lifx Plus Smart Bulbs
- Ring Floodlight Cam
- Withings Home Plus
- Fibaro Motion Sensor
- Fibary Door/Window Sensor
- Netatmo Smoke Alarm
- Chamberline Smart Garage Opener
- Fibaro Flood sensor
Lutron, one of the more established Smart Home Vendors in the industry has announced new integrations with Samsung SmartThings and additional features with Nest.
With SmartThings you will now be able to control your Lutron switches and shades alongside other compatible products from within the SmartThings mobile app. That’ll let you use things like Z-wave and ZigBee motion detectors to trigger your Lutron gear. This communication is not native to the Lutron Platform however and will require you to purchase an additional piece of hardware that works as a translating device. This hardware should be available early this year.
Lutron is has also added additional functionality to its Nest integrations. Previously, you were already able to trigger Lutron gear based on communications from the Google Company’s Learning Thermostat and Protect Smoke detector. Now they have also added Nest Cam support which is a great benefit to be able to control your indoor/outdoor lighting based on motion detected on your cameras.
Being the new comer to this space, Google’s personal assistant platform remained relatively quiet this year with only a few announcements. Besides integrating with the familiar Belkin Wemo line, Google also announced partnership with another new comer to the space, the Nvidia Shield/Spot, a media streaming device with built in AI and smart home integrations.
As they open up more of their API and hardware vendors have more time to integrate, I imagine Google Home will be the one to watch at CES 2018.
All of these integrations show a maturing smart home industry, a welcome improvement over the fragmented marketplace that existed just a year ago. The fact that consumers will no longer necessarily be silo’d into smart home walled gardens should allow greater adoption of these devices. To learn more about CRT’s CES trip, please follow us on Facebook as we discuss our findings live on Friday afternoon. Please make sure to check back here as well next week for part two of this series, where I share the products that I am most excited about for 2017.
What does 2017 have in store for technology? Earlier this week, the team gave our predictions in a post. On our Facebook Live Office Hours, Chad shared those predictions, as well as went into more depth on them. He also discussed some of the stuff coming out of CES – stay tuned on the blog over the next couple of weeks when Dave writes up his thoughts after going to the show in Las Vegas. As always, you can join us live on Fridays by liking our Facebook page. See you next week!
Well, CES is underway and some of the fun and crazy stuff is trickling out. Smart hairbrushes and smart spoons to name a couple of curious items. Today, we’ll look at some of the good and some of the challenging products being announced this week.
- Kwikset goes keyless with its ‘Obsidian’ smart lock (via Engadget)
This one in particular has me perplexed. What if the power source for the lock goes out? What if you lose connectivity??? I don’t agree with this lock, BUT I’ve yet to work with it. We will probably get one and test so you don’t have to. The Obsidian will go for $230.
- Netatmo takes on Nest (again) with smart smoke alarm (via Wareable)
We’ve had Netatmo products in the lab since we opened our doors. They make a really great air quality sensor and indoor camera. It doesn’t look like this smoke detector does CO, like the nest Protect.No word on pricing yet.
- ZigBee’s Dotdot language is the latest bid for IoT harmony (via ITWorld)
One of the internet of things’ greatest challenges is interoperability. Who owns the connection between the things? Zigbee is one of the several protocols out there for IoT and now, the Zigbee Alliance is trying to create a universal language for IoT. From the article:
It defines things like how devices tell each other what they are and what they can do, which is important for making different objects around a home do things together…For example, if you install a new connected light fixture in the living room and want it to turn on whenever the front door is opened, the connected lock or sensor in the door will need to know that such a light is out there and be able to send commands to it.
Who knows if this will be the new standard that rules, but it’s great to see the effort come forth.
- FTC sets $25,000 price for automatic IoT patching (via ComputerWorld)
Very excited to see this initiative from FTC. The challenges of patching of IoT products has been something we’ve talked about internally and because of the amount and scale of devices being released, this isn’t going to be easy. Submissions are being taken between March and May. The winners will be announced in July.
With CES coming up this week, there is bound to be a lot of talk about the future of technology on all your favorite blogs. Here in the lab, we decided to give a stab at what we see happening in 2017 in smart homes, renewable energy, and more!
