CES 2018 – Five Key Takeaways

With the pace that technology is currently advancing, it is amazing to see how it becomes increasingly woven into our daily lives. The Consumer Electronics Show, now in its 51st year, is the proving grounds for these new advancements. With over 170,000 attendees and 3900 vendors, CES is the world’s largest tradeshow. Over the past three years, CRT Lab’s has covered the trends that emerge, and what they mean for real estate. This year, we saw the following five key trends.

1) Increased Focus on Air Quality

There is a special marketplace on the show floor within CES that is specifically made for startups and technology pioneers called Eureka Park. This section is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Techstars, and is a great place to get insights on where technology trends may be headed.


As we began to notice two years ago at the Lab’s first visit to CES, air quality is getting more and more attention of more importance to today’s consumers. In previous years we have met innovative startups like Plume Labs and elichens. This year, having built our own indoor air quality monitor, we were able to meet with and collect samples of the latest innovations directly from the sensor manufacturers.

2) Google Has Arrived

This year Google made its first-ever appearance at CES. They had an especially rocky start with their giant two-story outdoor booth having to be shut down due to heavy rains on day one, and faced power issues midweek.

Despite all this, by perhaps what may be brute-force alone, their presence was felt. Previous years at CES have been absolutely dominated by Amazon’s Voice Assistant Alexa, and for the search giant’s first year ever to be exhibiting – they had incredible product penetration.

Photo by Dieter Bohn / The Verge

From sponsoring the city-wide monorail, buses, taxis, and their incredibly impressive two-story outdoor booth, it seemed like Google was everywhere.

A Google Assistant shows off the company’s all white jumpsuits (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

In fact, they even had real life Google Assistants working overtime on the exhibition floor giving product demonstrations, running contests, and doing giveaways of Google Assitant compatible devices.

3) Urban Agriculture

If you’ve visited CRT Labs over the past two years, you’ve most likely seen some of our aquaponics systems. Filled with fish, ghost shrimp, herbs and vegetables, these systems work based on a symbiotic relationship between the aquatic life and the plants growing above. As more and more people are moving to major urban areas, the demand for locally grown produce is only growing higher.

Aquaponics @ CRT Labs

The Grove aquaponics set-up for CRT Labs, with kale above and goldfish in the tank.

This year at CES, there were dozens of companies trying to capture some of that demand by offering consumers a way to grow their own vegetables at home. What is reassuring to us that this will be a future trend to watch is just the sheer number of different approaches companies are taking to solve this problem. We saw sleek, counter-top units like the Aspara Smart Veggie Grower, to full popup greenhouses like the Grow Pods by Opcom.

4) Smart City and Autonomous Vehicles

We saw an incredible amount of technology this year that was trying to marry all of the innovation together to provide solutions for smart cities. Two of the best examples of this would be the Bosch Climo System and Toyota’s e-pallet, both of which won Innovation Awards this year. The Climo System is a smart air monitoring solution designed and developed to evaluate, visualize and act upon the outdoor air quality enabled with real-time tracking of ambient air pollutants. According to their website, the Climo System has eight different sensors that measure particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. It is also equipped to monitor pollen levels, which is a common cause of allergies. We can’t help but be reminded of the Chicago based project, the Array of Things, which has similar goals.

Toyota announced a new business alliance between partners Amazon, Mazda, Pizza Hut, Uber, and Didi (Chinese Ride Sharing) focusing on what they are calling “Mobility as a Service”. As part of this, they also revealed the first of their concept vehicles, the e-Pallet.

Photo by Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The idea being that the e-Pallet would be a completely modular and customizable solution for autonomous transportation needs. From ridesharing and automated delivers, to on-demand retail experiences, the e-Pallet is made to be the starting point for any company who has a use case for electric autonomous vehicles.

5) Voice Control Integration Becomes Deeper

This year at CES we saw the deeper integration of voice assistants into the smart home. The best example of this would be Kohler, who unveiled Kohler Konnect this year. Enabling voice control technology for your shower, bathtub, toilet, mirror, and faucet. While this main seem a bit overkill at first, there are many uses cases for touchless/handsfree operation in the bathroom. In fact, Kohler received a CES 2018 Innovation award for the efforts, in their company’s impressive debut.

For more coverage, check out this great video from REALTOR Magazine:

Blockchain Experts Converge on Real Estate

blockchain wave real estate

In late July, the National Association of REALTORS® hosted blockchain experts, software developers, and industry partners with the intent of combining efforts to launch effective blockchain applications in real estate. In addition to distributed ledger experts, the meeting was also attended by technology executives from large MLS’s and REALTOR® Associations, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, and representatives from local governments.

NAR’s Research and Development Lab, CRT Labs, has been leading the organization’s innovations in this space and organized the full day meeting. The day was kicked off by a presentation from a leading figure in the open-source software movement, Brian Behlendorf, who is also the project lead for the Hyperledger Project.

