#015-Things Thursday: Learning to Love Security & the Smart Home Simplified

A picture of a heart-shaped padlock on a metal bar with a city in the background.

Security continues to be the topic du jour of the smart home security. Let’s hope it’s more than just lip service.

Security is looming huge on the smart home horizon. I’ve been having more and more interview requests on the topic of the smart home and what we are doing to help members protect their clients. In this weeks Things Thursday, you’ll see a few on security, plus a new section of our site! Check it out below.

  1. How to Build a Hack-Proof Smart Home (via Mansion Global)
    Okay, I am not a fan of the title, but there’s some good advice on this site. Pair it with our Smart Home Checklist and you’ve taken some good steps to securing your smart home. They recommend regular password updates and changes and password managers to keep track of your passwords. This is good, practical advice and you should consider employing it. I would not go so far to declare the home will be hack-proof, but hey, headlines sell, right?
  2. Discover the Top Smart Home Security Systems of 2017 (via ReadWrite)
    Nice list of a few systems that you may want to employ to make your home safer. Scout is a local Chicago company who are continually working to improve the experience of their system. I am surprised to not see the Canary Smart Camera on here, as their product has encrypted hardware and software on it. They’ve done a great job of making a secure product. They also have partnered with State Farm to offer discounts on burglar alarm insurance if you install one of their cameras.
  3. Apple’s Website Now Has a Useful List of Smart Home Gadgets That Work with Homekit (via The Verge)
    Apple’s making efforts to promote Homekit an dhave now published a web page intended to make it easier for you to find devices that works with its Homekit system. The system has been slow to roll out and I think that is due to the Homekit onboarding process. Not only is software involved, but hardware as well, as Apple requires the addition of an encrypted hardware chip into the smart device. This has proven to be a challenge for companies and has lead to longer development times. BUT, there is a reason for that. Apple’s trying to build a hack-proof system. Some good products listed on here.
  4. Smart Home Simplified by CRT Labs (via this here site.)
    Okay, you want to start talking to clients about smart home tech, but don’t know where to start? You want the basics on what devices are out there? Well, say no more. We have you covered. This week, we’ve released our series of pdfs and web pages called Smart Home Simplified. These documents explain the basics of smart home tech by looking at the device verticals. So far, we have papers on:

    1. Doorbells
    2. Thermostats
    3. Locks
    4. Cameras
    5. Lights
    6. Air Quality Sensors

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.

#014-Things Thursday: Bad bear, wifi parking, and more

An overhead shot of intersecting streets in a dense urban environment at night.

Strides are being made in urban connectivity, but toys are causing IoT nightmares. Do we need internet enabled teddy bears? Also, a major manufacturer is entering the air quality market.

  1. Acer is making an air quality monitor (via Engadget)
    Acer is known for laptops but now seem to be entering the smart home market with an air quality sensor. The device isn’t out yet, but will hit the market this summer. They’ll be looking for carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter (pm2.5 – fine dust and pm10 – pollen), temperature and humidity. Sounds intriguing. No word on pricing.
  2. Smart Road to Parked Car: Talk to Me (via IEEE Spectrum)
    As we add more smart cars and smart city infrastructure, how do we make sure the network connected devices stay connected? Well, there’s a group at Carnagie Mellon looking at how to do this using parked cars. Check it out.
  3. Light up your house for less with our illuminating guide to LED bulbs (via DigitalTrends)
    A really nice explainer on LEDs and how to compare watts and lumens as well as many other factors that go into choosing. Also, do you need smart bulbs? Find out in this great piece.
  4. Electronic teddy bears the latest target for hackers (via ReadWrite)
    Another year, another internet enabled toy hacked. Come on guys. Seriously. To quote the article, ‘Just because you can connect something, doesn’t mean you should.’ Either beef up your security or don’t connect it.

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.

#013-Things Thursday – Ring-a-ding-ding, smart city progress & more

A graph showing the air quality for Louisville Kentucky. Anything that is 51 or above is moderate air quality. Anything 50 and below is good air quality. In Louisville, from 02/06/17 to 02/16/17, the air quality was reported as mostly good.

Using smart city data that is available through open services, I was able to create this graph on Louisville air quality. Anything 50 and below is good air quality and anything above that is moderate air quality.

It looks like Amazon and Google are looking to use their voice hubs as a way to make calls. Also, smart cities need best practices just like smart homes. What about the niche of smart home security becoming a fertile ground for startups?

