CRT Labs Predicts: 2018 In Technology


What lies ahead in 2018? The team takes our best guesses for the future in our second annual year-in-tech predictions post. As expected, we think blockchain is going to be the hot technology trend of 2018, but we also take a look at smart home tech, smart city (and smart farming) initiatives, and more.

In 2018, we’re going to see more things bought in online marketplaces than offline at retail establishments. More people will be ordering takeout on Grubhub than will be dining in at their favorite restaurants, and other traditional retail establishments will really need to start thinking about their online presence. We’ve been staring this shift in the face for a while, but with Amazon buying up Whole Foods, I think we’re about to see the scales tip in favor on online buying. What does this mean for real estate? I think big purchases are safe for now – nothing can replace the one-on-one service a REALTOR® gives to their clients – but I do expect there to be some larger attempts at “disruption” in that space, whether it be through an uptick in using Bitcoin to pay for a house, or apps connecting buyers and sellers, or something completely new (and no, not robots…I hope).

After the first few city-wide implementations of sensors to monitor weather, air quality and traffic (such as the Array of Things in Chicago), we may see similar implementations in various other cities. This may not have immediate impact on public transportation, awareness or health this year, but data collection and analysis may prove to be useful to build on services for the coming years. The housing market may have a steady growth, with more millennials now looking to buy homes, although in some larger cities, renting may prove to be more cost effective. In 2018, there will be a wider implementation of smart home devices as they get more popular, with voice assistants becoming almost human-like in responses, but not necessarily in understanding various dynamics and social constructs in language. More items in the household may have a “smart” feature, such as furniture, doors and appliances such as refrigerators and washers. With an increase in such devices, there will be a need for interoperability, and we may see a development of a standard protocol for most common smart home devices, so they can exchange data between each other. With the increase in devices connected to the internet, encryption and privacy will yet again be a concern. There may be a wide-scale attack on popular IoT devices, leading to a leak in personal lifestyle information, which can be more crucial than just a social security number. We may also see a series of small scale attacks with companies rushing to address bugs. Cryptocurrency can be completely overturned in 2018, with governments cracking down on mining operations and increasing amount of legislations in place to control it. The bitcoin bubble may finally burst, but it may lead to increased awareness of the technology itself. Blockchain applications can see a wider implementation, however, this largely depends on the understanding of the fundamentals of blockchain by individuals and corporations.

Renewables will continue to heat up as it was recently announced that it is now cheaper to produce energy using solar, wind, hydrothermal and geothermal than fossil fuels. This return to using nature for us to thrive will manifest itself in another way as well. We will see a large growth of biophilic architecture (plants incorporated into building design) as well as urban agriculture. Companies, like Plenty, are receiving large rounds of funding and cities are starting to wise up to the benefits of locally produced food. From more community gardens to the use of hydroculture for indoor growing year round, cities will begin investing this and seeing it as a crucial part of their smart city missions. This will also mean the boon of microfarmers as part of the gig economy. They will be key in this movement.

I believe 2018 will be another breakout year for blockchain and digital currencies. More enterprises will enter the pilot stage as others move into production. The number of active blockchain related projects went from 26,000 in 2016 to over 86,000 in 2017*. We should start seeing more of these projects reach maturity. Specifically, in real estate, we will see escrow and title companies leveraging blockchain to help improve the real estate transfer process.  *From analysis of public code repositories on Github, an annual report by Deloitte.

I have two predictions for 2018.
2017 was the year net neutrality was repealed; 2018 will be the year in which we feel the effects. And sadly, we’ll feel them sooner than a lot of people think. Some internet service providers have pledged not to throttle or block sites, and not to set up fast lanes. Those pledges will prove to be meaningless, especially as more consumers become cable TV cord cutters. Paid prioritization of web content will be how ISPs try to reclaim the money they’re losing, and it’s going to get very ugly very fast.
Unrelated: Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey will leave his perch by the end of Q2.


Things Thursday #017: Security cameras run amok and how to help aging populations with IoT

A security camera with a blue overcast light on the entire image

Security cameras are ubiquitous. Are the intended audiences the only ones observing through these? Check out the post below from Cujo.


In this Things Thursday, we look at security for now and for the future, and how technology will impact the aging population.

