With the Hackathon fast approaching, we’re letting everyone know about our Hackathon sponsors. We’re excited that we are able to give our participants access to three of the best multiple listing services in the country – California Regional MLS, Midwest Real Estate Data, and the San Francisco Association of REALTORS® MLS. These MLSs are three of the top service providers for real estate professionals, serving over 100,000+ REALTORS® in the California and Chicagoland areas. All three also are well known in the MLS community for always looking forward to the future of real estate, creating innovative new data and analytics products for their members.
A technology-forward MLS is about more than just listing data – its about creating a seamless series of tools for its members, which includes world-class customer service, easy-to-use software tools, and innovative ideas about the future of real estate. All three of our sponsors have these qualities in spades, which is why they are considered some of the top MLS providers in the US.
Their data represents the archival housing stock of their respective areas, and is provided to our Hackathon participants in the hopes that it’ll be used to create AI solutions to some common real estate problems, like making virtual office websites ADA compliant or making better Automated Valuation Models. During the Hackathon, we’ll be tweeting about the projects as we learn about them, and we look forward to seeing what comes from this incredible wealth of data provided by our MLS partners.
With about a week to go before our iOi Summit in San Francisco, we wanted to let everyone know about another one of our data providers, Enodo. Enodo uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze multifamily property information from across the country and present key investment takeaways in an easy-to-understand dashboard, cutting out the confusing tables and forms usually associated with underwriting these properties.
Enodo takes data from leading property data sources and brings it together in a digestible way to allow for property managers, investors, and other CRE professionals to make key decisions about their multifamily properties. Enodo’s software looks at about 2 million properties weekly, analyzing all that data together and using it to help users understand comparable property rents, amenities, and more.
For the iOi Hackathon, Enodo is providing our contestants with multiple tools that look at dozens of different metrics surrounding multifamily properties. These tools include Enodo’s:
These predictive analytic tools can be used with other API providers in our hackathon to create comprehensive real estate technology solutions, and we are looking forward to seeing how our participants use Enodo in their projects!
We are almost a month away from our iOi Summit in San Francisco and the in-person part of the Hackathon. The sponsor I wanted to highlight today is called Lyrebird and they offer a truly innovative service. Lyrebird’s AI is built for synthesizing real people’s voices and producing some uncanny replication of voice.
I’ve demonstrated this to people in the lab and they are very surprised about how much it can actually sound like my voice. I tried out their system by reading in 70+ sentences supplied by Lyrebird, so they can map my voice to the text and understand how I pronounce vowels, consonants and my cadence.
I’ve included three recordings of my voice below:
Now, Lyrebird’s system maps my voice and produces a voice that can then be used for my purposes. For each of the recordings below, I typed in text and the software read it in my digital voice. You will hear some buzzing in this and that is because when I recorded this, I was in a room with fans running. But, I have to say, this is pretty cool to hear my voice in its synthesized form:
Where I see this working in real estate is for the final recording talking about property amenities. Imagine data from your listings is fed into your synthesized voice and it could read them out for a client.That could be used to communicate with clients when you are not available. Pretty cool.
I want to highlight a pretty special use case of this technology outside of real estate. Lyrebird has partnered with the ALS association to create Project Revoice. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Well it turns out that the founder of the challenge, Pat Quinn, has lost his voice because of ALS. Lyrebird has helped create a synthesized voice for his computer that is more his own. Check it out below:
Thank you to Lyrebird for sponsoring our Hackathon and providing their Framework API!!
restb.ai’s software identifies features in a home and generates natural languages for use in all sorts of applications.
We’ve been putting a lot of time into the Hackathon (click here to register) for the iOi Summit, finding good data sources, benefits to the participants, and frameworks they can use. The first sponsor for the Hackathon I wanted to highlight is called restb.ai, which is an example of a company using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create natural language that describes what’s in a picture. Their technology will analyze images you provide and create data sets in the following areas:
Room Type Classifcation
Identifies over 30 different room scenes like ‘living room’, ‘kitchen’, ‘bathroom’, etc.
Home Feature Tagging
Identifies more than 30 features in the home based on room type. Things like ‘vaulted ceilings’, ‘hardwood floors’, and ‘natural light’.
Exterior Style Classification
Has learned 16 different architectural styles for classification purposes.
