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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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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

How to delete your digital footprint instead of just whining about it

(TECH NEWS) Instead of whining about wanting to delete your Facebook or Google data, why not actually delete it? A new site makes it all possible.

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In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data grab and the resulting suspicions surrounding targeted advertising, more and more people are beginning to appreciate the idea of deleting their digital footprints from the Internet – but where does one even begin?

Fortunately, Deletist has more than one answer for you.

Decent, comprehensive, non-biased information can be difficult to find, especially when it comes to something so nuanced as removing your data from the Internet. Deletist provides such information for common social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Google, with updated instructions coming for WhatsApp ASAP.

Once on the website, all you need to do is click at the top of the page the app icon for the service for which you want to delete your information. Doing this loads up a set of instructions not only for deleting your account, but also for downloading a copy of your data and erasing as much of your digital fingerprint as is currently possible.

Having this kind of information available is refreshing in and of itself, but the level of detail behind the instruction is especially invigorating given the breadth of the demographic that’s most likely interested in deleting themselves off the Internet. Too often, tech tutorials are geared toward people who need less instruction than suggestion while sometimes the non-tech crowd struggle to decipher the meaning of phrases “hamburger” and “drop-down icon” in context.

The site’s creator makes being a “deletist” accessible and easy for everyone.

One point that is brought up on the instruction page for Facebook is something that is especially important for those not in the know: if you use your Facebook (or Google, or LinkedIn, etc.) account to sign up for a service such as Spotify, wiping the list of linked apps and then deleting your account will make recovery for the service impossible.

For this reason, finding a way to move your service’s contact information from using Facebook (or the like) to using an email address is a good idea.

And, if you do delete Google and its related products, a word of advice: don’t switch to Yahoo.

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Real Estate Technology

Smart homes spy on you, here’s how to spy back

(TECHNOLOGY) Wow surprise, smart homes spy on you constantly. Here’s why it matters, and how to spy back.

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We’ve long talked about the risks and rewards of technology, especially IoT devices in the home. For every cool gadget, there’s a chance your information will get hacked or tracked.

Last year, Congress thought it would be fun to give Internet Service Providers (ISPs) power to spy on customer internet usage data and sell it. Which means your ISP can see all the data from your smart devices and profit from selling you out to third parties.

Some folks at Gizmodo decided to conduct an experiment to see how much data can be tracked from smart homes.

Back in December, Gizmodo senior reporter Kashmir Hill set up just about every smart device imaginable in her apartment including an Amazon Echo, smart TV, smart lights, toothbrushes, baby monitor, and even a mattress.

Hill’s colleague Surya Mattu, Gizmodo data reporter, configured a router to track the device’s network activity and give the duo the same view as Hill’s ISP.

They found that since the router’s installation in early December 2017, there was not a single day without activity from the router.

At least once a day, at least one of the smart devices sent data packets to the ISP, manufacturer, or third parties. If Hill told the living room to turn on the lights, Phillips got alerted. If the family watched something on Hulu, the smart TV sent information to data brokers.

Every action could be (and in most cases was) tracked and recorded, creating a vast data set about Hill’s daily routines and schedules.

Routine tracking may seem mundane since right now most of the data isn’t being used, just monitored and recorded. However, this data may have more impact in the future.

We already have car insurance companies that offer discounts for safe driving if you use their driving monitors. Cybersecurity expert David Choffnes points out we’re not too far from a world where smart toothbrushes may connect to dental insurance rates and discounts. We’ve explored how smart watches and even browser history could impact your health insurance rates and insurability. Right now it’s all theoretical, but the bones are there to create a tech-inspired Frankenstein.

Plus, it’s inherently creepy to think that an ISP could deduce your family’s schedule based on use of smart devices.

So how can you spy back to see what kind of data is being reported?

Well, for starters you’ll need to have some computer knowledge. Or a pal who is willing to help you out in your endeavor to be a smart home spy.

For the Gizmodo experiment, Mattu built a customized router using a Raspberry Pi 3, which is a tiny computer you can custom program. If you want to replicate their test, these run around $35 for a single board.

Fortunately, the Raspberry Pi 3 comes with built in wifi hardware so it should be fairly easy to configure it as a router if you already know how to use one.

Once connected to the internet and set up as a wifi router, you’ll add the script to monitor network traffic. For this part, you need an understanding of Git and Github.

Next, set up a server so you can store traffic. Mattu and Hill used Amazon Web Services, but you can use your own server if you want. They also crafted a front-end interface to analyze the data.

Note the times when you connect and use the devices for easier analysis. If you want more details about setting up your very own smart home data traffic monitoring router, check out their article.

Some of the information collected from the devices may seem trivial. After all, what does it really matter if Philips knows what time you get up in the morning? Hill noted the data being sent is “basic, boring, information, but revealing information about how we live our life.”

This data could start to matter if companies and ISPs use your information control how you use their devices and how products are sold to you.

TV watching data is already being sold to data brokers. It’s just a matter of time before your sleep score from a smart mattress gets reported to your health insurance to determine coverage or something equally Big Brother-like.

Smart homes are predicted to be a $27 billion market by 2021, with an unprecedented number of new devices in our homes. Before rushing out to get the latest smart device, make sure you’re fully aware of what data you may be inadvertently sharing with companies.

Check out different products’ privacy policies before buying to make sure you’re cool with what information the device will be sending. And if you don’t want your ISP to know how often you make lattes, maybe opt for a coffee maker that isn’t wifi-enabled.

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Real Estate Technology

New startup makes rent count toward tenants’ credit

(REAL ESTATE TECH) This startup gives property owners an advantage while improving the renter economy and making rent count toward credit.

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Although property management tools for landlords are well established (think Yardi or RealPage), a new startup is taking a residential approach to property management. Keyo offers renters a seamless way to engage with tenants to provide rent payments, maintenance requests, and building announcements. Before the lease is signed, Keyo can handle tenant applications, free background checks, and digital contract management.

Keyo is renter focused, from the marketing (encouraging tenants to push for it) to the focus on appealing to the new modern renter. From the ability to set up “Scouts” who show units for you (and make money on the side to show the unit and expedite the process), to the fact that renters could apply for an apartment and never pay a single application fee for multiple units – which is also a cost that you the landlord doesn’t have to pass onto them.

The vision is to make the renting economy more accessible, friendlier, and less complicated for tenants.

The best feature by far?

Rent payments made through Keyo are reported to credit bureaus Equifax and TransUnion– which rewards tenants by improving their credit.

(FYI: Renters have less opportunity to improve their credit unlike many mortgage holders.)

Keyo also allows ACH payments for rent – (and as a millennial who resents checks, this is AWESOME), helping individuals pay their rent on time. Maintenance requests are easy and transparent as well.

Keyo makes its money from landlords who pay it to help them fill units, and it provides some key marketing features, including search optimization, analytics on marketing, and all those paperwork management (which means you don’t’ have to pass that cost along to the tenant, which can make investment property owners more competitive). The pricing works out to $5.00 monthly per unit, and each new tenant that is delivered by Keyo costs the landlord one month’s rent. This could be less expensive than the cost of a broker’s standard charge in your region.

Keyo is focused primarily on Brooklyn, but is looking to expand to larger markets. The true test of its quality will be how it translates outside of the wild west of NYC. While being feature-packed, compared to some property management systems like Yardi, this seems a fair bit sparse, but likely is lower overhead.

This is a modern, simple, resident driven platform that could help investment property owners to be more competitive and improve the renter economy.

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