Navigating the Smart Home: Utilities and Insurance Companies

A picture of a man standing at a crossroads in a redwood forest. There is text on the picture that reads Navigating the Smart Home

NOTE: At this year’s REALTOR® Legislative Meetings, I was talking about our work with Andrew Sims, CEO of Dayton Area Board of REALTORS®. I shared with him things we talk to REALTORS® about in our presentations, and at one point, he said, ‘That should be written down somewhere.’ I realized immediately he was right. So, I’ll start by doing that in this post.

When we speak at associations and brokerages, our standard presentation includes a lot of information about why REALTORS® should care about smart homes. The biggest reason is because other industries that touch the housing market are getting involved. Utilities and insurance companies are creating rebates and programs around smart home technology. Smart home devices will allow you to do things like:

  • monitor and save energy
  • keep your home secure
  • prevent extensive damage to your property

Knowing what is available and who is offering it is a great information for you and your clients. We will include links to more information in this article.

Utilities

I realized immediately smart devices would mean big things for how consumers use energy when I first saw the Nest Thermostat in 2012. These devices help consumers save 10-15% in energy costs. As I traveled and spoke, however, members weren’t too keen on its $249 price tag at that time. But around 2014, REALTORS® began sharing stories of rebates from utilities and energy savings for their clients. They were even sharing stories of how the thermostats were paying for themselves in a short amount of time. These programs have only grown.

ComEd, Chicago’s largest electric utility, is offering $100 rebates on certain smart thermostats. They’ve even extended rebates (amounts vary) toward the purchases of light bulbs, power strips and security cameras, and has a site dedicated to selling smart home devices with instant rebates included. Check with your local electric and gas companies to see what rebates they may be offering on these devices.

Insurance

In the insurance industry, smart home devices are being offered as ways to reduce premiums and risk. Specific smart device types that can be up for discounts are:

  • Locks
  • Cameras
  • Water leak detectors
  • Smoke/CO alarms

One such insurer is Liberty Mutual, an NAR REALTOR Benefits® partner. They are giving away a Nest Protect smoke and CO detector and up to 5% off of insurance premiums. You can find all the life safety and security products included in Liberty Mutual’s program by searching the Liberty Mutual site.

Another insurance company with an interesting offering is State Farm. They are working with camera company Canary to provide discounts on burglar alarm insurance.

Educate Yourself So You Can Educate Clients

These are just a few examples of smart home promotions you can find outside our industry and share with your clients. Companies like Nest and Ecobee have rebates and rewards websites you can use to check and see what’s offered in your area. This is very fertile ground and there are a lot of opportunities for you to connect with your clients by educating them on these discounts and programs. Search your local area for opportunities for clients and make sure they know what’s out there.

Things Thursday #017: Security cameras run amok and how to help aging populations with IoT

A security camera with a blue overcast light on the entire image

Security cameras are ubiquitous. Are the intended audiences the only ones observing through these? Check out the post below from Cujo.

 

In this Things Thursday, we look at security for now and for the future, and how technology will impact the aging population.

  1. Watch a video of how a camera gets hacked (via Cujo)
    The link above comes from an internet firewall vendor, but it’s relevant to security and what’s happening with the internet of things. Because of the rush to scale security systems years ago, there are tons of systems that are susceptible to programs like Mirai. Watch the video to see how easy it can be to hack a camera. As the post says, only buy cameras from companies that are adhering to security practices. One example for you to look at is Canary.
  2. How will IoT change the lives of our aging population? (via ReadWrite)
    At CRT, we’ve been discussing this exact use case since we started the labs. What will the internet of things mean for accessibility for the aging and disabled populations? K4Communications is working on this problem, as they believe there is value in smart building tech beyond the flashy. We agree. We will be watching the work of this company.
  3. Thinking of using voice authentication? Think again! (via Embedded)
    Voice as a tool for authentication holds promise. There are challenges to it, however. Enter Lyrebird…a software platform intended to synthesize any voice and change intonation to make it sound more natural. The article looks at a biometric company called TrulySecure and the challenges around using voice for authentication. It’s definitely a good read.