Logo & Watermark Detection
Can identify if an image already has a watermark or logo placement on it.
What’s cool about this type of software is that it creates text data for you on the fly and allows you to do things like populate the machine readable fields for images. It could be used to create listing details, or to create keywords for searches on listings and provide better results.
restb.ai will provide access to their API for all hackathon participants to use. We want to thank them for participating! Have you registered for the Hackathon? To find out more and register, click here.
This is the first in a series of updates regarding CRT Lab’s open source Building Health Monitoring Platform, Rosetta Home. To sign up to be a beta tester, fill out our form.
Rosetta Home data
For some of you reading this, this may be the first time you’ve heard the term Building Health Monitoring Platform. If you’ve been by the lab in Chicago, or heard one of us speak in the last year or so, you hopefully know the term.
At CRT Labs we’ve been researching and developing a technology platform to enable real-time and historical analysis of a building’s health. At this point you might ask yourself what does “Building Health Monitoring Platform” mean exactly? Let me tell you what it means to us.
Residential and commercial buildings are complex organisms: they breathe, need energy to function and generally attempt to reach a point of homeostasis. You could view the energy needs and HVAC outputs as a simple form of metabolism. Understanding the sometimes complex relationships between air quality, energy usage and the occupants’ comfort levels requires monitoring many subsystems, as well as the perceived comfort of the occupants.
Rosetta Home is our attempt to quantify this data into meaningful feedback for the building owner or occupier. Most of the data is quantitative in its essence, while perceived comfort level is most definitely qualitative. Combining these data points to convey meaning is no small feat.
Let me give you a quick breakdown of the current subsystems we employ to enable this analysis.
Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
This is one of the most important aspects of a building’s health that is often overlooked. Excessive CO2 levels contribute to drowsiness and negatively impact work efficiency and general well-being in a building. Our Touchstone project is an open source hardware project led by our esteemed Architectural Engineer Akram Ali. We’ve tested dozens of sensors to create an affordable, efficient IEQ device. Besides just air quality we also look at other environmental factors such as noise levels and ambient light, hence the “Environmental” in the name, rather than just “Air” quality. All together we are monitoring 8 different variables.
VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds)
If you feel like digging through some source code and hardware designs, feel free to check out the project on our Github.
Through the use of Smart Meter Connected Devices and/or direct monitoring of the electrical system using a device such as the Neurio, we are able to gather real-time data on electrical usage for the whole building. To break that down even further we employ plug load monitors for high-draw appliances and systems. We are currently using WeMo Insights which also allows the system to control the plug load as well.
To monitor residential HVAC utilization we are using a nifty little thermostat called the Radio Thermostat. This WiFi enabled thermostat gives us local access (LAN) to all the information about HVAC runtimes and heat/cool cycles. The data we receive from the Touchstone allows the system to have complete control over the thermostat, which allows Rosetta Home to optimize HVAC runtimes to enhance comfort and reduce costs.
For commercial installations we are working on integrating BACnet and Modbus protocols to talk to the different commercial systems.
Obviously, outdoor environmental conditions play a huge role in how buildings perform. Solar radiation, wind, temperature and humidity can drastically effect a building’s efficiency. In order to really understand a building’s envelope efficiency and solar potential, it is essential to know this data as close to home as possible – pun intended ;). Wind speed and wind direction can also help us determine external air quality issues that may otherwise go unseen. Rosetta Home works with consumer-level weather stations, as well as more professional weather monitoring systems such as the Vantage Pro2.
In order to collect the qualitative data of occupants comfort we utilize the application that occupants will use to interact with their system in general. Through totally optional polls, we will attempt to extrapolate useful information about the occupants’ comfort and overall well-being while in the building. We are trying hard to make these as quick and unobtrusive as possible, while relaying important data points for analysis.
Great! This sounds amazing, you say. I want this for my building NOW! Where can I buy this amazing platform!
Don’t worry, it’s coming very soon. We hope to be handing out beta-tester units by the end of February. Let me explain what we’ve been pushing and tweaking in the final months before launch.
Hardware is HARD
We’re working with several vendors to optimize the production process of building Touchstones. We’ve spent months optimizing the board itself, and now it’s time to optimize production. We just completed our first pseudo-production run at mHub with the help of Twisted Traces.