  1. Watch a video of how a camera gets hacked (via Cujo)
    The link above comes from an internet firewall vendor, but it’s relevant to security and what’s happening with the internet of things. Because of the rush to scale security systems years ago, there are tons of systems that are susceptible to programs like Mirai. Watch the video to see how easy it can be to hack a camera. As the post says, only buy cameras from companies that are adhering to security practices. One example for you to look at is Canary.
  2. How will IoT change the lives of our aging population? (via ReadWrite)
    At CRT, we’ve been discussing this exact use case since we started the labs. What will the internet of things mean for accessibility for the aging and disabled populations? K4Communications is working on this problem, as they believe there is value in smart building tech beyond the flashy. We agree. We will be watching the work of this company.
  3. Thinking of using voice authentication? Think again! (via Embedded)
    Voice as a tool for authentication holds promise. There are challenges to it, however. Enter Lyrebird…a software platform intended to synthesize any voice and change intonation to make it sound more natural. The article looks at a biometric company called TrulySecure and the challenges around using voice for authentication. It’s definitely a good read.

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

Smile for the Camera? Considerations for Using Surveillance Technology

Our next guest blogger is Jessica Edgerton, associate counsel at the National Association of REALTORS®. Following Lee Adkins’ post about voice assistant hubs, we wanted to share a look at the legality of having cameras and microphones in homes for sale.

Real estate agents and sellers sometimes use video recording devices to monitor open houses and walk-throughs. The motivations for surveillance are varied, and can be compelling. Video recording can offer an added layer of security for real estate agents conducting solo showings or open houses in remote areas. A prominently posted notice that security cameras are in place may act as a deterrent for physical attacks, theft, and vandalism. Some sellers and real estate agents may even use recordings to gain insight into a home’s marketability.

Canary Camera set up in CRT Labs

Canary Camera set up in CRT Labs

While surveillance technology can offer many benefits during the home-selling process, it is important to consider the possible legal implications. In general, individuals have the right to control legal activities within their own home. However, every state has privacy laws addressing the ways in which people may be permissibly recorded, and these laws vary widely. In addition, the laws governing audio surveillance versus video surveillance are not the same. It is therefore essential that homeowners and real estate professionals consult with an attorney prior to setting up any surveillance as part of a sales plan.

Video-Only Surveillance

Video surveillance is generally permissible in any situation where an individual does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Because it would be unreasonable to expect privacy while one is in public, the ubiquitous presence of video cameras on street corners, at banks, and in public transportation is entirely within the bounds of the law. Similarly, if a video camera records a prospective buyer walking into a home’s entryway with her real estate agent during an open house, she would have a difficult time claiming that she had had a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, if the buyer steps into a bathroom to use the facilities, she would almost certainly – and reasonably – expect privacy. Therefore, homeowners should avoid installing cameras in bathrooms, even if the homeowner’s intent in doing so is both reasonable and innocent – for example, as an effort to prevent the theft of prescription drugs. (Instead, sellers should always make sure that medicines, weapons, and valuables are securely locked up or taken off-site during showings.)

Audio Surveillance

With very limited exceptions, audio surveillance laws in every state require the consent of one or all parties to a recorded conversation. Know your state laws prior to utilizing any recording device that captures audio.

Ethical Considerations

In addition to legal considerations, sellers and real estate agents should consider the ethical and reputational implications of making surreptitious recordings. The following best practices can help avoid reputational debacles involving recording devices:

  • Provide Notice. Consider providing prior notice when recordings may be made during a showing. You can post the notice in the MLS or on the property, or send notification via email prior to showings and open houses. In addition, if any cameras have an audio recording function, be sure to disable the audio function or get all necessary consents pursuant to your state’s laws.
  • Keep Recordings To Yourself. Never publish or share any recording you make of other people without their consent. The only exception to this is if you happen to record possible criminal activity – in that case, you should discuss the incident with the police, and provide them with the recording upon their request.

A Note to Buyers’ Agents: Don’t Take Privacy For Granted

Buyers and their agents should keep in mind that nanny-cams, surveillance cameras, mobile phones, laptops, and tablets are all capable of recording video and, in many cases, audio. Prior to any walk-through or open house, buyers’ agents should consider advising their clients of the possibility of hidden recording devices. A good practice is to simply save all thoughts on a house until everyone is back on the sidewalk.

Jessica Edgerton is associate counsel at NAR. Her work includes extensive membership education and outreach. She is a regular speaker on the subjects of cyber fraud, cybersecurity, and legal risk mitigation for real estate professionals. She contributes to REALTOR® Magazine, AE Magazine, and RIS Media on a wide range of risk management topics.

Smart Home Compatibility FAQs (Part 2)

Today’s post is written by Lee Adkins, founder of Amplified Solutions, and continues with his series about Smart Home Tips for REALTORS® with information about setting up smart home devices, and for REALTORS® who encounter these devices when buying and selling homes.

