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.

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.

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.

What You Need to Know About Vintage LED Lightbulbs, Changes to Google Search, and More in Five for Wednesday

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

 

a photograph of an LED lightbulbs with vintage aesthetics

 

      1. CNET has a nice roundup of modern (LED) lightbulbs that sport an older aesthetic (including some information on how they work in smart homes).
      2. If you’ve been dragging your feet making your web site mobile-friendly, Google is not-so-subtly reminding you to do so: they’ve begun indexing and ranking pages based on the mobile versions of web sites.
      3. If you’re worried about what you’ve heard recently about Facebook and their use of your data (but want to keep using Facebook), check out Firefox’s new browser extension. Here’s a nice summary of it, as well as information from Mozilla itself.
      4. Here’s another twist on the autonomous vehicle revolution: what if it weren’t a computer and the cloud that was in charge of driving, but a human driving a simulation of the car you’re in?
      5. Check out these augmented reality postage stamps: view the illustration of an historic building with your smartphone, and see a 3D model of it. And now imagine how cool it would be if the postcards you send prospective clients did the same thing.

DIRTT – Doing It Right This Time

We investigate all sorts of real estate technologies here in CRT Labs, and recently we were able to stop by the Chicago offices of DIRTT Environmental Solutions. DIRTT, an acronym meaning “Doing It Right This Time,” is a company that is trying to revolutionize how we solve interior environmental solutions. DIRTT’s sophisticated technology turns 2D architectural drawings into 3D models as well as AR/VR landscapes, allowing clients to really visualize themselves in their newly designed spaces.

Before we check out DIRTT’s technology (presented in a Facebook Live Office Hours tour of their Chicago space), let’s talk a bit about AR, VR, and what they bring to the real estate field. First, we need to define the terms and talk about how they are the same – and how they are different. Augmented Reality (AR) is a live view (usually through a phone) of the world around you with overlays of digital information. This can take many forms, from the playful way Pokémon Go uses the phone camera to allow you to “catch” Pokémon in the real world, or in a more serious way through digital information displayed about a location while you’re there. Think of the second example as a digital visual version of the old school museum tour headsets you might rent while you’re at an art gallery. In real estate, AR can be used to not only enhance interior and exterior design choices in the building and remodeling process, but offers a fresh way to display listing information while at the home itself. There are dozens of applications for augmented real estate-specific apps (as showcased late last year in the New York Times), with more popping up every day. Augmented reality apps could become vital to the real estate market, especially as computer rendering techniques begin to get more sophisticated and start to look more like “real” furniture. Virtual reality (VR), unlike its augmented counterpart, creates (and/or recreates) entire environments with completely digital techniques. It often requires specialized hardware, which has grown and changed over the past two decades. Recently, a company called Oculus has become the frontrunner in the space, most notably due to their acquisition by Facebook. VR’s main output has been in the video gaming sphere, but just like augmented reality, the possibilities for real estate are currently endless, especially in the design/construction fields. Having a hard time envisioning a space after a remodel? Strap on an Oculus Rift and immerse yourself in the redesign.

VR and AR are very similar – and can even work together, as seen in our Facebook Live at DIRTT. Using augmented reality’s focus on overlapping information over real world images, and VR’s creation of entire environments, DIRTT is rethinking how we look at the built environment. To learn more about how AR/VR blend together at DIRTT, check out our Facebook Live Office Hours below.

CRT Labs Office Hours: DIRTT from CRTLabs on Vimeo.

To find out more about companies making waves in real estate technology, like our Facebook page and stay tuned for more Facebook Live Office Hours. Is there a tech company you’d be interested in learning more about? Contact us and let us know about them – and we might even feature them on a future Facebook Live!

CRT Labs Predicts: 2018 In Technology

crt_predicts_2018

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.

Adrienne:
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).

Akram:
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.

Chad:
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.

Dave:
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.

Joe:
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.