Apple’s Latest Hardware Updates; “Downtown” Walmarts; Communications During Disasters; and More on Five For Wednesday

mac mini on desk with display and iphone

  1. Apple announced a bevy of newly updated hardware this week, including updates to their Mac Mini and MacBook Air computers and iPad Pro tablet. Apple is embracing augmented reality, touting their iPad Pro as the best AR device on the market. The coolest announcement, however, was that they’ve redesigned the Apple Pencil to make it far less awkward – instead of having to charge from the iPad’s lightning port, it now charges wirelessly when it snaps magnetically to the iPad itself. The MacBook Air and iPad Pro feature Apple’s push to standardizing USB-C, but the Mac Mini will still come with USB-A, Thunderbolt, and HDMI ports.
  2. Instead of heading to your city’s downtown, what if you headed to Walmart? The retail giant wants their parking lots to be your next shopping destination. Each Walmart Town Center would resemble an open air mall, and feature stand alone shops from Shake Shack, Chipotle, Orangetherapy Fitness, and others. This model would reflect the chain’s recent messaging about being a “one-stop shop” for consumers while still proving there’s plenty of innovation in retail still to come.
  3. IBM recently launched their first Call for Code contest, asking developers to build some disaster relief technology. The winning tech, called Project Owl, uses low-frequency Wi-Fi to allow for communications in a disaster. Project Owl is a network of LoRa (long range data communications) and Wi-Fi routers that work similarly to the pop-up windows you see when connecting to hotspots at places like Starbucks; but instead of asking you to agree to ToS, the popup window allows you to communicate with first responders.
  4. iBeacon technology never really took off; VentureBeat took a look at the reasons why. Don’t rule out the technology yet, but don’t expect more retailers to be using beacons in their establishments anytime soon.
  5. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at how autonomous vehicles will shape how we design not only cars, but also roads – and even cities. We’ve been thinking about this topic for a while, and if you’re headed out to NAR Annual, you can check out the Emerging Business & Technology Forum, which takes a look at real estate and the future of mobility. Hear about not only driverless cars, but bike shares, ride-on-demand services, mobile offices, and more from a panel of experts in Boston on Saturday, 11/3, from 1:30-3:00P local time. Heads up – the WSJ article is behind a paywall, but if you subscribe, it’s definitely worth a read!

Blockchain Could Shape AI; Assessing Natural Light (Without Seeing the Building); and More on This Week’s Five For Wednesday!

looking up at high rise buildings with natural light

  1. Two big technology trends can help each other, according to experts. By utilizing the underlying tenets of Blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms and techniques could be easily distributed to all users, instead of controlled by major companies. Technological ownership has been one of the many ethical dilemmas around using and creating more AI/ML applications.
  2. We hope none of you would have to use this guide for its fully stated purpose, but the Wirecutter’s research in how to keep your smart home secure from domestic abusers is valuable information in any situation. The guide includes password safety tips (including our favorites, two-factor authentication and passphrases instead of passwords), reset tips and tricks, and more.
  3. Got a client wondering how much natural light their next home might get? Instead of trudging out at all hours of the day to that listing, a new website might be able to get you that info. Right now, Localize.city only works in NYC, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more tools like these started popping up all over the country.
  4. Forbes recently asked eleven real estate pros to talk about how technology has been shifting the way the industry works. Frequent CRT Labs readers will nod their heads along at most of these insights – we knew you guys were a smart bunch!
  5. And for a little fun this week – the Onion explains Blockchain. (Warning: explicit language)

Rethinking Interactions on this Week’s Five For Wednesday

wireframing

Welcome to Five for Wednesday, our weekly roundup of interesting tech news. Today, the (accidental) theme is rethinking interaction.

  1. Amazon released new abilities for smart doorbells and cameras. Among the new features are motion sensing linked to routines – so, for example, if someone is approaching your house and your smart camera detects it, the lights could turn on. Developers can also use the new API to enable two-way conversation between a smart doorbell and an Echo device.
  2. Columbus, Ohio, adds to its smart city repertoire by adopting driverless shuttles. The shuttles are currently in a trial run, and should be accepting passengers by December. The shuttle route includes Center of Science and Industry, Smart Columbus Experience Center, Bicentennial Park and National Veterans Memorial and Museum.
  3. Toyota wants autonomous cars that know how you feel. The company’s CEO says they want people having more fun in their cars, and suggests autonomous vehicles should appeal to people’s emotions and interests. This can including suggesting stop offs at national parks for nature lovers, and other AI guided experiences while traveling by car.
  4. Sidewalk Labs (a division of Google), is working with the city of Toronto on several projects, and recently released a statement about urban data. Since the public is who contributes the data, they’ve decided that a public trust – not a private company – should own that data, and it should be accessible to all. This is a huge step on making sure private interests don’t benefit from the public’s data without informed consent.
  5. The Palm Phone is a new way to think about smart phone experiences. Instead of going bigger, what if your phone was smaller? I’m not sure I buy into what Palm is selling – firstly, in order to even use a Palm, you need to already have a smart phone (so its not replacing anything), but the conscious decision to try to minimize your screen time/use a phone more intuitively is definitely something I can get behind.

Bonus (I can’t seem to narrow down to 5 these days): If you’re interested in learning more about how design works, and hearing about use cases of human-centered design, check out the new podcast “Wireframe.” It takes a “This American Life” style approach to talking about design, and the first two episodes are out now. The first discusses the Three Mile Island disaster in terms of “bad” user interface design, and the second takes a look at the city of Boston’s efforts to create a 311 app.

Paying for Coffee with Personal Data; California’s New IoT Law; Amazon Enters Residential Real Estate; More in Five for Wednesday

tip jar and cash register at coffee shop

  1. We’ve seen a lot of science fiction revolving around using personal data to “pay” for goods and services, but one campus coffeeshop is making it science fact. Shiru Cafe on Brown University’s campus uses student’s personal information (including name, age, and college major) as currency, allowing anyone with a university ID to exchange caffeine for the ability for corporate partners to advertise to the customers through not only visual displays, but from the baristas themselves. The information given to advertisers, according to the café owners, does not include any personally identifying factors, but rather comprises of an aggregation of their entire clientele.
  2. California becomes the first state to sign a cybersecurity law specifically focused on smart home devices. Starting on January 1st, 2020, smart home device manufacturers must equip their devices with reasonable security measures to protect consumers from unauthorized modification, access, and information disclosure. “If it can be accessed outside a local area network with a password, it needs to either come with a unique password for each device, or force users to set their own password the first time they connect,” which would slow down the ability of hackers to use default usernames/passwords to gain access to devices remotely.
  3. A new start-up is looking to revolutionize how we buy homes. Instead of selling to the highest bidder, Bungalo sells their flipped homes to the first bidder that is pre-qualified for a mortgage at the listing price. The service has launched in the Dallas-Forth Worth and Tampa areas, and is sure to be a company to watch in our industry.
  4. Forbes takes a look at how Blockchain and the Internet of Things are shaping the future of real estate. They’ve noticed the same trend we have (and that Joe and I just recorded a webinar about) – technology in the real estate vertical revolves around making life easier, including the speed at which deals move and the efficiency of living in a smart home.
  5. Hydro-and-aquaponics systems are becoming increasingly common features in high-end restaurants in New York City. But they’re also popping up in unexpected places, including the cafeteria of a Manhattan high school. “As part of a nonprofit program called Teens for Food Justice, a handful of schools in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan have turned spare classrooms, unused science labs, and, in one case, an empty closet into urban hydroponic farms, an experiment in self-sufficiency, science education, and food equity.” I’m excited to see where projects like this go.

Bonus: Last week, we told you about Amazon’s newest investment into residential real estate with their investment into prefab-home builder Plant Prefab. This week, Yahoo! Finance did a great little rundown on how Amazon has been reaching into the residential real estate space, which includes their “Hire a REALTOR®” campaign and more.

iOi Hackathon API Provider: Solaria Labs

Solaria Labs Logo

Last up for our hackathon sponsorships is API sponsor Solaria Labs, creators of ShineAPI. ShineAPI is the developer portal of Solaria Labs, the innovation lab for Liberty Mutual Insurance. ShineAPI’s first and primary product is Total Home Score, a product which combines Liberty Mutual data and open source data to deliver address level insights on daily living in a home. Total Home Score, like fellow sponsor TLCengine’s True Lifestyle Cost, allows homebuyers to find out more than just mortgage and tax information about properties they are interested in. 

The Total Home Score documentation from the ShineAPI website sums up their product best, and I’ve quoted it below. A Total Home Score takes into account noise levels, road congestion and safety, and neighborhood amenities, giving you a complete view of a property with what little time you can spend at each place.

Total Home Score estimates five important livability dimensions:

  • Quiet Score: The extent to which a home will be quiet and peaceful, taking into account busy roads, public transit, and train/subway routes. A higher score is quieter.
  • Road Safety Score: The overall feeling of safety for roads surrounding a home, based on auto telematics data measuring speeding and aggressive driving. A higher score is safer.
  • Errand Score: A measure of a home’s proximity to common errand locations like grocery stores, gas stations, dry cleaners and more. A higher score indicates greater convenience.
  • Entertainment Score: A measure of a home’s proximity to common entertainment venues like restaurants/bars, movie theaters, recreational sports facilities, and more. A higher score indicates greater convenience.
  • Traffic Score: The extent to which a home is affected by traffic congestion on nearby roads during rush hour. A higher score indicates less congestion.

Total Home Score also returns up to three explanatory factors that had the greatest impact on “why” each score was less than 100.

Total Home Score data is currently available for locations in the greater Chicago metro area and the entirety of Massachusetts, with new geographical locations being added on an ongoing basis.

Total Home Score is powered by Liberty Mutual’s enterprise data on auto telematics and map data from OpenStreetMap contributors.

As the amount of time buyers spend in a home shortens – and considering that AR/VR technologies are making it easier than ever for long distance buyers to view homes hundreds of miles away – knowing these factors about a home will give a clearer view of each property, and help Realtors® find the right home for their clients. We’re excited to see this type of data become commonplace in MLS listings, and thank them for making their API available for our hackathon this year!