The group spent the day discussing the merits, value, governance, and access control of a multitude of different potential blockchain applications. The purpose of these applications ranged from improving access to public licensure information to enhancing the way REALTOR® associations exchange member information. Perhaps the most impactful application discussed was the development of a blockchain-based system that generates and tracks unique identifiers for properties in a similar way that VIN numbers identify automobiles.

The potential for impact of these applications was so great that the group has decided to move forward and dedicate development resources to multiple applications. Following the event, Behlendorf, on behalf the Hyperledger Project expressed interest in making the Property Unique Identifier application a featured case study for their organization.

Presentations

Brian Behlendorf, HyperLedger Project

Behlendorf shared the exact moment of when he realized the potential for blockchain technology. His “Ah-Ha” moment came after hearing of a land title project in Honduras that was being started to protect land ownership through decentralization of records. In recent history, the digitization of systems has led to the centralization of systems. He explained how permissioned ledgers can begin to re-decentralizing how these systems work.

Behlendorf then went on to describe the opportunity and benefits that will come from the transformation of the traditional “hub and spoke” models to ledgers, and specifically how the roles of intermediaries in those models will shift over time.

John Mirkovic, Cook County Recorders of Deeds

John Mirkovic currently serves as Deputy Recorder (Communications/IT) for the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. In that role, he serves as office spokesman and is responsible for internal and external communications, legislative advocacy, the CCRD Property Fraud Unit, and has implemented numerous technology advancements at CCRD.

Mirkovic shared his experience launching a pilot program to use blockchain to track and transfer real-estate property titles and other public records, becoming the first land recorder’s office in the country to do so.

Andrew Page, Business Analyist, Connamara Systems

Andrew Page presented on Design Patterns for Public Registries. Prior to this meeting,Page created an open source title registry application that could be integrated with local, state, or federal governments to track ownership of assets. He spoke about the advantages and disadvantages of different application architectures for the title registry.

David Conroy, CRT Labs, NAR

Dave Conroy demonstrated an application that would allow for more efficient sharing of engagement levels of REALTORS® among the three levels (National, State, and Local) of REALTOR® associations on a private and permissioned ledger.

About CRT Labs

CRT Labs is a research group operated by the National Association of REALTORS’® Center for REALTOR® Technology. The primary goal for CRT is to track emerging technologies that will affect real estate, educate its members, advocate for the proper use of technology, and innovate when there is a gap between what is needed and what is available.
In 2015, CRT established the R&D lab to investigate smart home/internet of things devices, renewable energy, urban agriculture and building materials, as well as any other emerging technologies as they become evident. CRT is working with NGOs, vendors, national laboratories, universities and government agencies to help promote NAR as an agent for technology research and innovation.

The Business of Blockchain: Videos and Key Takeaways

Business of Blockchain
This past April, I had the privilege of attending The Business of Blockchain event that was put on by the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA. The event was a one-day conference examining the technology, ethics, and impact of blockchains. If you are a reader of our blog, you know that CRT has been focusing on practical use cases for blockchain in real estate over the last year and half.

The goal of the event was to meet pioneers in the field, gain business advantages by learning more about the technology and ultimately learning to separate real opportunities from the hype. This event was incredibly useful as it helped clarify which changes blockchain technology will be making immediately and what’s still far off in the future. A reoccurring theme of the day was how blockchains can help provide and guarantee security, identity, and ownership while still operating at the speed of the internet.

Recently, MIT has published videos from the event and I would like to share three of my favorites as well provide my key takeaways from each talk.

Blockchain: Unlocking the Power and Potential

Brian Behlendorf

Brian Behlendorf is executive director of the Hyperledger Project. Behlendorf was a primary developer of the Apache Web server, the most popular Web server software on the Internet, and a founding member of the Apache Software Foundation. He has also served on the board of the Mozilla Foundation since 2003 and the Electronic Frontier Foundation since 2013.
From the video:

  • Brian shares the exact moment of when he realized the potential for blockchain technology. His “Ah-Ha” moment came after hearing of a land title project in Honduras that was being started to protect land ownership through decentralization of records.
  • In recent history, the digitization of systems has led to the centralization of systems. Brian explains how permissioned ledgers can begin to re-decentralizing how these systems work.
  • Brian then goes on to describe the opportunity and benefits that will come from the transformation of the traditional hub and spoke models to ledgers, and specifically how the roles of intermediaries in those models will shift over time.

What Could Go Wrong? When Blockchains Fail.

Emin Gün Sirer, Cornell University

Emin Gün Sirer is an associate professor of computer science at Cornell University. His research interests span distributed systems, security, and operating systems, with a particular emphasis on digital currencies and self-organizing systems. He runs the popular blog Hacking, Distributed.
From the video:

  • Emin Gün talks about what can happen when people and companies apply blockchains in a manner that is at odds with the science that is behind them. Setting the stage for his talk, Emin covers the history of how civilizations track wealth as well as how validity, immutability and apply to blockchains.
  • In recent years there have been a number major failures based on poor implementations. Emin goes into detail about the attack on the Ethereum based smart contract, The DAO, and how it was exploited for over $50 million dollars.
  • Emin warns audience members who are interested in running private permissioned technologies. These systems are built relying heavily on the fact that the network will be resilient to attack as long as the nodes fail independently.The problem here that many implementations that we are seeing today have every node on the network running the same code, making them al susceptible to the same vulnerabilities. Emin suggests the concept of N Version programming as a possible solution.

