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Blockchain and Internet of Things, the new PB & J

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) With all of the new technological advances, pairing Internet of Things and Blockchain technologies makes all sorts of sense.

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More than a silly name, the Internet of Things (or, IoT) isn’t simply algorithms tracking purchase history, remote monitoring, or home automation; it’s putting things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth into everyday devices that we can control and make “smarter” through programming.

It’s being able to upload information into the cloud. It’s being able to sync multiple devices together.

It’s connected living.

It’s meant to make our lives easier, but at the rate the IoT is evolving, we could be sending ourselves back to the Middle Ages. As data containing our most personal habits and patterns are sent in from these connected devices the servers containing this information become increasingly vulnerable.

International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that 90% of organizations that implement the IoT will suffer an IoT-based breach of back-end IT systems by the year 2017.

The centralized security model of most IoT devices may yet, however, become a thing of the past as reports of hacks, DDoS attacks, and security breaches become more prevalent as newer and personalized tech becomes more ubiquitous.

Remember when CloudPets stuffed animals left parents emails, passwords, and personal recorded messages were left exposed for hackers? Or the recent Equifax breach?

The more dependent on our devices we become, the more dependent the security risk.

This is where Blockchain comes in.

More than just the force powering Bitcoin, Blockchain is built for decentralized control, being touted as the missing link for the success of IoT. Blockchain has an encrypted and distributed public ledger system which creates a safer environment for data unharmed by malicious third-parties as there is no single failure point, unlike the centralized model.

Blockchain will be a major player globally in the IoT with business transactions in a trustworthy environment and is already high on the to-do list for many companies. IBM sums up three key benefits for using blockchain in the Internet of Things: build trust, reduce costs, and accelerate transactions, offering new ways to disrupt the industry and enabling new business models.

The decentralized, autonomous, and trusting capabilities of blockchain make it a worthy solution to IoT security concerns.

Using the blockchain will allow for the enablement of true autonomous smart devices that can execute transactions securely without the need of a centralized broker, one of the biggest advantages of utilizing blockchain within the IoT.

Ashe Segovia is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Southwestern University. A huge film nerd with a passion for acting and 80's movies and synthpop; the pop-cultural references are never-ending.

Real Estate Technology

How Artificial Intelligence will boost your sales skills, not replace them

(TECH NEWS) Artificial intelligence will drive the future of sales with time-saving solutions, not career-destroying deviance.

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Artificial Intelligence is getting pretty wild, y’all. Google and Uber are both working on developing AI systems with self-doubt, the University of Cambridge added a “Superintelligence” modification to popular computer game Civilization, and Japanese scientists can basically read minds with deep neural networks now.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) broadly covers the idea of machines and technology carrying out “smart” tasks. AI is driven by machine learning (ML), which allows devices to analyze data and learn through pattern recognition.

AI’s potential is widespread, from personal assistants like Siri and Alexa, to services like Pandora and Netflix. Utilizing machine learning (ML) software, these services apply algorithms to data sets to analyze and learn user preferences.

Whenever you like a movie or show on Netflix, you get suggestions of what you may like based on previous reactions, watching history, and Netflix’s extensive dataset. Machine learning does the analysis work, while Netflix as a service is considered something that uses AI.

Many companies use AI and ML to evaluate and manage data. In 2016, $20-30 billion was spent worldwide on AI. Of this, ninety percent went to research and development, which speaks to global interest in improving and increasing AI technology.

As the amount of worldwide data increases, AI and ML can help manage information and deliver insights across a variety of industries, including retail, real estate, education, energy, manufacturing, and so many others.

Sales can particularly benefit from AI since it reduces the manual labor of researching prospects and qualifying leads. With AI, sales teams can determine when to engage prospects, and which information will be most relevant.

Additionally, AI provides insight into which content is doing well so sales teams can better optimize high-performing strategies. In turn, this can improve engagement based on insights instead of intuition to increase close rates.

Close analysis of data doesn’t have to be a tedious administrative task with AI and ML. By finding out what your customers need based on close data analysis, you can create targeted, personalized solutions.

Plus, AI can help reduce lost sales by evaluating product availability, and implement dynamic pricing along and demand forecasting.

In terms of customer support for sales, you can already easily implement chatbots that use machine learning to answer frequently asked questions and generate leads.

We’re not exactly at Westworld levels of automation yet, but the future is leaning towards AI. Those in the sales industry can greatly benefit from implementing artificial intelligence solutions to save time and increase productivity for anyone who’s still human on the team.

And now for a neat graphic to digest:

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Real Estate Technology

Coming soon: A video screen for your car’s roof

(TECH NEWS) There are no more places for a display to be installed in a car, so let’s put one in the roof and all be ballers.

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Look up at your car roof. Pretty boring, right? How nice would it be to have a calming, mood-setting visual display to show to a client while en route to a tour? If you find yourself in possession of a self-driving car equipped with a Harman MoodRoof, that’s exactly what you’ll be able to do.

With autonomous cars trending so heavily over the past few years, someone was bound to push the envelope on what’s considered “fundamental technology”; in that category, Harman might take the cake. The MoodRoof is a panoramic, roof-mounted display that shows tranquil imagery and music-activated dynamic presentations (think iTunes’ equalizer, but better), giving you something pleasant to stare at while your self-driving car speeds down the freeway.

The MoodRoof itself is stunning enough, but it’s actually designed as a complement to an audio system also designed by Harman. This means that whatever is playing on your self-driving car’s audio system can dictate the kind of imagery you see on the MoodRoof display (and vice versa), making your trips nothing short of personalized lightshows.

When it comes to the technology behind the MoodRoof and the accompanying Moodscape audio suite, Harman is all about convenience. The suite’s software is designed to predict music preferences that pair well with certain displays—a decision that is based on other information, such as your schedule, location, and vehicle status—meaning that all you have to do is sit back, relax, and let the display do its thing.

Since Harman doesn’t manufacture automobiles, the MoodRoof will have to be installed in a different company’s vehicle. This is hardly a problem, since the wide array of different available vehicle types leaves room for some pretty interesting applications for the MoodRoof. For example, using it in a spacious SUV might facilitate an upbeat, enthusiastic mood, while a closer, more intimate use of this technology might be best for the milder among us.

Self-driving technology is still in its infancy, meaning that anything goes when it comes to prospective accessories. It will be interesting to see what other technologies are offered in response to the newfound freedom that accompanies not having to watch the road, but for now, the Harman MoodRoof is a solid 10 in our book.

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Real Estate Technology

How OpenDoor became a unicorn (a company valued at over $1B)

(BUSINESS NEWS) Good news for direct home sales and fans of adorable mythical quadrupeds – OpenDoor is a unicorn. What does its billion dollar valuation mean for the modern real estate market?

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Online direct home sales is officially a thing. That was probably inevitable, given increasing automation of sales (robots are coming for your jobs – not that they can do them yet!), an ongoing Disrupt All The Things mentality amongst entrepreneurs, and sellers’ frankly understandable desire for a smoother, easier way to get rid of their people boxes.

Seriously, the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Index puts selling a home above quitting freaking smoking in terms of medically significant stress. People are understandably interested in making that suck less.

Enter OpenDoor.

The OpenDoor offer is direct online sales. TL;DR – OpenDoor gets information from the customer, then sets a price for the property being sold, sight unseen. On top of that price, OpenDoor charges a risk fee, a flat 6.7 percent on top of the stated value, to guard against depreciation. In exchange, OpenDoor takes over the selling process, spiffs up the house and sells at a profit. As CB Insights says in its excellent analysis of OpenDoor, it’s basically high tech house flipping.

The OpenDoor pitch is that their system benefits both seller and buyer. They’re impressively honest about the math: They say their flat 6.7 percent is pretty much comparable with the costs and fees associated with traditional real estate sales, which is true. The advantage comes in, says OpenDoor, because the property is then out of the seller’s hands, no muss, no fuss.

That spares them from the hassle of home sales, but it’s also easier on the prospective buyer than the usual peer-to-peer approach. No need to balance two mortgages, no deals contingent on the house selling at a certain price. The house has already been sold at a certain price. Pony up and it’s yours.

We could argue pros and cons all day, but that’s not the point. The point is that, on a small but growing scale, the OpenDoor offer is working. OpenDoor currently operates in and around Atlanta, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh-Durham, and my own fair hometown of DFW. OpenDoor focuses on second-tier real estate markets, avoiding the fluctuations and complex variables of Realty Madness as it is to be found in NYC, the Bay Area and so on.

In those cities, since its start as a spindly little startup in 2014, OpenDoor has served better than 10,757 total customers.

Per the CEO, it currently accounts for 3 percent of home sales in Phoenix and Dallas. Chump change that ain’t.

They’re already thinking expansion. San Antonio and Charlotte are the next towns slated for Missy Elliot treatment. For those of you who missed the 90s, Missy Elliot treatment is of course “put the thing down, flip it, and reverse it.” Surprisingly apt! Seriously, OpenDoor’s missing a trick if they don’t license that one.

Catchy but unpronounceable hooks aside, OpenDoor is taking a fair amount of risk along with their more than fair amount of money. In particular, focused as they are on moving up in the world, OpenDoor is carrying a lot of debt. As of fall 2017 they had borrowed on the order of $600 million to fund home purchases.

At their current 7.4 percent average gross margin on home sales, that’s sustainable, but it’s a whole lot of money to gamble on a new thing continuing to work. A housing downturn or even a comparatively minor shift in value could easily throw that balance out of whack, and while OpenDoor executives state that the debt would still be supportable in a downturn with an increase in risk fee, there’s always the possibility of chilling an already shaky market with too big a jump.

To state the obvious, avoiding that kind of risk is literally why there are Realtors, and why the real estate market in general works the way it does.

Distributing the risk between bank and homeowners, rather than having one organization take it all, minimizes the possibility of failure. OpenDoor has decided to take that risk, and is confident its model will be enough to ameliorate it. Whether that’s the case or not is an open question.

Most unicorns are just shiny horses standing under the right branch. But if OpenDoor can sustainably deliver on its core offer, then score one for the mythical horsebeast.

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