  1. How the Internet of Things inspired a new startup niche (via Entrepreneur)
    With a diverse array of devices from a large set of manufacturers, security of the connected home could be compromised. Enter devices and services to help secure your devices. Entrepreneur puts together a round up of companies who are trying to help make the smart home more secure.
  2. Amazon Echo and Google Home want to be your new house phone (via Engadget)
    As Amazon tries to even the playing field in the communications services with its release of Chime, their version of Google Hangouts, Engadget ponders what it would mean for the Amazon Echo or Google Home to become a communications hub. There are a lot of hurdles to clear before this happens, but being able to quickly communicate through these devices is something I look forward to.
  3. Smart cities get connectivity guidance from Connected City Blueprint (via readwrite)
    A smart city will become a data-rich platform for a REALTORS’ business. Micro-climate data, traffic flow, pedestrian flow and air quality will all become data points in the listings of the future. So, what smart cities are missing right now are a blueprint, or best practices, for deployment. Enter the Connected City Blueprint. It allows for cities to collaborate and share their experiences, helping those who are starting on the smart city path see what hurdles others have encountered.
  4. How’s the air up there? In Louisville, you can just ask your lightbulbs (via C|NET)
    For cities moving into the smart city arena, Louisville may be a great example of how to do it. They recently partnered with IFTTT to provide smart city data through their services. So, you can make your Philips Hue bulb change color to indicate air quality. Or, you can graph air quality of Louisville (see image above). It’s pretty cool. I created an applet to capture air quality data when it changes and put it in a Google Sheet. It took me about 3 minutes to set this up. Once more cities do things like this, we may have an amazing repository to pull from and create some cool mashups of real estate data and smart city data.

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.

#012-Things Thursday – Voice, Memory and Security

Picture of a passport with tickets. Google home can now help you locate where you left things. Just tell it where you put it and it will hold onto the information.

OK Google, where’s my passport?

What if your smart devices can help you remember where you put things? Well now they can. Also, security is becoming increasingly important.

  1. Google Home Can Help You Find Misplaced Items (via lifehacker)
    In the voice assistant wars, Google just released what I think is my new favorite feature. The ability to remember where you’ve placed things. As an example, let’s say I put my keys on my dresser. I can tell Google where they are and then ask later where they are. So, I say, ‘OK Google, my keys are sitting on my dresser.’ The Google Home will repeat what I told it to show me it has captured what I said. Later, when I need my keys, I say, ‘OK Google, where are my keys?’ The Google Home will replay my answer. Pretty cool.
  2. Why Alexa Is Winning The Smart Home War (And What’s Next For Amazon’s Assistant) (via Wareable)
    As a counter to the Google Home above, Amazon is not to be outdone. Wareable says that they are in the lead and have the tools to keep them there for quite a while. They’re deployment base is larger and they have a very versatile API right now. What’s next for the Echo? Find out in this article.
  3. Security Is The Categorical Imperative Of The Internet Of Things (via readwrite)
    I don’t have anything to add to that. It’s extremely necessary that IoT companies start with security when building their products. We are pushing on this and consumers need to start demanding it as well.

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.

#011-Things Thursday: Which voice to use & what smart cities mean for you

A man working with one of the first televisions. The screen is about 3" inches big.

CE-Yes or CE-No? Some of the stuff was pretty head scratching at CES this year. Engadget gives you the scoop on the baddies.

In this week’s Things Thursday, we look at the pros and cons of the Amazon Echo and Google Home, as well as what makes a smart city valuable and who were the let downs at CES. Oh, speaking of CES, tomorrow our own Dave Conroy will give you a download of his findings at CES during our Facebook Live Office Hours at the NEW TIME of 3p EST!!!