Transformation at Scale: Building Tomorrow’s Financial Markets Today

Amber Baldet, J.P. Morgan

Amber Baldet is the Executive Director, Blockchain Program Lead at J.P. Morgan. Established in 2015, J.P. Morgan’s Blockchain Center of Excellence sets a comprehensive blockchain strategy for the Corporate and Investment Bank, while also developing cutting edge technology, curating Strategic Investments, and performing client outreach.
From the video:

  • Amber explains what the future of JP Morgan’s client services could look like and what that means for their product offerings.
  • She goes on to explain how even though her company is focused on investment banking applications, they must be built with the same ethical design standards as blockchains inorder to avoid very imbalanced systems.
  • Amber finishes her presentation with a quick overview of JP Morgans first open source software product, Quorum, that allows for private and secure transactions on a public ethereum blockchain.

If you are interested in learning more, click here to view all the videos from the Business of Blockchain Event. I’ve also included links to all of NAR’s research below.


NAR Resources

White Papers:

Projects:

Previous Posts:

External Resources

Blockchain Solutions:

NAR’s Research into Blockchain

Blockchain Real Estate
CRT Labs was launched in August 2015 with the purpose of educating the REALTOR® membership about emerging technologies that could have a potential impact on the real estate industry. Since then, we have strongly advocated for proper security and privacy in today’s smart home, developed fantastic educational material for REALTORS®, and designed innovative and affordable solutions for monitoring indoor air quality.

Today, we are excited to be discussing blockchains, which we feel have countless applications for use in our industry. The purpose of this blog post is to give a basic explanation of what blockchains are, how they differ from traditional database models, and to provide an update on NAR’s research.

What Are Blockchains?

Blockchains are digital ledgers that are shared among a distributed network of computers and interested parties. These digital ledgers are permanent and tamper-proof because the underlying technology allows each participant on the network to interact with the ledger in a secure way without the need for a central administrator.

While that might sound complex and a bit difficult to understand, the basic idea behind blockchains is actually pretty straight forward.

Simply put, blockchains provide a verifiable, trustworthy record of events or transactions.

This digital record of events, or ledger, maintains a continuing growing list of ordered entries called blocks. Each block is linked to the next in chronological order and contains cryptographically secured information that links it to the previous block (like a chain). This allows for information to be added to the ledger in a manner that is impossible to alter retroactively.

What Are the Benefits to Blockchains?

Beyond the fact that they are tamper-proof by design, there are many other advantages to using blockchains instead of traditional databases in your applications.

Some of the key benefits:

  • Each participant retains its own copy of transactions, as ledgers are not centralized and can not be controlled or altered by a single party.
  • Blockchains allow for smart contracts, meaning the ledger itself can be programmed to trigger transactions automatically based on predefined, software-based clauses.
  • Decentralization of the data removes any single point of failure.

These benefits are often overlooked due to skepticism surrounding early blockchain applications involving digital currencies like Bitcoin. Although Bitcoin is the most successful example of a blockchain application, it is important to not equate the two.

Bitcoin uses blockchain technology, but Blockchains ≠ Bitcoin.

Why Is NAR Focusing on Blockchain Research?

Personally, I believe blockchain has the potential to be one the most impactful technologies of the next few decades.  I also predict we will begin to see more and more blockchain-based applications enter the mainstream real estate industry in next few years. After financial tech and supply chain management, the real estate market will be the target for entrepreneurs trying to disrupt traditional business models.

CRT Labs believes that smart contracts could greatly reduce the cost of doing business. The automated checks and balances these smart contracts provide will help REALTORS® and their clients get to the closing table faster and with less risk involved. We are also beginning to see the public sector getting involved. Chicago’s Cook County is testing Blockchain-Based Property Title Transfer which could help protect rights to property ownership records.

NAR’s short term goals are to create practical, open source blockchain applications that highlight the positive aspects of the technology that can also be used as case studies by our industry partners. Our first project uses blockchain to provide an improved method of sharing membership engagement levels (committee service, education history, CE Tracking) across all local, state, and national levels of the association. We are hoping that this initial work will help lay the groundwork for adoption of more high-impact projects in the future.

NAR’s Progress To Date

Since September 2015, NAR and CRT labs have:

  • met with NAR committees, advisory boards, and industry partners on over twenty occasions to discuss the potential of this new technology
  • published two white papers  ( 1, 2 )
  • released the source code for the prototype that what will soon become our membership engagement tracker.

Going Forward

Over the next  few months, I will be speaking at three conferences on this topic:

CRT Labs and NAR also plan to continue developing and sharing practical blockchain solutions.


NAR Resources

White Papers:

Projects:

Previous Posts:

External Resources

Blockchain Solutions: