CRTLabs On the Road for April 2016 – Las Vegas, Utah, San Antonio & more!!

From Unsplash:

From Unsplash:

Part of our work at CRT takes us on the road several times a month. We are going to try to keep a better record of events we’re speaking at and events we’re attending. For this month, there are several events happening all over the country. If your association is interested in having us at an event, please feel free to reach out to us at info at crtlabs dot org. Thanks!

  1. Friday, 04/08Las Vegas, NV – Speaking at Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS – General Membership Meeting – Chad will be speaking on what’s coming in the not too distant future and what you can do to prepare yourself. All GLVAR members are welcome to attend!!
  2. Tuesday, 04/12Park City, UT – Speaking at Rocky Mountain Region 11 2016 ConferenceREGISTRATION CLOSES 04/04. Chad will be presenting on what CRTLabs is and what we’re doing to educate membership on smart home devices. What do these devices mean for the future of your business?
  3. Tuesday, 04/12Atlanta, GA – Working at 2016 RAMCO User Group Meeting – Dave is going to be working with RAMCO and teaching a seminar on RAMCO APIs. Dave is also happy to field any questions about what we are doing at CRTLabs. 🙂
  4. Tuesday, 04/12San Antonio, TX – Speaking at NAR TechEdge – San Antonio, TX – Joe Sullivan will be presenting on IoT (Internet of Things) and how it relates to your business. Joe will talk about what the future of these devices will look like as well. Zero UI and user experience will be covered in this talk.
  5. Tuesday, 4/19-4/21 – Chicago, IL – Speaking at RESO Spring ConferenceData standards galore for our industry!!! Chad & Chris will present on what CRTLabs is up to for the real estate industry. If you’re working with data in the RE industry, definitely become a member of RESO and come on over to this event! You can even squeeze in a visit to our labs. 🙂
  6. Friday, 04/22 – Omaha, NE – Speaking at REBarCampOmaha – Chad will be one of the featured speakers, covering what you can do to educate yourself on smart home tech and how you can help CRT test devices.
  7. Tuesday, 04/26-Friday, 04/29 – Los Angeles, CA – Attending T3 SummitChad will be attending the T3 Summit to spread our work on the smart home and IoT front, as well as renewables.

That’s it for this month. Next month? Midyear looms large! Will we see you there?

CRTLabs Wins 30k for Charity as Part of Hackathon Team

roll out the barrel

A representation of the ChicagoHacksBig team after our win. Front row is CRTLabs team – Joe Sullivan, Chad Curry, Dave Conroy and Chris Coté. 😉 Photo found on New Old Stock and Courtesy of:

Part of our work here at CRTLabs is to build for the future. As we do that, we need to learn, grow and fail. We had the opportunity to do all three as part of a hackathon team. We participated with people from many different groups around the Chicago area and one from NYC. Our team was called ChicagoHacksBig and we were entered into the Koding Virtual Global Hackathon sponsored by IBM, among others, and happening on Feb. 20 & 21. The prizes were $100,000 for 1st, $30,000 for 2nd and $10,000 for 3rd.

NOTE: If you’re just interested in seeing the work we did, you can use the following links:

  • The ChicagoHacksBig team page is here.
  • If you just want to play with the visualizations, you can go here.
  • If you want to access our code on GitHub, head here.

When it Began

We were invited to participate by Chris Phenner, someone we know in the Chicago tech community and who works for Gimbal Beacons. He’d submitted a proposal for the hackathon back in December and asked if we’d like to join. He’d also decided that we would be giving our winnings to a good cause called SmartChicago Collaborative, supporting technology exposure to underserved areas in Chicago. Because Chris’ idea was to do some type of representation of a map of indoor space, we thought this would be cool application for commercial or residential space. We were excited for the chance to win for a charity in Chicago, work with people in the tech community here and grateful for the experience. This was also a great chance for us to explore how this could work for real estate in the future.

