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Who owns the data from a smart home? Homeowner, device owner, or a third party?

Your smart home may know more about you than you think – who owns that data?

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Just how smart is your smart home? Access to convenience, energy efficiency, and security are the attributes that hook homeowners the most. According to a survey conducted by Coldwell Banker and CNET, 57 percent of smart device owners say their devices save them time, 45 percent of smart device owners report their devices save them money and 72 percent of smart device owners state their devices make them feel safer.

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That said, I think it’s important to reiterate why you should not only know what smart home features do, but that the idea that the data use is complicated.

Is Big Brother watching?

Saying that your smart home is “connected” is just the tip of the iceberg. A smart home is more than a collection of smart devices. Icontrol.com points out that you could live in a house with many smart devices that are connected to the Internet, but that wouldn’t make the home a smart home.

If those devices are connected to each other and working in concert to automate a number of the home’s processes, that gets us a bit closer to a definition of smart home most people can agree with.

What’s needed is a central conduit. What’s referred to as a “smart” hub is the central device that allows all the different products (lights, locks, thermostats and more) to work together in a smart home. You need not have a hub in a home to use smart devices, but you need one if you want to truly automate the behavior of the various smart devices in your home.

Who owns the data?

ProPublica notes that the type of data collected will vary by device. For security devices, they may be collecting real-time video feeds; for door locks, it may be who arrives and when.

In general, you, the consumer will own the data. However, each vendor’s terms can vary, so it is up to the consumer to make sure they have ownership of their data. The data collected by vendors can be used in a multitude of ways, from simple analytics to advanced algorithm improvement. These results are generally used by smart device companies to improve product development and provide additional services to their customers.

What about security?

Precautionary measures must be taken to preserve security as we move toward smart homes, smart cars, and smart buildings. The Federal Trade Commission even put out a report this year with best practices about how companies should notify their customers about data retention.

Device makers say that customers can opt in or out of sharing their personal information with developers and third-party apps. But customers may not always be aware of just how much information their devices are collecting about them in the first place.

Even as consumer awareness of connected devices increases, security remains at the core of the smart home experience, as ownership of the data varies per each device, and eventually governed by local real estate laws and/or contracts. Right now, it’s the wild west.

Resources for Realtors

Real estate practitioners, you should be able to intelligently express to your clients what conveys and what doesn’t when buying (like devices, data, etc.) as well as what measures must be taken when selling a home with any smart features.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Center for Realtor Technology (CRT) has put together the most comprehensive guides available, tailored for practitioners, so get to know them:

#SmartHome

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

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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