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The magic solution to smart device hacking could be blockchains

(TECH NEWS) The hackability of the IoT leaves device owners open to security breaches, but there could be a major revolution in cybersecurity if blockchains have anything to do with it,

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World less hackable

While super cool, the Internet of Things (IoT) is also extremely ripe for exploitation. The hackability of the IoT leaves device owners open to security breaches, but hey guess what? Blockchain technology might be here to save the day. Or at the very least, make your devices more secure.

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Simple guide to blockchains

As we’ve discussed before, some companies have developed IoT safety scanners. Prompted by major attacks, internet security companies introduced scanners that alert IoT users of possible network vulnerabilities. However, simply receiving an alert isn’t a strong enough security measure against potential attacks.

According to IoT World News, blockchain technologies could be the next step to bulk up IoT security. Wait, what’s a blockchain though? A blockchain is essentially a secure digital ledger of transactions that isn’t stored in a single location. Bits of information are recorded across multiple nodes within the network. Whether public or private, there is no centralized hub of information.

The decentralized structure means the whole system won’t collapse if one part of the blockchain is compromised.

In order to take down a network, hackers must penetrate at least 51 percent of the network’s nodes. This is typically not a good return on investment for cyber criminals since the cost of hacking far outweighs the potential reward.

Hackers being watched

Additionally, messing with a blockchain is risky since all data transactions are transparently recorded. With traditional IT architecture, hackers just need to breach a firewall or other defenses that are in place. Once they’re in, it is unlikely their tampering will immediately be noticed. It’s even more rare for malicious changes to be recorded in a traditional system.

But blockchains update any time an action is taken, even if it’s not financial. Anyone with access to the blockchain can see all activities since changes are updated across all nodes.

If someone hacks a blockchain, their action is not only recorded, but also potentially traceable back to them.Click To Tweet

Cryptography and digital signatures add another layer of security to blockchain. Every transaction has to be secured with digital signatures and encryption. Identity authentication and privacy protection are inherent to blockchain, which is great for IoT device users since these are major concerns.

Strengthening IoT security

IoT devices could also benefit from the supply chain transparency of blockchain. Every interaction, from part registration to sourcing and pricing, could be recorded through blockchain. This would make all relevant product information securely accessible, making it easier to track phases of new products. Right now this process is fragmented and often difficult to piece together. Using blockchain would increase visibility and accountability for each step.

Though blockchain offers many benefits, analysts stress that this technology isn’t a magic fix for all digital security problems. However, widespread implementation would certainly increase network reliability and security.

#BlockchainMagic

Lindsay is an editor for The Real Daily with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Real Estate Technology

Amazon Alexa app for real estate could fill your lead pipeline

(REAL ESTATE TECH) A new app has been developed for Amazon Alexa to connect home buyers and real estate professionals, check it out.

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Voice interaction is truly the wave of the future. Amazon Alexa leads the way. It’s reported that Amazon will be announcing Alexa for Business Platform, which takes voice into the workplace.

Enterprises can use Alexa to manage temperature and lights and to get information, but other skills and apps will be available to help with calendar management, ordering supplies and much, much more. Alexa has the capability to integrate with business to be a voice-activated virtual assistant.

And artificial intelligence via voice interaction with Alexa is now entering the real estate market.

Agent NEO is an Alexa app designed for the real estate industry. This app helps users look for homes to buy, check real estate information and find a real estate agent.

Agents who are registered with the app can easily connect with buyers and sellers and stay in touch with current and past clients through the app. Users can also get information about their home’s value through the app.

How it works:

  • Users ask Alexa to help them find houses to buy. Alexa narrows down the search by locality, budget, size of house and other preferences. Users can even access pre-approval for loans.
  • Alexa matches users to a real estate agent in the area where the user is looking to buy or sell.
  • Alexa sends the information to the agent about the potential client, including their search details. The user gets an email with your contact information, a bio and an intro from you.
  • The app can book showings for users, based on their individual preferences.

Agents can join by going to the Agent NEO website. Although the technology is still fairly new, as more people invest in voice-activated interfaces, it could be a great way to generate leads for your company.

This story was first published here in November 2017.

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Real Estate Technology

How to get chatbots to actually boost conversion rates

(TECH NEWS) Understanding your customers’ expectations and beliefs about chatbots can help boost your business AND save you time.

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Chatbots can save you time and money with the right set up, but first you have to get your customer on board with this relatively recent channel of customer support. A 2017 study conducted by Audience, Drift, myclever, SalesForce, and SurveyMonkey assessed consumer perception of chatbots.

