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Amazon Alexa just hit a milestone, do you know all of its capabilities?

(TECHNOLOGY) AI offers a myriad of possibilities. While it can be extraordinarily overwhelming, don’t just find four things you like and stick to it, but continue exploring.

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amazon alexa ai

Get ready for takeover

As AG’s self-appointed correspondent on the robot apocalypse, I note with some interest that Alexa, one of the “clearly named with a supervillain in mind” entries in the ongoing race for consumer artificial intelligence, has passed 15,000 distinct AI skills. I am perturbed. Perturbed, I am.

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I don’t know about y’all, but I have maybe 15 skills, and this is the best one. Let me be the first to welcome our soft-voiced, bluelit conquerors.

Ahead by a mile

Tripling my troubles is the fact that the closest competitors aren’t even in the neighborhood, with Google Assistant and Cortana chalking up a measly 378 and 65 respectively.

We officially have a leader in the race for Skynet.

More importantly, however, those numbers, collected by VoiceBot but confirmed by the companies, show a trend in AI tech that, for consumers to get the most out of their equipment needs to come in tandem with changes in tech usage.

Everyone uses technology for different things

There were probably different factions glowering at each other around the Lunch Rock over whether hand-axes were better for hunting, hacking or hygiene. What unites us all, however is that pretty much all of us, your humble narrator emphatically included, uses only a tiny fraction of his devices’ various functions.

Real talk: if you replaced my laptop with a typewriter that played death metal at regular intervals, there’s an excellent chance I wouldn’t notice.

And yet, I am given to understand, computers do other things.

Amazon’s insane 15,000 units of functionality are that problem raised by an order of magnitude. Ruts abound in consumer tech, whether it’s “email, spreadsheet, game” or “notifications, calendar, selfie” or my own “article, Tetris, Swedish men shouting at one another.”

That’s silly enough with a tablet or smartphone, both of which are designed to optimize that behavior.

AI is an opportunity to break those ruts for good, to run your thermostat or chat with your favorite Disney character without having to get out of your chair, let alone break workflow.

Here we are

Alexa, Cortana, Siri – seriously, I’m never going to get over the 70s SF names – really aren’t just smartphones that talk anymore. Frankly, they were for a while. But ever since the last holiday, when orders for Alexa in particular went through the flippin’ heliopause, AI has begun to deliver on its promise of a brighter, more interactive, more interesting world.

Don’t miss it.

#ExploreAI

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Real Estate Technology

What can Amazon Echo do that Google Home can’t?

(TECH NEWS) For those of us who weren’t good enough to receive an Amazon Echo from Santa, now is the time to put in the research for next year’s letter.

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Amazon Echo

A tough decision

This holiday season an unprecedented amount of home assistants were sold across the U.S. Google Home and Amazon Echo showed up in tons of households. For those of us who weren’t good enough to receive one from Santa, now is the time to put in the research for next year’s letter.

Here’s some reasons you should ask Amazon Echo to prom instead of Google Home.

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Major considerations

Price point
The Echo costs $180, but cheaper versions in the Amazon family are available if you don’t need all of the fancy-pants features.  Google Home doesn’t currently have any less expensive options.

To control the Echo when you’re out of range, you can purchase a $30 remote. The Google Home equivalent is around $130.

Speakers
If you don’t like the Amazon speakers, you can use third-party speakers. Right now Google doesn’t have any official options for non-Home speakers. Google Home also can’t pair with Bluetooth speakers (not that you need to, but it would be a nice option).

Voice Control
With the Echo, you can change the wake word (what tells the device to listen) to either “Amazon” or “Echo” if “Alexa” isn’t suiting you. Google Home requires you say “OK Google” or “Hey Google,” so Amazon offers a bit more variety.

Additionally, you can order millions of things via Amazon with only a voice command. One-click billing: a blessing and a curse.

Where Alexa really shines

Smarthome controls
Alexa has more smarthome partnerships than Google Home, making it a better home assistant if your main focus is on running your house via immobile robot. While Google is sure to add to its pairings, right now Amazon is the smarthome winner. Amazon offers control of dozens of products whereas Google only works with, like, three things right now.

Skills
Alexa has the skills to pay the bills. For real. You can make payments on your credit card or mortgage. Alexa has “skills,” allowing the Alexa Voice Service to control devices that don’t have native Alexa support.  Skills are akin to apps on your phone, and Alexa is constantly acquiring more.  Amazon definitely has the advantage when it comes to third-party integrations.

Bonus
Uber and Domino’s are Echo compatible.

Hello, pizza every night for as long as I have a voice.Click To Tweet

Overall, Alexa has been praised as a much better home assistant than Google Home in terms of secretary capabilities. Third-party app support and streamlined voice shopping make Amazon Echo a great choice for those of us that want the futuristic luxury of a robot running your life.

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#Alexa

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Real Estate Technology

What can Google Home do that Amazon Echo can’t?

(TECH NEWS) Home assistant devices were all the rage this holiday season, with millions of Amazon Echo and Google Home units sold. So who should you look to as your new robot overlord?

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Google Home

Get your research on

A pretty decent chunk of Americans are now asking Google or Amazon to turn up the air for them if they’re chilly. Home assistant devices were all the rage this holiday season, with millions of Amazon Echo and Google Home units sold. So who should you look to as your new robot overlord?