Race for the Prize

Initially, our designs were on indoor mapping and we thought this would be a cool way to see how beaconing would could be used to describe how people relate to a space. The implications for real estate are big. This could mean understanding foot traffic in malls or built spaces and being able to advise the retailers on the opportunities beacons provide. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out because we weren’t able to get enough people in the space to install an app for the beacons to access.

So, we had to pivot. We had to pivot 3 days before the hackathon was to start!! We were fortunate to work with the folks at DoStuff Media, whose app would provide the data for us to visualize. DoStuff used Gimbal’s beacons and geofencing of 4,500 venues around the US to provide anonymized data about how people who had their app moved about 16 different cities over the course of one evening. Over 10,000 people were moving around these cities and this data lead to how we were able to show what spots were popular over the course of an evening.

Four cities mapped at the same time.

Figure 1 – Putting four of the cities we mapped next to each other.

We started work Saturday AM. Chris dug into the data and we all discussed how we might want to show this. We landed on heat mapping and some stream graphs. Dave prepped the servers for the Koding site, as we needed to use their IDE for the hackathon. Joe worked on the user experience and layout for the site. I started working on HTML/CSS for the initial page and navigation we didn’t end up using. We thought it would be cool to visualize the data using maps. So, Chris cooked up some cool heat maps using Leaflet and heatmap.js. These are pretty lightweight frameworks that could have some great implications for real estate. One of our visualizations was created using quadrants, showing four different cities compared side by side. Chris started out comparing Austin (where DoStuff is located and has the most data), Portland, LA and Chicago (where we’re based). He then took this template and created a few more in this style. Then we decided to let the maps stand on their own. What’s cool about this is you can dive into each map a little deeper.

Chicago Map.

Figure 2 – Chicago Map. What’s interesting about this one is how Milwaukee Avenue lights up over the course of the evening.

We created streamgraphs and I think the results were great. The end result is that not only did the ChicagoHacksBig team create some great data visualizations, we also won $30,000 for SmartChicago Collaborative.

Wrap-Up and Final Thoughts

It was a great experience all around and we want to thank Chris Phenner for asking us to be a part of it and DoStuff for access to their data, as it was nice exposure to a dataset on a large scale.


Figure 3 – A streamgraph showing how long people spent at certain venues. What’s cool about this is the various ways you can visualize the data. Love it.

For us, the visualizations could be used in future project for our members. This is a great template for things like creating apps that give you a sense of foot traffic and pedestrian congregation on a larger scale. Or apps that give you a sense of overall air quality for a city. Or apps that show how traffic moves through a city. It changes the tenor and discussion about a neighborhood.

My thanks to Chris, Dave and Joe for their hard work in the name of CRTLabs, NAR and our members. l can tell you I’m extremely proud of this team for how they worked together for this and worked with the others in ChicagoHacksBig. Kudos to you.

CRTLabs Looking for Two Interns!

We're looking for a couple of good people...are you one of them?

We’re looking for a couple of good people…are you one of them?

TL;DR – Job posting attached and also italicized below.

I’m really excited to announce that we need help. We have a couple of intern positions we are looking to fill and you may be a candidate. I’ve included the job postings below, but let me tell you why you want to work at the National Association of REALTORS® this summer.

Our group, CRTLabs, is on the forefront of what’s happening in the Internet of Things and smart home space. We are partnered with a number of vendors, universities, NGOs and government agencies. A couple of our projects we are working on this summer include a Department of Energy Challenge focused on an energy management smart hub and the Array of Things project which received a $3.1 million dollar grant from the National Science foundation. But we also want your ideas, too.

We recently placed second as part of a team in a global hackathon (our project here). This was out of 1,250 teams and over 90,000 participants. Our prize was $30,000 and we’re giving it to the SmartChicago Collaborative to promote technology in Chicago.

