iOi Hackathon Framework Sponsor: restb.ai

This is a picture of a kitchen demonstrating the capabilities of software by restb.ai. It shows the software identifying features in the kitchen. It identifies stainless steel appliances, a kitchen island, tile floors and natural light.

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:

  1. Room Type Classifcation
    • Identifies over 30 different room scenes like ‘living room’, ‘kitchen’, ‘bathroom’, etc.
  2. Home Feature Tagging
    • Identifies more than 30 features in the home based on room type. Things like ‘vaulted ceilings’, ‘hardwood floors’, and ‘natural light’.
  3. Exterior Style Classification
    • Has learned 16 different architectural styles for classification purposes.
  4. 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.

 

 

 

Rosetta Home beta testing is coming soon

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.

  1. 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.

  • Temperature
  • Relative Humidity
  • VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • CO2
  • Particulate Matter
  • Barometric Pressure
  • Light Intensity
  • Sound Intensity

If you feel like digging through some source code and hardware designs, feel free to check out the project on our Github.

  1. Energy Monitoring

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.

  1. HVAC Utilization

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.

  1. Hyper-local Weather

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.

  1. Consumer app

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.

The Update!

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. 

  1. 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.

Silkscreening boards and assemblage by pick and place. @mhubchicago

A post shared by CRT Labs (@crtlabs) on

  1. IoT Security is easy… to do incorrectly

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.

  1. 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.

CRT Labs Gets It Done: Our 2017 Year In Review

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.

Tech Trends 2017: A New Webinar from CRT Labs for REALTORS®

Looking for an in-depth look at the Smart Home trends of 2017? Look no further than this new webinar!

Join our User Experience Designer, Joe Sullivan, as he talks about six product categories making waves this year. Joe has a lot of great information on current smart devices, including a look at what each product does, the benefits of incorporating them into your current lifestyle, and some questions buyers and sellers may have about homes with smart home fixtures. Joe also goes over some tips for REALTORS® when working with smart home tech during the listing process. The webinar covers three security and three lifestyle smart home product families – smart locks, smart security cameras, smart doorbells, smart lights, smart thermostats, and smart air quality monitors. If you’re interested in this webinar, head on over to the product page at the REALTOR® Store and check it out! And let us know what other topics you’d like to see covered in webinars – we’re always excited to help our members learn more about technology and its impact on real estate.

 

CRT Labs Speaks this Spring!

One of our favorite things to do at CRT Labs is get out of the lab and talk to people about the projects we’re working on. This spring, we’re showing up at a variety of events, and hope to see as many tech enthusiasts as we can in the coming months. If you’re at one of these conferences or other speaking events, please feel free to come up, say hi, and maybe even pick up some CRT Labs material!

From Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/gcDwzUGuUoI

March:
14 – Dave is speaking at TechEdge in Pembroke, MA. He’ll be discussing CRT Labs, the Internet of Things, and its impact for REALTORS®.
14 – Chad is at the WCR Region 6 meeting in Hanover, MD, discussing the new projects that CRT Labs is working on.
17-20 – Adrienne and Donna will be at NAR’s AE Institute in Denver, CO. They’ll be handing out some new resources to help educate REALTORS® on smart home products, as well as talking about the work CRT Labs is doing in the smart home, community, and city areas.
23-24 – Chris is at the Erlang Factory conference in San Francisco, CA. He’ll be talking about his work on Rosetta Home, our open source home automation software project.
24 – Chad will be in Rosemont, IL speaking to COVE about the Internet of Things.
30 – Dave will be in Kansas City, KS, talking at the KCRAR ReCharge Event about Getting Smart about Smart Homes.

April:
6 – Chris will be at the TechEdge in Billings, MT to discuss CRT Labs, the Internet of Things, and its impact for REALTORS®.
13 – Mark is speaking at the Naples Board of REALTORS® about technology initiatives at NAR.
19-21 – Dave will be at RAMCON here in Chicago to speak about blockchain and real estate.
20 – Chad will be speaking at Rock-Green REALTORS in Janesville, WI about smart home technology.
24-25 – Joe will be at the Ohio Association of REALTORS® Spring Meetings to talk about smart homes and the Internet of Things
24-26 – Chad and Dave will be at the RESO Spring Convention in Austin, TX, where Chad will be talking about virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence and Dave will be talking about practical applications of blockchain.
25 – Donna is in San Jose, CA, for TechEdge, speaking about the Internet of Things for REALTORS®.
26 – Adrienne will be speaking to the Chicago Association of REALTORS® YPN group about smart home trends for 2017.
28 – Mark will join the MetroTex Association of REALTORS® for their spring industry meeting to talk about the impact of smart home technology.

May:
7 – Joe is heading to the TechEdge in Tulsa, OK, to speak about the Internet of Things
15-20 – The crew heads to the Midyear Meetings and Trade Expo, where we’ll be speaking and meeting with people to talk about what the labs are up to.