Of the 1,051 adults aged 18-64 who participated in the study, only 15 percent had previously used a chatbot. So the results are a bit limited, but provide insight into how to draw in those who are inexperienced or unfamiliar with chatbots.

If you want to have a successful chatbot, aim for the lowest denominator of familiarity to ensure the overall experience is not frustrating. The goal is to reduce other forms of communication, like calls and emails to save your company time.

About two-thirds of respondents said they would value the 24-hour availability of a chatbot. Receiving assistance at any given time is a huge plus.

When you break that response into Millennials versus Baby Boomers, 66 percent of the younger generation like the round-the-clock availability while 58 percent of Boomers valued 24-hour service.

Over sixty percent of Baby Boomers see instant responses to simple questions as chatbots primary benefit. However, they have slightly less confidence than Millennials that chatbots will be friendly an approachable.

Overall, way less than half of those surveyed had faith in a chatbot’s ability to answer complex questions, or provide detailed, expert responses. There seems to be a general understanding that while chatbots offer help for easy questions, they’re not a catch-all for every use-case or advanced scenarios.

In fact, 43 percent stated they would prefer contacting a human for assistance, and a third cited fears that the chatbot would make a mistake.

Chatbots available 24/7 that aren’t able to sufficiently answer customer’s questions can lead to frustration by the time they end up speaking to an actual person if incorrect info is provided.

Not naming names, but I’ve personally experienced the nightmare of asking a chatbot a question only for it to repeatedly provide irrelevant solutions and ask, “did we get that right?” all the while continuing to not answer my question.

I understand a chatbot won’t always have the answers, but it’s still an aggravating experience to deal with a product that doesn’t seem to work in you or the company’s favor.

Other potential barriers to embracing chatbot use included respondents preferring to “use a normal website,” or if they couldn’t interact with the bot in a friendly manner. Some also reported they would not use a chatbot if it was accessible only through Facebook.

Brave souls reporting “nothing would stop me from using a chatbot” only made up 15 percent of respondents.

When setting up your chatbot, make sure you include as many potential questions and answers as possible.

However, there should also be a clear channel to communicate with a real person should the bot provide unsatisfactory or limited help.

Brokerages are using chatbots on their sites already and annoying users, converting nothing. Heed the advice above, understand your consumer and the limitations of chatbots, and your conversion rates are set up for success.

There are plenty of services out there to help you get started with setting up a chatbot, and some even offer free trial periods. Customers may not be totally sold on chatbots over real people, but if you set yours up in a user-friendly way, you could boost your support levels and customer satisfaction, thereby improving conversion rates.

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Real Estate Technology

Real estate offices can be much more like sexy startup offices

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) Science proves that open floor plans are more conducive to office productivity, but is that true for brokerages, too?

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Office settings

If you walk into a tech startup, nine times out of ten you’ll find an open seating / bull-pen style seating.

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Open offices are trendy amongst tech startups – has the fad caught on amongst real estate brokerages?

Better together

Whereas traditional work environments are divided up into departments with individual offices and cubicles, open offices have floorplans that put all employees in the same room.

Studies have shown that cubicles don’t increase productivity.

As a matter of fact, people are more productive when they are sitting close together, but can see each other.

Pros of openness

Some of the advantages of an open office floorplan are obvious. These kinds of offices are economical because you can fit more people and more desks in less space, and because it is more efficient to heat, cool, and light one large room than several small rooms.

Open office plans also facilitate communication between managers and their employees, and between departments.

Rather than taking the stairs or hiking down the hall to collaborate with another person, you can simply holler across the room.

Cons of openness

Unfortunately, all of that hollering can be pretty distracting. A University of Sydney study found that half of workers in open offices say that the most frustrating part of their workplace is the “lack of sound privacy.”

Open offices are not only noisy, but are also less secure, since everyone can overhear one another.

Employees may get peeved if they can’t concentrate because of all the noise around them, or can’t make a phone call without being overheard.

Dr. Who inspired solution

A startup called Framery Acoustics offers a solution.

They create soundproof phone booths and meeting pods designed to complement open office floorplans.

One of the founders, who previously worked in an open office, complained that his boss talked too loudly on his cellphone. His boss replied, “Well, get me a phone booth.” Thus, Framery Acoustics was born.

Simple solutions

Framery Acoustics is just one company that offers a product suited to appease open office dissenters. Framery Acoustics isn’t ready to give up on openness and neither should you. Instead, look for ways to make your office more flexible. Whether it is by providing a quiet capsule for private meetings and phone calls or just having a designated section for meeting, the solution is out there.

Compromising allows you to reap the benefits of an open office plan, while still ensuring that you and your officemates have privacy and quiet when it is needed.

#openoffices

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