We have an active lab that is responsible for testing new smart home hardware and software as well as building devices and products to support these. If you work with us, you will be exposed to scientists at top national laboratories and work with four awesome people who eat and breath this stuff. We have two staff engineers who are regarded by the smart home/IoT industry as being top notch. We’re creating IoT & smart home software and hardware to help improve quality of life for homeowners all over the country. We are a fun group to work with and are excited by new ways of approaching a problem. We have 1.1 million members and are engaging with them to field test products and projects. We’ve been on the IoT Podcast, in Yahoo! Finance and Fortune magazine talking about our work.

We are an active part of the ITA’s IoT Council – I sit on the Executive Board and co-lead the Case Studies Group. The IoT Council is comprised of Fortune 500 companies, smaller companies, City of Chicago and leading research universities. NAR is the only trade association on this board.

We are community-minded and want to help make a difference in the name of our membership. They are the local experts in every community and we are there to make sure we help them keep at the forefront.

This is an amazing opportunity for the right person. For more information, see the description below for how to apply and what we’re looking for. Here’s the official job posting:

The Center for REALTOR® Technology at the National Association of REALTORS® is looking for qualified candidates for two paid internships to work on hardware and software projects with CRTLabs. This group is focused on smart home technology and the internet of things, as well as renewables. This position requires an understanding of fundamental software principles and methods. Hardware is also part of this work, so interest in hardware is a plus. Specifically, we are looking for candidates who must:

  • Have experience with programming
    • Python
    • Ruby
    • JS
    • HTML
    • CSS
    • or other appropriate language
  • Interest in hardware/hardware experience
    • Raspberry Pi
    • Arduino
    • Photon
    • BeagleBoards
    • ODroids
    • Sensors/Actuators
  • Be willing to learn
  • Document work

This is an opportunity to work with some passionate, dedicated professionals who are working on ground-breaking projects. You would be heavily involved in the day-to-day work and gain experience. This team recently placed second in a global hackathon and won $30,000 for the Smart Chicago Collaborative.

This position will run from April or May (when you can start) until the end of August. The hours are 8:30-5 Monday-Friday. For inquiries, please reach out to Chad Curry at and put ‘Summer Intern’ in the subject line. Thanks!!

If this sounds like you, apply!!! If you know someone who this would work for, send them this post!


CRTLabs V1.0

Presenting CRT Labs v1.0. It’s been a few months in the making, but we’ve finally got the last of our furniture in.

Some of the details include;

Workbench and Hood
Workbench and Hood


Lounge and Meeting area
Lounge and Meeting area


Display Wall
Display Wall




Christmas Lights
Christmas Lights


I’ve also included a panorama of the space, it’s a pretty big image, so give it a second to load.

CRTLabs, Security & The Internet of Things

As you may be aware, CRT & CRTLabs are focused on the Internet of Things and what it means for real estate. There are a couple of areas we are focused on in order to promote security for the consumer and for the device manufacturer. This focus is part of our holistic approach to the Internet of Things. Not only are we working with vendors, universities, NGOs & government agencies to improve the devices on the market, we also want to ensure that consumers and our membership are protected as best as possible. Currently, security can seem like an afterthought for vendors. We want to make sure they are taking it seriously as we educate our membership on the value of these devices.

Partnership with The Online Trust Alliance – Consumer Focused
Last week, NAR released a smart home checklist in partnership with the Online Trust Allianceº. This is a great tool for our members to provide to buyers and sellers. This checklist covers what to consider when it comes to smart home devices as well as some security best practices for routers, gateways and other networking mechanisms. As we move forward in this ‘always connected’ paradigm, having this checklist will only increase in value.

The smart home checklist was released during Cyber Security Month to highlight that when consumers and REALTORS think of cyber security, we need to think not only in the context of the online world, but also in the context of the real world as these smart sensors and nodes come online.

Along with our work on the checklist, CRT’s been reviewing the Online Trust Alliance’s IoT Trust Framework. This document is in its second draft and will be a guide for manufacturers and consumers in this space. Personally, I am interested in its potential as a springboard for a certification for IoT products. Follow Online Trust Alliance on twitter at @otalliance.

