The Toughest Phones, What People Really Think About Facebook, and More in Five for Wednesday

photograph of cracked smartphone screen

      1. Everyone drops their phone eventually, but if you’re chronically slippery-handed, find out which smartphones are the hardest to break.
      2. Facebook has had a rough couple of months. Mozilla asked 47,000 people what they thought about the company and their role in protecting themselves online. The results are really interesting, and there’s an interactive tool you can use to look at the results.
      3. Machine learning and artificial intelligence may be able to predict when arguments online are about to get nasty.
      4. Tech companies have been selling facial-recognition systems to police departments, and it appears that at least one has implemented real-time analysis from cameras positioned in their city.
      5. Tread lightly with this one: PassProtect is a Chrome browser plug-in that will tell you how many times a password has been exposed in a data breach. PassProtect’s maker says it safe, but we’d probably use it at first just to see how many people really use “qwerty” or “letmein” as their passwords.

How New Construction Is Changing – from Alexa to Solar Power – and More on Five for Wednesday

solar panels on a roof


  1. Homebuilder Lennar has teamed up with Amazon to show off homes powered by Alexa. The model homes will feature a variety of smart devices, like Ring doorbells and Sonos speakers. Lennar previously was in talks to install Apple’s HomeKit into their new builds, but chose Amazon due to the company’s new smart home consultation business, which includes on-site customer service for new smart home buyers.
  2. California becomes the first state to require newly-constructed homes to be powered completely by solar energy. The California Energy Commission says that the law will lower greenhouse emissions as much as taking 115,000 cars off the streets.
  3. Elon Musk’s Boring Co is said to be looking at lowering housing costs by creating bricks out of the muck left behind from the Hyperloop projects in California. There’s no real cost-saving benefits so far from using the industrial runoff, but it would be interesting to see Musk’s HQ made out of the material, which will be molded to look like Lego.
  4. Looking to find out how autonomous vehicles work? Waymo has produced an awesome 360° video on how their cars use lidar, radar, and computer vision to see the road.
  5. Heading to the NAR Legislative meetings and looking to find out how these technologies and more will impact real estate? Head to the Emerging Business Issues and Technology Forum on Thursday 5/17 from 1PM-3PM eastern time to get a crash course on real estate technology.

The Philippines’ Pollution-Free City, Twitter’s Move Into Encrypted Messages, And More In Five For Wednesday

illustration of pollution being erased from a city skyline

      1. Would you move to a city that is dedicated to sustainability, permits only electric cars, and reserves two-thirds of its land for parks and other green space? New Clark City in the Philippines plans to be exactly that.
      2. Love Twitter direct messages but worried about your privacy? Twitter appears ready to tackle encryption-friendly competitors such as Signal.
      3. Not all Internet of Things (Iot) devices provide a strong defense against hacking, so new products that warn you if your smart home has been compromised are really nice to see.
      4. Speaking of smart homes: smart switches are a great place to start, but there are some things you should know before you buy and install them. (You can also read our guide to smart switches, part of CRT Labs’ Smart Home Simplified series.)
      5. Lastly, Apple is getting serious with apps that share your location data with third-parties, removing them from the App Store and forcing companies to resubmit their apps for review after they’re brought into line with Apple’s policies.

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.

Devices That Fold, A Really Different Way to Experience Email, and More in Five for Wednesday

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


illustration of two origami birds


      1. Rumors of foldable phones and tablets have been floating around for some time now. And while tons of things are patented that don’t wind up being built, we might see foldable form factors sooner than we thought.
      2. Smart watches can tap your wrist to, say, tell you to make a left-hand turn at the next stop light. But what if taps on your arm could “read” you your email?
      3. Estimates of the cost of cybercrime and cyberattacks reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars, which is why Microsoft President Brad Smith has started a “digital Geneva Convention.
      4. GrayKey is a device that can reportedly crack Apple device passwords fairly easily and quickly. Apple will most likely defeat this soon, but stories like this are always a good time to review your password practices. This article on GrayKey has some great security tips towards the end.
      5. If facial recognition has you a bit freaked out, you might not want to know that identifying faces from thermal imagery may be just around the corner.

Warranty Stickers Don’t Mean Anything; Fire-Detecting Wallpaper; More in Five for Wednesday

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


illustration of peeling off a sticker


      1. Those “warranty void if removed” stickers on your computers and other possessions don’t mean a thing, according to the FCC. The upshot’s not merely aesthetic: the FCC is reminding all of us that manufacturers cannot put repair restrictions on their products.
      2. Wallpaper that contains nanowires made from two substances can detect if your house is on fire. Wow.
      3. Lots of buyers choose to buy a particular house because of the near-by amenities. This company thinks locally sourced, year-round fresh produce is one of those amenities. (This author happens to agree.)
      4. Just because we carry miniature computers in our pockets doesn’t mean we sometimes don’t need to get into our home computers from afar. Here are three of the best ways to access a computer remotely.
      5. Google Pixel phones will soon be able to send spam calls to voicemail. (Other Android devices can already do this.) Find out more here.