That’s all for Things Thursday this week. Have questions? Want us to cover something? Let us know. You can follow us on Twitter @crtlabs or Facebook

The Business of Blockchain: Videos and Key Takeaways

Business of Blockchain
This past April, I had the privilege of attending The Business of Blockchain event that was put on by the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA. The event was a one-day conference examining the technology, ethics, and impact of blockchains. If you are a reader of our blog, you know that CRT has been focusing on practical use cases for blockchain in real estate over the last year and half.

The goal of the event was to meet pioneers in the field, gain business advantages by learning more about the technology and ultimately learning to separate real opportunities from the hype. This event was incredibly useful as it helped clarify which changes blockchain technology will be making immediately and what’s still far off in the future. A reoccurring theme of the day was how blockchains can help provide and guarantee security, identity, and ownership while still operating at the speed of the internet.

Recently, MIT has published videos from the event and I would like to share three of my favorites as well provide my key takeaways from each talk.

Blockchain: Unlocking the Power and Potential

Brian Behlendorf

Brian Behlendorf is executive director of the Hyperledger Project. Behlendorf was a primary developer of the Apache Web server, the most popular Web server software on the Internet, and a founding member of the Apache Software Foundation. He has also served on the board of the Mozilla Foundation since 2003 and the Electronic Frontier Foundation since 2013.
From the video:

  • Brian shares the exact moment of when he realized the potential for blockchain technology. His “Ah-Ha” moment came after hearing of a land title project in Honduras that was being started to protect land ownership through decentralization of records.
  • In recent history, the digitization of systems has led to the centralization of systems. Brian explains how permissioned ledgers can begin to re-decentralizing how these systems work.
  • Brian then goes on to describe the opportunity and benefits that will come from the transformation of the traditional hub and spoke models to ledgers, and specifically how the roles of intermediaries in those models will shift over time.

What Could Go Wrong? When Blockchains Fail.

Emin Gün Sirer, Cornell University

Emin Gün Sirer is an associate professor of computer science at Cornell University. His research interests span distributed systems, security, and operating systems, with a particular emphasis on digital currencies and self-organizing systems. He runs the popular blog Hacking, Distributed.
From the video:

  • Emin Gün talks about what can happen when people and companies apply blockchains in a manner that is at odds with the science that is behind them. Setting the stage for his talk, Emin covers the history of how civilizations track wealth as well as how validity, immutability and apply to blockchains.
  • In recent years there have been a number major failures based on poor implementations. Emin goes into detail about the attack on the Ethereum based smart contract, The DAO, and how it was exploited for over $50 million dollars.
  • Emin warns audience members who are interested in running private permissioned technologies. These systems are built relying heavily on the fact that the network will be resilient to attack as long as the nodes fail independently.The problem here that many implementations that we are seeing today have every node on the network running the same code, making them al susceptible to the same vulnerabilities. Emin suggests the concept of N Version programming as a possible solution.

Transformation at Scale: Building Tomorrow’s Financial Markets Today

Amber Baldet, J.P. Morgan

Amber Baldet is the Executive Director, Blockchain Program Lead at J.P. Morgan. Established in 2015, J.P. Morgan’s Blockchain Center of Excellence sets a comprehensive blockchain strategy for the Corporate and Investment Bank, while also developing cutting edge technology, curating Strategic Investments, and performing client outreach.
From the video:

  • Amber explains what the future of JP Morgan’s client services could look like and what that means for their product offerings.
  • She goes on to explain how even though her company is focused on investment banking applications, they must be built with the same ethical design standards as blockchains inorder to avoid very imbalanced systems.
  • Amber finishes her presentation with a quick overview of JP Morgans first open source software product, Quorum, that allows for private and secure transactions on a public ethereum blockchain.

If you are interested in learning more, click here to view all the videos from the Business of Blockchain Event. I’ve also included links to all of NAR’s research below.


NAR Resources

White Papers:

Projects:

Previous Posts:

External Resources

Blockchain Solutions:

Facebook Live Office Hours: Live from Midyear 2017!

Last week, the team headed to the NAR Legislative Meetings in DC. Our non-traditional office hours served up a tour of our booth. It was great to see so many members at the booth, as well as at committee meetings and forums. We hope to see you all at the NAR Annual Convention, right in our hometown of Chicago, this November. As always, to join us live on Facebook, like our page and receive notifications for our live videos!

Facebook Live Office Hours: Live from Midyear 2017! from CRTLabs on Vimeo.