Partnership with – Vendor Focused
Another project focused on security is aimed at educating IoT vendors on its importance. is a group comprised of information security researchers who are stressing the importance of secure devices and code. You may remember the story about the hacking of the Jeep Cherokee this past summer. That work was done in partnership with a group called I Am the Calvalry who are stressing the importance of security for connected vehicles. is an analogue for smart devices. It’s comprised of security researchers from all around the world focused on educating consumers and vendors on the importance of security for these devices. CRT is working to promote their work and partner with them on educating manufacturers to the importance of security.

One of the cool initiatives from is a program to harden the code for device manufacturers. Using a product called BugCrowd, vendors can offer ‘bug bounties’ on their code to verified info security researchers. This allows for an independent third party to review the code and help improve its security. It also frees up vendor resources and allows them to focus more on the features for their products. Follow on twitter at @builditsecurely.

What do you think?
As we push ahead in this space, we’d love to hear from you. Are there projects in Iot & Security you’re familiar with? Tweet your thoughts to @crtlabs.

º Note: CRT signed NAR up as a member of the Online Trust Allianace last month

CRTLabs is Here. It’s Time to Meet the Makers


Over the past several months, we’ve been moving very fast at CRT. Our current body of work is focused on the Internet of Things and what it means for REALTORs and homeowners. Recently, I was interviewed by the Internet of Things Council talking about how we see our role in the Internet of Things space and how we see it playing out. You can watch it here:

Smart Homes & Quality of Life from (ITA) Illinois Technology Assoc. on Vimeo.

I’ll be posting a lot this week to give you a sense of where we’re going and what it means for us as an industry. One of the big announcements we have is the new CRTLabs. We started a lab so that we can work closely with universities, vendors, NGOs and government agencies to promote the value of our 1.1 million members. These different groups are seeing the value and they see NAR as a ‘path to communities’. Our members are in more properties than anyone else and are all over the world (including our global and commercial members). They know homes and what these devices could mean for improving quality of life in them. CRTLabs will work with these various groups to:

  • educate our membership
  • build hardware
  • test devices in the lab
  • poke holes in/harden/develop software
  • make feature recommendations
  • set up focus groups to improve/test products
  • provide field labs in various climates
  • review devices

In order to support these projects, we’ve hired two engineers for the lab who will drive the lion’s share of this work.

Christopher Coté is our Lead Lab Engineer and will work with me to drive the direction of the lab. We couldn’t be happier to have Chris on board and are already seeing some great things. Chris has experience outside our industry and most recently worked at and their spin-off company Chris is passionate about the Internet of Things. He’s built and installed a number of devices in his place here in Chicago and his second home in Michigan. His thoughts around energy efficiency and environmental quality of a home are already being well received by vendors and universities. We very much look forward to the work he’s going to do.

Dave Conroy comes to us from the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS. He was their Director of IT and has moved to Chicago to join us as a Lab Engineer. Dave’s experience with associations is key for us in educating our membership on the topic of the Internet of Things. He’s also a maker. Dave’s been featured on the Makezine site for his work with a Raspberry Pi and voice translation. We are very excited to have him working with Chris.

Our lab space is a place where members can visit and see what we’re working on. You don’t need to fly to Chicago to see our lab, however. We’re going to work with associations to provide a virtual tour through one of our initial purchases for the lab, a Double Robotics Telepresence robot. This devices is one of our first test devices and we think it has value for members holding viewings for potential buyers who are either international or remote. We’ll write more about that later. If you happen to be in Chicago, don’t hesitate to stop by the 4th floor and visit us just across from the elevators.

Our current projects are focused on improving environmental quality sensing and energy efficiency. As we start this RESO conference, we had a great time participating in the plugfest and educating the industry on the value of these IoT devices not only for our membership, but for homeowners in general. We’ve set up a new twitter handle for the labs at @crtlabs where you can follow us. As always, questions and comments are always welcome. Click the following links to get access to our GitHub account and today’s presentation.