  1. 5 key books to put on your reading list to understand IoT (via ReadWrite)
    The space is moving fast and there are a lot of challenges around IoT. This list is has a good mix of what’s happening, what’s coming and what you need to look out for. These will be in CRT’s library for sure.
  2. How a Smart City Tackles Rainfall (via Data-Smart City Solutions)
    Smart city data will become one of those components that will transform real estate. We will know more about how we’re living and that will go a long way to impact how people feel about properties, how we develop and impact decisions on where to live. One way we can get ahead of this is by seeing what’s out there and better understanding the technology and the opportunities and challenges it presents. One of the larger efforts happening in this arena is right here in Chicago. The Array of Things is coming online and this article talks about how it is already helping city planners think about how they tackle issues like stormwater runoff. Creating a green infrastructure is happening all over the world and smart city initiatives like the Array of Things will most likely lend to an increase in this trend. This is a good read.
  3. CES 2017: How the tiny Intel Compute Card could revolutionize IoT device management (via TechRepublic)
    This idea makes sense to me. It’s in line with how the Array of Things (above) is looking ot operate. Hot-swappable hardware that can be upgraded on the fly. Intel’s version is a credit-card sized computer that can be removed and upgraded in the future, thus helping with the cycle of security and maintenance updates needed for devices. This is a great step in getting there. Still, if you have a ton of devices with these in them, it could become costly and onerous to manually move and update…but then again, you’d need to install new equipment anyway. You see my problem? I’m never happy. Kudos to Intel for thinking in this way. Let’s see if others follow this modular approach.
  4. Wading through the Internet of Crap (via Engadget)
    I kind of wish Engadget would stop pulling punches with these unclear headlines. 😉 – Seriously, they’ve got some opinions. There were a lot of head scratchers at CES and I agree with the list pretty much down the line. They quote Nick Offerman – ‘sometimes the best tech is low-tech’. I agree. Tomorrow, our own Dave Conroy will give you a download of his findings at CES during our Facebook Live Office Hours at the NEW TIME of 3p EST!!!
  5. Part A: What can Amazon Echo do that Google Home can’t? (via The Real Daily)
    Part A is a very good overview of the benefits of the Amazon Echo over the Google Home. For fair comparison, only the Echo and Home were compared and not the cheaper Echo Dot because there is no Google Home equivalent. Great and fair comparison. Echo currently leads in smarthome integrations, but my opinion is this is temporary. A huge puzzler for me is how well Google Calendar works with the Amazon Echo, but not with Google Home. Not sure how Google missed that…
    Part B: What can Google Home do that Amazon Echo can’t? (via The Real Daily)Part B looks at where Google Home shines. It doesn’t shine in an existential debate with itself, that’s for sure. For me? I like the speaker better and it seems the voice search capabilities are MUCH better. Of course, Amazon doesn’t have 18 years of web search history to train its voice assistant either. To me, Google seems the more natural to communicate with of the two by way of functionality. In fact, my parents, who are typically pretty technophobic, bought one after visiting my house for the holidays and using one. I would say definitely read these companion pieces and decide which fits your needs better. On a side note, either one of these devices would make a GREAT CLOSING GIFT!!!!

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.

#010 – Things Thursday – Dotdot, Obsidian and IoT patching contest

Photo of a silhouette of a man walking in front of a multitude of colorful lights


Well, CES is underway and some of the fun and crazy stuff is trickling out. Smart hairbrushes and smart spoons to name a couple of curious items. Today, we’ll look at some of the good and some of the challenging products being announced this week.

  1. Kwikset goes keyless with its ‘Obsidian’ smart lock (via Engadget)
    This one in particular has me perplexed. What if the power source for the lock goes out? What if you lose connectivity??? I don’t agree with this lock, BUT I’ve yet to work with it. We will probably get one and test so you don’t have to. The Obsidian will go for $230.
  2. Netatmo takes on Nest (again) with smart smoke alarm (via Wareable)
    We’ve had Netatmo products in the lab since we opened our doors. They make a really great air quality sensor and indoor camera. It doesn’t look like this smoke detector does CO, like the nest Protect.No word on pricing yet.
  3. ZigBee’s Dotdot language is the latest bid for IoT harmony (via ITWorld)
    One of the internet of things’ greatest challenges is interoperability. Who owns the connection between the things? Zigbee is one of the several protocols out there for IoT and now, the Zigbee Alliance is trying to create a universal language for IoT. From the article:

    It defines things like how devices tell each other what they are and what they can do, which is important for making different objects around a home do things together…For example, if you install a new connected light fixture in the living room and want it to turn on whenever the front door is opened, the connected lock or sensor in the door will need to know that such a light is out there and be able to send commands to it.

    Who knows if this will be the new standard that rules, but it’s great to see the effort come forth.

  4. FTC sets $25,000 price for automatic IoT patching (via ComputerWorld)
    Very excited to see this initiative from FTC. The challenges of patching of IoT products has been something we’ve talked about internally and because of the amount and scale of devices being released, this isn’t going to be easy. Submissions are being taken between March and May. The winners will be announced in July.

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.