Now that Google Home has hit the ground running, I predict this year the company will integrate its popular home assistant into their mesh network platform, Google Wifi. Each router will act a lot like an Amazon Echo Dot, but bring in the added mesh networking capabilities. Right now, a 3-pack of the routers costs $299, with additional units costing $129 (the same as a Google Home); however, I believe the company will introduce a smaller router, without the ethernet ports and with tiny speakers, at around $69 to compete with the $49.99 Echo Dot. Google’s goal is to get an assistant in every room in order to control your smart home. They’ve already pulled ahead of Amazon with their multi-room support, which not only has intelligent voice detection to allow you to only interact with the Google Home closest to you but also allows you to control playback on other Google audio devices in other rooms. Of course, for Google to control your whole home, they’ll need to expand compatibility, but since their API opened to the public at the end of 2016, both third party and native support for devices will be coming in 2017.
After solar shingles, there will be solar siding and solar window offerings for traditional consumers. This would mean that homes wouldn’t need consistent direct sunlight to harvest energy. Homes in traditionally less-sunny places could harvest solar as effectively as homes in the southwest. Home energy battery storage will make this an even more viable option as batteries look less and less like batteries and more like traditional appliances. Cities will also begin implementing systems that aren’t one type of energy harvesting. Solar, wind and hydropower will take great steps to become prominent in large and small cities. Cities will find creative ways to gather energy from these three methods that are both practical and aren’t highly visible. Portland is already generating hydropower using its water mains. Expect smaller form factors in all three areas for ancillary energy harvesting. Solar sunflowers and wind trees are examples we may see deployed on boulevards and parks in 2017.
In the managed smart home arena, we’ll see the telecommunications companies continue to grow in importance, and many of the “closed” managed smart home systems will loosen some of their restrictions, allowing consumers to bring their own devices. In order to secure the increasing number of internet-connected devices, the government will get involved in encryption and security requirements. Open-source software will continue to be incredibly important. Open-source distributed ledger applications such as Hyperledger and Corda will be among the first widely-used Blockchain apps, and open-source tools will also become increasingly important to journalists and citizen activists. Voice control, artificial intelligence, and deep machine learning will continue to redefine our relationship with devices, and self-driving trucks will disrupt the trucking industry (with cars and busses not too far behind). Monitoring the health of your home – CO2, energy efficiency, VOC, and water contamination – will see a rise in importance as rising CO2 levels and water contamination continue to make news.
I predict we have not seen the end of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks caused by consumer grade IoT devices. In fact, I feel it is possible we will see a large scale event in 2017 that would cause the disruption of legitimate internet traffic in the United States for up to 24 hours. As we covered in our Insecurity of Things blog series last October, it only takes a few dozen hardware manufacturers to not follow best practices to leave over a half million devices vulnerable to hijacking. With these manufactures already facing heavy competition and slim profits margins, coupled with the influx of new startups rushing to into the space – security and privacy are not given the priority they deserve. Part of our mission here at CRT labs is to educate REALTORS® and consumers about these issues, and it is very promising to see both parties starting to prioritize them when they are deciding what devices to put in their homes. However, until the hardware vendors start taking on the responsibility, there is still a significant risk for large scale attacks.For more information about best practices and how you can keep your devices secure, please visit one of our partner organizations – the Online Trust Alliance.
In 2017 we’re likely to see an increase in the tension between our public and private identities. On the one hand, declaring exactly who we are — and where we are, and when we are there — is an essential part of customizing many user experiences. Concerns about surveillance, though, are prompting more people to use (or at least start asking about) Tor browsers, personal VPNs, and other tools that provide increased security and anonymity. Balancing the demands of both openness and privacy will be a huge story in 2017. (To learn more about Americans and their views on surveillance, visit the Pew Research Center.)
Goodbye 2016, and hello 2017. CRT Labs has had quite a first full year. A lot of products have surprised us; a good number have disappointed. We’ve been working hard to create our own innovative products for members and their clients and seen some great results in a short amount of time. We’ve developed software and hardware meant to analyze cities, communities and buildings.
Our goal at CRT Labs is to represent our members on the technology front and educate people outside of real estate on the value of our members and membership. In the past year we’ve won $30,000 for a local organization, volunteered at a local Boys and Girls Club, and designed our own indoor environmental and air quality-sensing hardware and software. Our hardware, the PiAQ (Pie-A-Q) and Touchstone, have drawn great interest from outside groups, and we are working on refining this hardware to increase accuracy and bring costs down. We spoke to 10,000 plus members and non-members and helped open eyes to the values and challenges of the internet of things. We hosted thousands of members in our labs and gave many tours highlighting our work. We also spent a lot of time educating vendors, universities, research laboratories and organizations to the value of our membership. We will spend a good amount of time in 2017 refining our hardware and software. And look for us to expand our educational offerings and push on the innovation and advocacy front as well.