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Here’s where Google Home takes Echo to the parking lot after school and metaphorically beats it up.

Major considerations

Price point
At $130, Google Home is less expensive than Amazon’s top-tier Echo option. Its Chromecast add-ons are also less expensive than Amazon’s TV options.

Speakers
You can set up Chromecast Audio to speakers throughout your house and play music in specific rooms. You can achieve this through grouping speakers, a feature only available with Google Home. And friends, this is one hell of a quality speaker, beating out standard home audio systems in our opinion.

Voice Control
The Google Assistant is more conversational than Alexa, with the ability to learn from your questions. Natural conversations are likelier due to its “memory” for things you have previously brought up.

You can ask Google Home a question like, “OK Google, what is the real name of the singer in Blondie?” then “OK Google, where is she from?” and it will remember the context of your previous question.

Where Google takes home the prize

Music
Unlike the Echo, Google Home has access to YouTube. It also seems to have a better understanding of more complicated commands regarding music. For example, CIO reported that asking both Alexa and Google Home to play Indian music left Alexa baffled, even though it definitely had access to that music. Google Home was able to process relatively vague requests and access a wider variety of music.

Search
While the Echo is understandably Amazon-centric, shopping with Google Home allows users to research more in-depth information about products they’re interested in purchasing.

Google Home’s search capabilities surpass Alexa’s, because duh, Google is Home’s parent. Of course a device filled with the knowledge of an omniscient creator is better at searching things, not just shopping.

Privacy
You can tell Google Home to stop listening in addition to using a physical button. Right now, Alexa only offers a physical button to turn off listening. Additionally, you can see all the data Home has sent by checking your Google activity.

Appearance:
Although it is a matter of personal preference, I think the Google Home has Amazon beat in terms of appearance. Where the Echo looks like a small tubular fan, the Google Home is sleek and customizable. Ability to customize appearance of Google Home with optional bases purchasable in variety of colors and finishes.

On the whole, Google offers more in terms of a robot friend you can ask semi-complicated questions and hold a conversation with. The Google Home also seems like a better bet for those who are more interested in the “I’m sick of typing things into Google” vibe.

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#GoogleHome

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Real Estate Technology

These password managers can protect you and your clients’ info #DoItNow

(TECH NEWS) Identity theft is nothing new, but what are you doing to protect yourself and your business? Have you considered these simple password managers?

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lastpass password managers

Online safety is often discussed after data breaches, hacking scares, and identity theft, but it shouldn’t take an event of this magnitude to get you thinking about your online safety.

Passwords are used for everything; from email to doorways, banking to business terminals, entering passwords has become so common, we hardly ever give it a second thought, but we should. Every single time you get online, people are lurking, waiting to hijack your accounts and steal not only your money, but your reputation and access to your personal information.

The first thing most people tell you to do when your account seems to be compromised is “change your password.”

In essence, this is meant to foil hackers and re-secure your account, but if your password isn’t “strong,” this option won’t work for long.

“Strong” passwords consist of a random mix of numbers alongside upper and lowercase letters (and oftentimes symbols as well). However, coming up with something that meets this criteria, but is also fairy memorable is a pain for one site, not to mention for the 20-30 sites we regularly access. Before you use the same password on multiple sites (which is a HUGE no-no), consider online password generators.

Online password generators are magical devices that generate one of these complex passwords for you.

You can set the parameters such as length of password, upper/lowercase letters, symbols, numbers, and even ambiguous letters. A few reliable generators you can try:

Once you’ve generated your password, you’re going to have to remember it and every other password you create.

Impossible you say? Well, you’re right. With as many sites as we regularly access, remembering all our passwords is darn near impossible without help. Writing them down in a day planner is fairly common, but not exactly 100 percent secure.

Instead, give password managers a chance. While all online repositories have some vulnerabilities, most modern storage sites are very secure.

Browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and even Internet Explorer offer to store your passwords for you. Sure, it’s convenient, but is it secure? Most tech experts say no.

Sean Cassidy, chief technology officer of Defence Storm, states, “Browser-based password manager extensions should no longer be used because they are fundamentally risky and have the potential to have all of your credentials stolen without your knowledge by a random malicious website you visit or by malicious advertising.”

What do these password managers do exactly?

Traditional password managers live in your computer and act like digital assistants, gatekeepers if you will, your first line of defense standing between your accounts and the hackers looking for access. The manager will fill in your vital information (login and password) when you arrive on a site, meaning, rather than remembering 40 different unique site passwords, you’ll only need to remember the master password for your chosen password manager.

While there are several reliable managers on the market, there are three that have emerged as most popular:

All of these managers have the ability to safely store and recall your passwords and login information. You simply need to remember your single master password to log into the manager site you’ve selected.

Password managers are so heavily encrypted, storing your information is considered safe, but keep in mind everything you do online comes with a risk. I do not believe any site is completely hack-proof, however, a password manager is another line of defense against hacking and with their use of top-level encryption, it makes hacking a little bit harder and that’s exactly what you want.

Regardless of whether you choose to use a password generator or manager (or both), one thing is crystal clear: online data safety is of paramount importance. Keep your data safe, starting with using a strong password and a different strong password for each site.

Keep your personal information safe, and more importantly, safeguard your clients’ data.

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