Smart home devices are fun and trendy now, but this trend is here to stay. As a REALTOR®, you should have a basic familiarity with these devices, what they do and how that affects your clients and your clients’ transactions. The two devices here are generally what we would call voice assistant hubs. They are fully functional on their own, but also work with and to control other devices as well. There are a lot of similarities, but they do have differences in their speech patterns and tempos and their general compatibilities. Amazon Echo allows 3rd party developers to add “Skills” for Alexa (think Apps) and Google Home is actually a more of a closed system at this time (with developers creating apps, but having a more limited number at the moment). BOTH devices currently only can be connected to one account at a time – eventually, it would be great to see them be able to recognize the users voice and access their specific calendar, music and other accounts.

Pro Tips:

  • Both these devices record data when activated AND both show requests to the owner via an app. While it might be fun to play with someone else’s toys while in a home, be respectful and be careful what you or your clients say
  • On a similar note, cameras and microphones, in general, are cheaper and easier to set up than ever before. Be mindful when showing homes (ed. note: more about that below).
  • CRT Labs has recently published Smart Home Simplified guides to help you learn more about possible smart home devices and what makes each type unique.


Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo

What does it do?
The Amazon Echo is a voice controlled “hub” that can answer questions, tell you about your day/schedule. It can also control a number of devices by other manufacturers.

What is needed to run it?
AC (wall) power, wi-fi network and app on your phone for setup.

Can you “relocate” it?
YES! It is completely mobile and generally wouldn’t be included in a home purchase/sale, but would remain with owner unless documented otherwise.

Difficulty of set up:
The Amazon Echo is very easy to set up. It will basically walks you through a wizard on the app when you first plug it in.

Currently $179 on Amazon with free 2-day shipping for Prime members.

General uses and compatibility tips:

  • Personally, I use mine for a fun fact in the mornings (just say, “Alexa, Good morning”) and then ask about the weather, in my city or wherever I’m traveling to
  • Scheduling or just getting a “daily briefing” on your calendar
  • Answers to general questions
  • Using the grocery/shopping list feature
  • Using the timer or other hands-free options while cooking or otherwise involved in something else.Playing music via Amazon Prime (commercial free, your playlists, etc)

Here is a complete list of devices that are compatible with Amazon Echo.

Google Home

What does it do?
Google Home is a voice controlled “hub” that can answer questions, tell you about your day/schedule. It of course works very well with the data you already have in your google account. It can also control a number of devices by other manufacturers.

What is needed to run it?
AC (wall) power, wi-fi network and app on your phone for setup.

Can you “relocate” it?
YES! It is completely mobile and generally wouldn’t be included in a home purchase/sale, but would remain with owner unless documented otherwise.

Difficulty of set up:
Very Easy – Google Home will walk you through a wizard on the app when you first plug it in.

Currently $129 in the Google store and available at several major retailers.

General uses and compatibility tips:

  • Reviewing or adding items to your Calendar (obviously, connected to your Google account)
  • Answers to general questions, powered by Google
  • Basically searching Google – local restaurants, traffic, etc.
  • Play songs from Google Play or Spotify account (even filter explicit songs)
  • It of course works well with Chromecast and YouTube as well as Nest products (since they are all also owned by Google)
  • Play podcasts (a little better than Echo for this)
  • It also has a shopping list feature

Additional Thoughts:
Google Home isn’t currently compatible fully with G Suite (paid Google account, previously known as Google Apps for Business) – Calendar, Google Payments and Uber features currently don’t work with G Suite accounts, but do work with free Gmail accounts. The easiest remedy would be to connect to a free Google account, which might be better if you don’t own the G suite organization you are connecting anyway. However, there’s an extra step if you are the super admin to allow your G Suite account to work – that info is can be found here

Here is a complete list of devices that are compatible with Google Home.

Adrienne from CRT Labs here! I wanted to add some information to Lee’s post about homes that are for sale and have a voice hub inside them. The Amazon Echo and Google Home both are always listening, and thus capable of easy recording – they are programmed to function so that when a “wake word” is spoken, the device will be active, but the device is always passively listening for their specific wake words. If you and your clients are uncomfortable having a recording device on, please speak with the listing agent of the home about turning these devices off when the home is being shown. This is very simple on both devices – the Echo has a button on top, and the Google Home on the side, for turning off the microphone, and both devices have visual feedback to confirm that the microphones are indeed off. NAR’s Jessica Edgerton has written a blog post for us, coming later this week, about security devices such as cameras in homes for sale, and goes into depth on the legal aspects of them; we will link to that blog post when it’s live, as it will cover some of the same issues microphones have.

Lee Adkins is the Founder of Amplified Solutions – a consulting company focused on operational excellence for real estate teams and brokerages. He has served in many leadership and committee roles at the State and Local Associations and is currently a Vice President at the Atlanta REALTORS Association. He frequently teaches and speaks at various conferences around the country. Visit to learn more or find free resources, tools and suggested reading list.