There were a lot of interesting developments in smart home tech/IoT & renewables: the solar shingles announced by Tesla, home energy batteries that are attractive, voice control taking over IoT. These positive developments stand in contrast to the Mirai attacks and the decommissioning of devices that aren’t too old (leaving owners in the lurch).
The smart home market is gaining momentum and it will provide you with opportunities to rethink how you market yourself. What will 2017 bring? Wait until next week where each member of CRT will be making their smart home and IoT predictions.
We can’t stop talking about voice control and some people have a problem with that. Plus, two things that can help IoT adoption are being addressed: interoperability and security.
- Why Is The Home Automation Industry So Obsessed WIth Voice Control? (via FastCoDesign)
Some good points in this article. Voice control is amethod for communicating, but it’s not the only method or always the preferred method. There could be several other methods that predominate. I think in the future, we will need several. I think things like the Pop Home Switch from Logitech, texting your smart home and other types of access. Give it a read.
- A Chip To Protect The Internet Of Things (via IEEE Spectrum)
This is really cool and needed in the the IoT space. Microchip is making an encrypted chip for Amazon Web Services & users of their IoT platform. This will mean that these devices will be harder to hack. This is the type of thing 2017 needs. More of this!!!
- 10 Companies Moving Up In Smart Buildings (via GreenBiz)
The benefit that I think a lot of users of smart technology don’t initially catch is energy savings. In larger commercial settings, this is one of the main benefits. GreenBiz rounds up a list of 10 companies leading the charge on smart building technology. Keep an eye on these companies and think about how IoT can help you in real estate.
- How The Lack Of Interoperability Standards Could Be Killing IoT (via ReadWrite)
I am very glad to see this article. Standards are the way for things to become adopted. Look at electrical work or the internet even. For these things to survive and thrive, we needed standard ways of doing things. The Internet of Things is definitely an area in desparate need of standards. As a board member of RESO, I’ve seen first hand how standards can help and help an industry thrive. There are too many competing systems in IoT and we are seeing a lag in adoption because of it. If you are interested in standards, check out this article, it’s worth the time.
This past fall, I was on a panel at the RESO Conference in Nashville where we were discussing the impact of technology on the future and what it would mean for real estate. There was a lot of discussion around the internet of things, privacy and security and this led me to talk about how this data could be used in the near future.
I’d been thinking about something in particular with respect to the internet of things and data privacy for a bit. There is a lot of good that the data from these things can teach us. There are also a lot of challenges around this data too. For example:
- Who owns the data?
- What do the terms of service allow the device manufacturer to do with your data?
- How do you make sure your data are deleted from these devices?
These are just a few of the questions, but they’re not the one that I’ve been wondering about. The one that keeps me thinking is ‘Will smart home data become the new currency of homeownership?’ Will metrics like average CO2, air quality and humidity inform whether or not you get approved for a new home? Will nicks and dings in walls be recorded by our smart devices and add to our ‘homeownership score’?
About the time I started thinking deeply about this concept, Chris, our Lead Lab Engineer, mentioned there was an episode of the show Black Mirror called ‘Nosedive’ that hit upon some of these themes. In it, the young woman lives in a world where anyone can rate you and that rating is used for access to exclusive things in the world. In order for her to climb up the socio-economic ladder, she needs to have a score of 4.5 out of 5. I won’t spoil the episode for you, but I will say that some of the scenarios I was thinking about appeared in this episode. Overall, we are all messy in how we live our lives, but under this type of intense scrutiny, it becomes less of an honest picture of who we are as we try to meet a standard. Believe me, I don’t like the thought of it, but I see the potential for it to affect a transaction. Data is a great influencer in real estate and IoT might amplify that impact.
Data and Real Estate
Data has long been the currency of real estate. Listings are THE main ingredient to the work our members do. Having fresh data is an advantage to their business. As the internet has matured, these data sets have transformed. Rather than just data about the house, we now have data around the house and the community. Is it walkable? What is the average price around the house? What type of businesses are in the neighborhood? Are there schools nearby? What’s my drive time to work? What will it actually cost me a month to own this home? This is all data your buyers and sellers have access to already.
What about the data the industry has on buyers and sellers? There are data packages you can buy on consumer behavior and use for analysis, and some brokerages are undoubtedly using them. We can know what magazines people subscribe to, what their buying habits are and all sorts of other stuff. There are companies out there now that provide leads based on a level of certainty that a homeowner might be ready to sell.
But what the internet of things offers is a richer data set that could be used in the same way a FICO score is used. It could give us a sense of how a home has been lived in and taken care of.