Join us at one of these many events, and if you’d like to request a speaker for your own group, please contact us and we’ll work together to arrange a speaking event. See you all this spring!

Smart Homes & REALTORS – What do you know?

Smart Home Survey Featured Image

We’re really excited to write today about our new survey, which highlights the emerging technology needs of our membership and our work. We’re kicking things off with our first survey for CRT Labs: the  Smart Homes &REALTORS® Survey. This is an insightful look into what our members and their clients know about smart home technology and where we can help you learn and grow your business in the smart home space.

Member Interest in Smart Home Tech

One of the most exciting things we see in the survey is the amount of interest members have in smart devices and how they can use them in their business. Based on our data, it is not just new and young agents who are interested in this technology, but more seasoned members of the REALTOR® population. A prime example of this is seen in this question about interest in an NAR Smart Home Certification.

A percentage based bar graph gauging interest of NAR members in an NAR smart home certification. 42% of those surveyed are interested, 22% are not interested and 36% don't know if they are interested.

What we note is that almost half of those surveyed were interested in a certification program. The characteristics of those interested in a certification are surprising to me in a good way. Looking at the median experience, hours of work, and age, we see that members working full-time and near the overall median member age of 54 are interested in this type of certification; this type of certification appears valuable to industry veterans.

When we move to the second tier of characteristics and break down interest by years of experience, we see that over half of those who say they are interested in a certification had more than 16 years of experience. We also see that members aged 55 and up are very interested in this type of certification.

Currently, NAR does not offer such a certification or designation – but, if you are interested in gaining some knowledge on smart home tech and energy efficiency (and I suggest you consider it because younger buyers are very interested in these features), NAR does have the GREEN designation, with a section on smart home technology and advantages to clients with respect to energy efficiency as part of this designation. Also, if you are interested in getting a better handle on the terms and concepts behind smart home technology, check out our smart home glossary and our internet of things FAQ.

Client Interest in Smart Home Tech

One of the big reasons for NAR members to understand this technology is because your clients will be interested in what these devices can offer them.

Client Interest by Type

These responses are insightful, and confirm that security and privacy are top priorities for clients. Concerns around these two topics have been evident for a while and have become hot topics since the Mirai attacks. Start with our Smart Home Checklist (360 downloads) to help clients with these concerns. What is surprising to me is that comfort remains in the middle of the pack as far as importance of functionality goes. That’s typically been a big selling point for these devices. If you look at the “Very Important” slice by itself, you get the top 5 in this order:

  • Security 51%
  • Privacy 45%
  • Cost Savings 44%
  • Energy Savings 42%
  • Comfort 38%

When you combine the “Very Important” numbers with the “Somewhat Important” column, the functions shift:

  • Security 81%
  • Energy Savings 78%
  • Cost Savings 77%
  • Privacy 75%
  • Comfort 71%

Energy Savings and Privacy swap places. I’m not declaring anything definitive here, just highlighting an unexpected shift. Privacy moves down the list and Energy Savings rise. It’s not a huge difference between that and Cost Savings, but could be an indicator of future importance for these areas. We’ll be keeping an eye on this.

For us, another interesting function-related finding was that Air Quality rated low. My personal opinion is that this will shift in the coming years as more devices and projects become available and consumers are more aware of the impact that air quality has on comfort and energy efficiency. This is a vertical we are going after with our Rosetta Home and PiAQ projects. Air quality will be key in the function of a smart home. We envision a home that reacts and self-regulates to keep you comfortable and safe. These metrics from air quality will inform decisions made by your house.

What You Can Do

So what can you take from this report and use in your business today? Well, a lot! First, the most surprising graph to me:

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-6-16-46-am

According to this, only 2% of you have given a smart home device as a closing gift. Most likely there are a few reasons for this:

  • Not understanding what’s on market
  • Cost
  • Concerns around privacy and security

Definitely start thinking about the potential of these devices, which are available at a variety of price points, as gifts. First, you can consult our gift guides here:

You can also look at our thermostat tear sheet for more options. Giving these devices as closing gifts are a way to keep the conversation going after closing. These devices last beyond a bottle of champagne and have the potential to offer improved living for homeowners. There is an opportunity for marketing yourself in a much different way.

In Closing

I wanted to close by saying that there is a lot for us here to work with to offer opportunities for you to help clients navigate the emerging smart home space. Smart home tech is here to stay for these reasons:

  1. Devices are becoming cheaper and more feature-rich.
  2. Security for these devices is becoming more important.
  3. Other verticals (utilities and insurance among them) are paying attention and penetrating the market with offerings.

Knowing what you’re interested in, combined with the ever-changing tech world, helps us at CRT Labs with our primary goals: to educate, innovate, and advocate for the future of technology and real estate.