Test Your Knowledge of Browser Privacy; The Amazing Benefits of Green Roofs; More in Five for Wednesday

illustration of someone incognito, with shadows and gradients

      1. Take a brief survey to find out how much you know (or don’t know) about Web browsers and their private modes. Misconceptions are apparently “significant.”
      2. And while you’re at it, review the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self-Defense Toolkit.
      3. New York City’s ginormous Javits Convention Center has a 6.75 acre green roof that reduces energy consumption and has saved the owners millions of dollars. There really need to be more of these in our cities.
      4. We’re several years into the smart watch lifecycle, and because of their size, watches and other wearables are still difficult to control. We’re betting we’ll see more projects like this, which turns your arm into a touchscreen.
      5. Pinterest is doing some amazing design and user experience work to make their services more accessible to those with visual impairments. Improved UX for all users isn’t just a good idea, it’s good business.

Coming Soon: Sending Money With Your Voice. Available Now: A FitBit That May Make Apple Nervous. Plus Three More Items in Five for Wednesday.

Welcome to Five for Wednesday, CRT Labs’ long-running (since March 2014!) series of curated tech stories. (Find all the previous posts here.)

 

a photograph of an Amazon Echo speaker

 

      1. Within the next year or so you’ll be able to send someone money via gear that’s running Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa.
        Parents with kids in college are NOT looking forward to this.
      2. FitBit continues their march into Apple territory with the release of their most Apple Watch-like wearable yet, the Versa.
      3. Why did Credit Karma acquire Penny, a personal finance app with a chat interface? Because they’re hoping the software will make it easier for folks to have conversations about things like qualifying for mortgages.
      4. Green tech and sustainability fans, check out the second residential structure that meets the requirements of the Living Building Challenge.
      5. Or maybe you’d rather live in one of these homes, whose owners really, really like smart home tech.

Navigating the Smart Home: Utilities and Insurance Companies

A picture of a man standing at a crossroads in a redwood forest. There is text on the picture that reads Navigating the Smart Home

NOTE: At this year’s REALTOR® Legislative Meetings, I was talking about our work with Andrew Sims, CEO of Dayton Area Board of REALTORS®. I shared with him things we talk to REALTORS® about in our presentations, and at one point, he said, ‘That should be written down somewhere.’ I realized immediately he was right. So, I’ll start by doing that in this post.

When we speak at associations and brokerages, our standard presentation includes a lot of information about why REALTORS® should care about smart homes. The biggest reason is because other industries that touch the housing market are getting involved. Utilities and insurance companies are creating rebates and programs around smart home technology. Smart home devices will allow you to do things like:

  • monitor and save energy
  • keep your home secure
  • prevent extensive damage to your property

Knowing what is available and who is offering it is a great information for you and your clients. We will include links to more information in this article.

Utilities

I realized immediately smart devices would mean big things for how consumers use energy when I first saw the Nest Thermostat in 2012. These devices help consumers save 10-15% in energy costs. As I traveled and spoke, however, members weren’t too keen on its $249 price tag at that time. But around 2014, REALTORS® began sharing stories of rebates from utilities and energy savings for their clients. They were even sharing stories of how the thermostats were paying for themselves in a short amount of time. These programs have only grown.

ComEd, Chicago’s largest electric utility, is offering $100 rebates on certain smart thermostats. They’ve even extended rebates (amounts vary) toward the purchases of light bulbs, power strips and security cameras, and has a site dedicated to selling smart home devices with instant rebates included. Check with your local electric and gas companies to see what rebates they may be offering on these devices.

Insurance

In the insurance industry, smart home devices are being offered as ways to reduce premiums and risk. Specific smart device types that can be up for discounts are:

  • Locks
  • Cameras
  • Water leak detectors
  • Smoke/CO alarms

One such insurer is Liberty Mutual, an NAR REALTOR Benefits® partner. They are giving away a Nest Protect smoke and CO detector and up to 5% off of insurance premiums. You can find all the life safety and security products included in Liberty Mutual’s program by searching the Liberty Mutual site.

Another insurance company with an interesting offering is State Farm. They are working with camera company Canary to provide discounts on burglar alarm insurance.

Educate Yourself So You Can Educate Clients

These are just a few examples of smart home promotions you can find outside our industry and share with your clients. Companies like Nest and Ecobee have rebates and rewards websites you can use to check and see what’s offered in your area. This is very fertile ground and there are a lot of opportunities for you to connect with your clients by educating them on these discounts and programs. Search your local area for opportunities for clients and make sure they know what’s out there.