The Internet of Things and Incentivizing Private Data Access
The value of the internet of things is it allows us the convenience of control but also gives us insight into how we live. Think of personal fitness trackers. They provide data on how many steps we take on any given day as well as for other physical activities. This information allows us to make better decisions about how we live. Insurance companies and corporate health programs are taking notice and incorporating these devices into their costs. They are providing discounts to policy holders for access to some of the data on the wearables. People are willing to part with this data because there’s an added benefit to them for it.
So, wearables are already seeing programs introduced to incentivize good behavior. What about smart home technology? Are there incentivized programs for data access? The answer is yes. There are examples in the utility industry and insurance industry. A common example I use when speaking is that of thermostats. Utilities are incentivizing access to thermostats for the ability to adjust them to manage load on the grid. In Chicago, for example, our utility will give us a $100 rebate if we install a smart thermostat from either Nest or Ecobee. The gas company will give us an additional $50. The programs you enroll in allow access and control of the thermostats for the express purpose of keeping load down. The hidden benefit for the consumer is reduced energy costs as well.
Insurance companies are working on home insurance and smart home devices. Liberty Mutual will give you a Nest Protect ($99 smoke/CO detector) and up to 5% off of premiums if you enroll in their home insurance. There are also insurance companies funding multi-function sensors and offering discounts on burglary insurance with smart cameras being incentivized as part of these programs.
What Could Private Data Access Look Like in Real Estate?
Seeing how insurance and utilities are incentivizing this data access, what does it mean for real estate? How soon will it be until a brokerage offers rebates to homeowners who give them access to their smart home data? What could they use this data for?
One of the scenarios that I hate thinking about but see it coming is incentivizing access to this data as a qualifier for a loan. So, let’s say you’ve been living in a home for 7 years and you’ve decided you want to move. In order to qualify for a loan to move into this new home, you need to give the bank access to data on a few things:
- How quickly do you change air filters in the home?
- What was the average CO2 in the home?
- What type of VOCs are in the home? How quickly were they mitigated?
- What was the average humidity level in the home?
- What does HVAC maintenance look like?
You get the idea. Things that don’t matter to us now are questions that could drive how we qualify. Why would humidity matter? If your humidity levels get too high, you will foster mold and bacteria growth in the home. Does this mean your an irresponsible homeowner? Not in my view…but to someone looking at this from a security of investment perspective, it could.
What if this led to variable monthly mortgage payments based on how well you keep the house up? Imagine if data from your air quality sensors would inform how much you pay. What if constant higher humidity levels affected your rates and cost you more? What if you could receive a ‘good owner’s’ discount based on the condition of the HVAC in your house (after an algorithm that looks at airflow, energy usage and regular maintenance determined you were a ‘good owner”)?
Again, I’m not a fan of data being used in this way, but I see a path to it. What do you think? Would you like to have this data used in this way? Would it help you? Would it hinder you? Leave your comments below.
Echos in Vegas and Netflix with voice?? What’s this world coming to?
- ‘Alexa, open the blinds’: Virginia real estate firm to offer Amazon Alexa-enabled smart homes (via DigitalTrends)
Brookfield Residential, based in Virginia, will become the first residential brokerage to offer fully outfitted smart homes with Amazon Echo integrations built in. From the article:
What’s particularly interesting about Brookfield’s venture into Alexa-enabled homes is how simple it will be for families to adopt cutting-edge home automation technology. Instead of researching the ins and outs of various smart home gadgets and devices, Brookfield does all the work for them. Furthermore, integrating this smart home tech with Amazon’s Alexa not only makes it an easy transition but one which doesn’t require a steep learning curve for entry.
I like this idea because it allows for what we’re calling the iterative smart home. Integrations are easy because of the work Amazon has done with its skills services. Kudos to Brookfield Residential!!!
- You can now control Netflix using Google Home (via TheVerge)
I’m really excited to try this. With a Google Chromecast ($35-70 tv dongle) and a Google Home, you can now access Netflix shows using only your voice. I love the idea of this. I can simply say, ‘Okay Google, play ‘The Gilmore Girls’ (or any show you’d like to watch) on Netflix’, and it will start it up using the Chromecast. The future, children…the future.
- Amazon Echo comes to every room in Wynn’s Las Vegas hotel (via Engadget)
So, every room in the Wynn will have an Echo??? This means what happens in Vegas may get shipped to your house via Amazon Prime. I think this is very interesting. Room service, dry cleaning, off track bets (I kid). I think there’s a lot of potential here, but also, the mute button would come in handy for privacy.