#016-Things Thursday: Cleaning the air without planting trees and more

An image of a product called CityTree, which has a park bench on each side and a 15ft wall of plants attached to both benches.

CityTree by GreenCity Solutions is an IoT device that monitors and cleans the air with plants.

In this week’s Things Thursday, we have a lot for the future, but also a lot focused on health. What if some devices

  1. Disney Research’s technology could transform IoT landscape (via Android Authority)
    Disney Research is one of the premier IoT/emerging technology labs in the world. They’ve got offices in Switzerland, Pittsburgh (in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University) and, of course, California. You might be surprised that Disney is doing scientific research, but when you think about the theme park business, it makes sense. Disneyworld and Disneyland are like miniature cities. So, from the lab comes another cool project from them. They’ve figured out how to reduce the power and improve the connectivity of IoT devices without an antenna. This is important for sensors that may have little to no external power options. They’ve also done research on powering devices without traditional power sources. Keep an eye on them.
  2. Microsoft Research’s ‘Emma Watch’ helped a Parkinson’s patient write again (via Wareable)
    Pretty amazing work from Microsoft Research. Parkinson’s wreaks havoc on your central nervous system and can make everyday activities a challenge. A researcher at Microsoft is building a device to reduce tremors for people living with Parkinson’s. In order to help people write or draw, the watch has tiny motors that vibrate on the patient’s arm, disrupting the feedback loop of the central nervous system. It’s pretty amazing. Click through and watch the video.
  3. Connected trees will be scrubbing the air in a city near you soon (via ReadWrite)
    Smart cities will not just be connected and gathering data, but they will help cities perform better. GreenCity Solutions are building these amazing benches that have plants and sensors embedded in them. They claim that their benches can filter the same amount of air as 275 planted trees. This means less watering needed, but the benefit of filtration from the plants is pretty great. Currently, CityTree is only in the European market and they have plans to expand to the US in late 2018. Even still, it’s a great example of how to green a space and provide some seating options. To find out more about why smart cities matter to REALTORS, check out my post on Building Functioning Cities.

That’s all for Things Thursday this week. Have questions? Want us to cover something? Let us know. You can follow us on Twitter @crtlabs or Facebook

The Building of Functioning Cities: A Smart Cities Series

There is a blurry cityscape in the background with the phrase 'The Building of Functioning Cities' overlaid. This is a line from preamble of the REALTOR Code of Ethics. We believe this statement reflects the potential impact of smart cities on our industry.

Smart cities will impact the way we live and work in the very near future. Real estate stands to benefit from the data produced in these cities with improved services for clients.

In the labs, I often point out to visitors that we’ve based our work on the preamble to the Code of Ethics. I’ve included it below with the relevant bits highlighted:

Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated ownership depend the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization. REALTORS® should recognize that the interests of the nation and its citizens require the highest and best use of the land and the widest distribution of land ownership. They require the creation of adequate housing, the building of functioning cities, the development of productive industries and farms, and the preservation of a healthful environment.

At CRT Labs, we use this to focus our mission. It’s not only key to your work, but also, to the potential that the Internet of Things, renewable energy, and community gardening have to impact your industry. In order to support the ‘building of functioning cities’ tenant, we’ve spoken to several smart city projects throughout the US. We believe that data from the smart city will go a long way to shaping how you do business in the future. It will change the way you interact with your customers and help you in supporting their buying choices. We are just at the very beginning of this and there’s still a way to go before this is mainstream, but what’s already happening is exciting.

What are smart cities?

Simply put, smart cities are cities that use existing data and connected sensors to:

  • Capture data and performance metrics to improve city services
  • Monitor city performance
  • Inform the general public

Cities great and small are employing smart city techniques all over the world. Singapore is one of the big leaders in this space, as is Barcelona. Here in the US, cities large and small have active programs. From Columbus, Ohio, to Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky as examples. For this series, I want to use what’s in my own back yard. Chicago has garnered a lot of attention of late for its Array of Things initiative and the use of its open data portal to engage the citizens.

Why do they matter?

Here’s why it matters to you: there are massive amounts of data that will be coming off these devices that will show how specific areas of a city are performing. As examples, you’ll be able to see things like:

  • Pedestrian and vehicle patterns and counts aggregated by time of day
  • Utilization patterns for parks and community buildings
  • Temperature variation at your work and at your home on a block by block basis
  • Air quality outside your door and any destination you need to travel to
  • Average sunlight exposure at any location
  • Standing water after a rainstorm

A number of those things above are key to how you’re home or property performs. Understanding microclimates will help buildings use less energy because they can adjust based on time of day or season. We can also understand busy residential and commercial areas are and use that as part of our marketing material or a widget on a website. When are the peak hours at the community pool or park? Data for a community could also inform when you hold open houses. How many people are in a neighborhood during a given day?

This is just the surface. I’m going to use this series to interview people here in Chicago who are involved in the smart cities initiatives and highlight where there are opportunities for real estate. If you have a story about smart city activity in your area, I encourage you to share it.

Related Articles from CRT Labs:

#015-Things Thursday: Mickey Mousing around, John ‘Oh’ Deere, and IKEA gets smart

A farmer sits in his tractor with his back to us as the sun comes through the window over his shoulder.

John Deere smart tractors are being hacked by the farmers who own them…Why???

For this Things Thursday, some really interesting IoT news the past few weeks. Farmers are hacking their tractors and IKEA enters the fray in the smart home market.

  1. American farmers are hacking their tractors with Ukrainian firmware (via Motherboard)
    What’s causing farmers to hack their smart tractors? Manufacturers are locking the tractors down with specialized software and farmers are fighting back. If you thought Apple’s walled garden was bad, read on to see what’s happening to the modern farmer. Great read and amazing ingenuity on the parts of the farmers.
  2. How I let Disney track my every move (via Gizmodo)
    Have you been to a Disney park lately? They are doing some amazing things with proximity sensing. You can pay, check in to a hotel and rides and make reservations all with the Magic Band. Disney can see how people move about the park with anonymized data and improve services. This type of trade off of our personal data is similar to what we do with services like Facebook. The author hacked his Magic Band to see what smart devices he could control with it.Turns out, he could control a lot. Check it out.
  3. IKEA launches its own low-cost smart lighting range (via Wareable)
    Some pretty interesting work from IKEA to bring smart home prices down. From motion-sensing lights to lighted doors for your IKEA furniture, they’ve got some really interesting and diverse items. You can dim the lights with an unattached knob device which uses an accelerometer. It will be interesting to see how much they start to incorporate into their furniture.

That’s all for Things Thursday this week. Have questions? Want us to cover something? Let us know. You can follow us on Twitter @crtlabs or Facebook.

#015-Things Thursday: Learning to Love Security & the Smart Home Simplified

A picture of a heart-shaped padlock on a metal bar with a city in the background.

Security continues to be the topic du jour of the smart home security. Let’s hope it’s more than just lip service.

Security is looming huge on the smart home horizon. I’ve been having more and more interview requests on the topic of the smart home and what we are doing to help members protect their clients. In this weeks Things Thursday, you’ll see a few on security, plus a new section of our site! Check it out below.

  1. How to Build a Hack-Proof Smart Home (via Mansion Global)
    Okay, I am not a fan of the title, but there’s some good advice on this site. Pair it with our Smart Home Checklist and you’ve taken some good steps to securing your smart home. They recommend regular password updates and changes and password managers to keep track of your passwords. This is good, practical advice and you should consider employing it. I would not go so far to declare the home will be hack-proof, but hey, headlines sell, right?
  2. Discover the Top Smart Home Security Systems of 2017 (via ReadWrite)
    Nice list of a few systems that you may want to employ to make your home safer. Scout is a local Chicago company who are continually working to improve the experience of their system. I am surprised to not see the Canary Smart Camera on here, as their product has encrypted hardware and software on it. They’ve done a great job of making a secure product. They also have partnered with State Farm to offer discounts on burglar alarm insurance if you install one of their cameras.
  3. Apple’s Website Now Has a Useful List of Smart Home Gadgets That Work with Homekit (via The Verge)
    Apple’s making efforts to promote Homekit an dhave now published a web page intended to make it easier for you to find devices that works with its Homekit system. The system has been slow to roll out and I think that is due to the Homekit onboarding process. Not only is software involved, but hardware as well, as Apple requires the addition of an encrypted hardware chip into the smart device. This has proven to be a challenge for companies and has lead to longer development times. BUT, there is a reason for that. Apple’s trying to build a hack-proof system. Some good products listed on here.
  4. Smart Home Simplified by CRT Labs (via this here site.)
    Okay, you want to start talking to clients about smart home tech, but don’t know where to start? You want the basics on what devices are out there? Well, say no more. We have you covered. This week, we’ve released our series of pdfs and web pages called Smart Home Simplified. These documents explain the basics of smart home tech by looking at the device verticals. So far, we have papers on:

    1. Doorbells
    2. Thermostats
    3. Locks
    4. Cameras
    5. Lights
    6. Air Quality Sensors

That’s all for Things Thursday this week. Have questions? Want us to cover something? Let us know. You can follow us on Twitter @crtlabs or Facebook.

#014-Things Thursday: Bad bear, wifi parking, and more

An overhead shot of intersecting streets in a dense urban environment at night.

Strides are being made in urban connectivity, but toys are causing IoT nightmares. Do we need internet enabled teddy bears? Also, a major manufacturer is entering the air quality market.

  1. Acer is making an air quality monitor (via Engadget)
    Acer is known for laptops but now seem to be entering the smart home market with an air quality sensor. The device isn’t out yet, but will hit the market this summer. They’ll be looking for carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter (pm2.5 – fine dust and pm10 – pollen), temperature and humidity. Sounds intriguing. No word on pricing.
  2. Smart Road to Parked Car: Talk to Me (via IEEE Spectrum)
    As we add more smart cars and smart city infrastructure, how do we make sure the network connected devices stay connected? Well, there’s a group at Carnagie Mellon looking at how to do this using parked cars. Check it out.
  3. Light up your house for less with our illuminating guide to LED bulbs (via DigitalTrends)
    A really nice explainer on LEDs and how to compare watts and lumens as well as many other factors that go into choosing. Also, do you need smart bulbs? Find out in this great piece.
  4. Electronic teddy bears the latest target for hackers (via ReadWrite)
    Another year, another internet enabled toy hacked. Come on guys. Seriously. To quote the article, ‘Just because you can connect something, doesn’t mean you should.’ Either beef up your security or don’t connect it.

That’s all for Things Thursday this week. Have questions? Want us to cover something? Let us know. You can follow us on Twitter @crtlabs or Facebook.