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:

CRTLabs, Security & The Internet of Things

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As you may be aware, CRT & CRTLabs are focused on the Internet of Things and what it means for real estate. There are a couple of areas we are focused on in order to promote security for the consumer and for the device manufacturer. This focus is part of our holistic approach to the Internet of Things. Not only are we working with vendors, universities, NGOs & government agencies to improve the devices on the market, we also want to ensure that consumers and our membership are protected as best as possible. Currently, security can seem like an afterthought for vendors. We want to make sure they are taking it seriously as we educate our membership on the value of these devices.

Partnership with The Online Trust Alliance – Consumer Focused
Last week, NAR released a smart home checklist in partnership with the Online Trust Allianceº. This is a great tool for our members to provide to buyers and sellers. This checklist covers what to consider when it comes to smart home devices as well as some security best practices for routers, gateways and other networking mechanisms. As we move forward in this ‘always connected’ paradigm, having this checklist will only increase in value.

The smart home checklist was released during Cyber Security Month to highlight that when consumers and REALTORS think of cyber security, we need to think not only in the context of the online world, but also in the context of the real world as these smart sensors and nodes come online.

Along with our work on the checklist, CRT’s been reviewing the Online Trust Alliance’s IoT Trust Framework. This document is in its second draft and will be a guide for manufacturers and consumers in this space. Personally, I am interested in its potential as a springboard for a certification for IoT products. Follow Online Trust Alliance on twitter at @otalliance.

Partnership with BuildItSecure.ly – Vendor Focused
Another project focused on security is aimed at educating IoT vendors on its importance. BuilditSecure.ly is a group comprised of information security researchers who are stressing the importance of secure devices and code. You may remember the story about the hacking of the Jeep Cherokee this past summer. That work was done in partnership with a group called I Am the Calvalry who are stressing the importance of security for connected vehicles.

BuildItSecure.ly is an analogue for smart devices. It’s comprised of security researchers from all around the world focused on educating consumers and vendors on the importance of security for these devices. CRT is working to promote their work and partner with them on educating manufacturers to the importance of security.

One of the cool initiatives from BuildItSecure.ly is a program to harden the code for device manufacturers. Using a product called BugCrowd, vendors can offer ‘bug bounties’ on their code to verified info security researchers. This allows for an independent third party to review the code and help improve its security. It also frees up vendor resources and allows them to focus more on the features for their products. Follow BuildItSecure.ly on twitter at @builditsecurely.

What do you think?
As we push ahead in this space, we’d love to hear from you. Are there projects in Iot & Security you’re familiar with? Tweet your thoughts to @crtlabs.

º Note: CRT signed NAR up as a member of the Online Trust Allianace last month

CRTLabs is Here. It’s Time to Meet the Makers

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Over the past several months, we’ve been moving very fast at CRT. Our current body of work is focused on the Internet of Things and what it means for REALTORs and homeowners. Recently, I was interviewed by the Internet of Things Council talking about how we see our role in the Internet of Things space and how we see it playing out. You can watch it here:

Smart Homes & Quality of Life from (ITA) Illinois Technology Assoc. on Vimeo.

I’ll be posting a lot this week to give you a sense of where we’re going and what it means for us as an industry. One of the big announcements we have is the new CRTLabs. We started a lab so that we can work closely with universities, vendors, NGOs and government agencies to promote the value of our 1.1 million members. These different groups are seeing the value and they see NAR as a ‘path to communities’. Our members are in more properties than anyone else and are all over the world (including our global and commercial members). They know homes and what these devices could mean for improving quality of life in them. CRTLabs will work with these various groups to:

  • educate our membership
  • build hardware
  • test devices in the lab
  • poke holes in/harden/develop software
  • make feature recommendations
  • set up focus groups to improve/test products
  • provide field labs in various climates
  • review devices

In order to support these projects, we’ve hired two engineers for the lab who will drive the lion’s share of this work.

Christopher Coté is our Lead Lab Engineer and will work with me to drive the direction of the lab. We couldn’t be happier to have Chris on board and are already seeing some great things. Chris has experience outside our industry and most recently worked at Discovery.com and their spin-off company curiosity.com. Chris is passionate about the Internet of Things. He’s built and installed a number of devices in his place here in Chicago and his second home in Michigan. His thoughts around energy efficiency and environmental quality of a home are already being well received by vendors and universities. We very much look forward to the work he’s going to do.

Dave Conroy comes to us from the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS. He was their Director of IT and has moved to Chicago to join us as a Lab Engineer. Dave’s experience with associations is key for us in educating our membership on the topic of the Internet of Things. He’s also a maker. Dave’s been featured on the Makezine site for his work with a Raspberry Pi and voice translation. We are very excited to have him working with Chris.

Our lab space is a place where members can visit and see what we’re working on. You don’t need to fly to Chicago to see our lab, however. We’re going to work with associations to provide a virtual tour through one of our initial purchases for the lab, a Double Robotics Telepresence robot. This devices is one of our first test devices and we think it has value for members holding viewings for potential buyers who are either international or remote. We’ll write more about that later. If you happen to be in Chicago, don’t hesitate to stop by the 4th floor and visit us just across from the elevators.

Our current projects are focused on improving environmental quality sensing and energy efficiency. As we start this RESO conference, we had a great time participating in the plugfest and educating the industry on the value of these IoT devices not only for our membership, but for homeowners in general. We’ve set up a new twitter handle for the labs at @crtlabs where you can follow us. As always, questions and comments are always welcome. Click the following links to get access to our GitHub account and today’s presentation.