It went well, but we definitely need to automate more of the process, so we’re working through that now.
This is one that you CANNOT get wrong. Most people have heard of Mirai. It wreaked havoc on the Internet in 2017. We believe in consumers’ privacy as well as their security. We’ve worked hard to lock down all of our in-home systems as well as cloud infrastructure to be compliant with the best security practices around today. We’re currently finalizing our key security infrastructure.
Understanding the data is important
We can create the best technology in the world, but if it’s totally unaccessible to our users, no one benefits. Our illustrious designer Joe Sullivan has put in a ton of hours along with our summer intern John O’Sullivan (yes it’s very confusing) to build a fantastic user interface to investigate the massive amount of data that’s generated by a building. Having quick views of a buildings health is important, but so are deep dives into historical data. Making these work together in a mobile friendly interface takes a lot of research and testing. We are deploying the first version of our interface over the next month, and will be looking for as much feedback as you are willing to give to help make it better and better.
So, in closing, Rosetta Home will be out in the wild at the end of February. Some of you are on our beta testers list, so look for more updates soon on how we will be distributing those systems. You can also help us by filling out a quick questionnaire.
2017 was a great year for CRT Labs and especially for the projects we’ve been cultivating. From meeting thousands of REALTORS® at various conferences, to publishing our first book, to winning awards, CRT Labs really was on a roll this year, and I’ve been really excited to write this wrap-up and see everything collected together.
We hit up a lot of conferences and other speaking events this year, including visiting dozens of associations, reaching out to REALTORS® all over the country and showing off our hardware and software projects. We continued our sponsorship of TechEdge, a series of one-day conferences designed to keep REALTORS® up-to-date with exciting technology trends in the real estate industry. We managed to speak at every TechEdge in 2017, talking about smart home trends, smart city initiatives, and the impact of blockchain on real estate.
Speaking of blockchain, Dave dove into the blockchain arena head first this year, and has been leading the way investigating the technology’s impact on the real estate industry. This impact goes beyond just simply using Bitcoin for transactions, and has potential to service multiple areas in the real estate world. Dave has been working on a prototype application of blockchain for associations which would help consolidate and streamline member information. Chris has also been hard at work on our Rosetta Home software, which has been showcased (and won a grant!) for its public data visualization. To go along with Rosetta Home, Akram has been finalizing our Touchstone indoor environmental quality sensor, and we had a small production run of boards in December and have begun testing them here in the labs. Together, these projects will work together to monitor and control the environment inside your home, and will make a great closing gift to give to clients.
Joe and Adrienne focused a lot on education this year, starting with the Smart Home Simplified series. These easy-to-read pamphlets tell you everything you need to know about a variety of smart home products. To supplement the Smart Home Simplified series, we also created display information for any association who is looking to set up smart home demo stations and needs placards and other information displayed for their members during demos. Chad and Adrienne will be speaking about these demo stations, along with Abby Creitz of NAR’s Information Services, at the Association Executives Institute in Charlotte in March 2018. Adrienne and Akram teamed up with the Library here at NAR to create a video display system using Raspberry Pi, and Dave and Adrienne helped the Library set up an iPad kiosk for members visiting the Library and Archives.
We also published our first book! A Pocket Guide to Cleaner Air: Plants for Commercial Spaces debuted in the summer and is the first in a series of small-scale books about indoor air quality and ways you can make the air you breathe cleaner and healthier. Adrienne wrote the book, along with Abby Creitz from Information Services, and Donna McCormick and Debbie Dell-Mayer in Information Technology. Joe designed the book, including one of the coolest book covers ever (in this writer’s completely biased opinion).
Chad, our fearless leader, was up front advocating for the team all year, speaking to everyone he could about all the great stuff happening inside the labs. He also had the wacky (at the time) idea to create a Plant Globe to display at the NAR Annual Convention in November. Chad also did a great deal of research into smart city and smart community issues, and is currently starting a project to revitalize his hometown in Iowa by helping turn their nearly-vacant shopping mall into a makerspace.
The Plant Globe installed at the Commercial Pavilion at the NAR Annual Convention in 2017 in Chicago.
It was a great year at CRT Labs, and 2018 is already shaping up the same way. We hope to see you at a conference, or to join us on a Facebook Live in the future. To get up to the minute details of the projects we’re working on, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.