The Best Virtual Private Networks, Why Net Neutrality is Important for REALTORS®, and More in Five for Wednesday

neon sign spelling VPN

      1. More people are using VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to stay safe online. If you’re interested in using one to protect your privacy, remember at the very least this one thing: a paid VPN is better than a free one.
      2. VPNs, part two: The Wirecutter has a great roundup of the best VPNs. Spoiler alert: there’s not a single free one on their list.
      3. Net neutrality has been given a second chance at life by the US Senate. If you’re still wondering if net neutrality is important for REALTORS®, take the time to watch this video. And if you’re moved to take action and tell your House representative what you think, here’s an easy way to do it.
      4. Yay, technology: an app for Microsoft’s Hololens combines 360-degree sound and its knowledge of where objects are to help blind people navigate through homes and buildings.
      5. Boo, technology: a marketing company in Philadelphia geofences hospital emergency rooms and sends targeted ads to patients inside.

The Toughest Phones, What People Really Think About Facebook, and More in Five for Wednesday

photograph of cracked smartphone screen

      1. Everyone drops their phone eventually, but if you’re chronically slippery-handed, find out which smartphones are the hardest to break.
      2. Facebook has had a rough couple of months. Mozilla asked 47,000 people what they thought about the company and their role in protecting themselves online. The results are really interesting, and there’s an interactive tool you can use to look at the results.
      3. Machine learning and artificial intelligence may be able to predict when arguments online are about to get nasty.
      4. Tech companies have been selling facial-recognition systems to police departments, and it appears that at least one has implemented real-time analysis from cameras positioned in their city.
      5. Tread lightly with this one: PassProtect is a Chrome browser plug-in that will tell you how many times a password has been exposed in a data breach. PassProtect’s maker says it safe, but we’d probably use it at first just to see how many people really use “qwerty” or “letmein” as their passwords.

How New Construction Is Changing – from Alexa to Solar Power – and More on Five for Wednesday

solar panels on a roof


  1. Homebuilder Lennar has teamed up with Amazon to show off homes powered by Alexa. The model homes will feature a variety of smart devices, like Ring doorbells and Sonos speakers. Lennar previously was in talks to install Apple’s HomeKit into their new builds, but chose Amazon due to the company’s new smart home consultation business, which includes on-site customer service for new smart home buyers.
  2. California becomes the first state to require newly-constructed homes to be powered completely by solar energy. The California Energy Commission says that the law will lower greenhouse emissions as much as taking 115,000 cars off the streets.
  3. Elon Musk’s Boring Co is said to be looking at lowering housing costs by creating bricks out of the muck left behind from the Hyperloop projects in California. There’s no real cost-saving benefits so far from using the industrial runoff, but it would be interesting to see Musk’s HQ made out of the material, which will be molded to look like Lego.
  4. Looking to find out how autonomous vehicles work? Waymo has produced an awesome 360° video on how their cars use lidar, radar, and computer vision to see the road.
  5. Heading to the NAR Legislative meetings and looking to find out how these technologies and more will impact real estate? Head to the Emerging Business Issues and Technology Forum on Thursday 5/17 from 1PM-3PM eastern time to get a crash course on real estate technology.

The Philippines’ Pollution-Free City, Twitter’s Move Into Encrypted Messages, And More In Five For Wednesday

illustration of pollution being erased from a city skyline

      1. Would you move to a city that is dedicated to sustainability, permits only electric cars, and reserves two-thirds of its land for parks and other green space? New Clark City in the Philippines plans to be exactly that.
      2. Love Twitter direct messages but worried about your privacy? Twitter appears ready to tackle encryption-friendly competitors such as Signal.
      3. Not all Internet of Things (Iot) devices provide a strong defense against hacking, so new products that warn you if your smart home has been compromised are really nice to see.
      4. Speaking of smart homes: smart switches are a great place to start, but there are some things you should know before you buy and install them. (You can also read our guide to smart switches, part of CRT Labs’ Smart Home Simplified series.)
      5. Lastly, Apple is getting serious with apps that share your location data with third-parties, removing them from the App Store and forcing companies to resubmit their apps for review after they’re brought into line with Apple’s policies.