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RFID technology’s resurgence and why you need it

(TECH NEWS) RFID technology is nothing new yet it continues to revolutionize the tech industry

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What is all of this RFID talk about?

A RFID (Radio Frequency Identifier) is a small device used for tracking or identification. A typical tag consists of a chip, memory and antenna.

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Most new RFID tags utilize Bluetooth technology.

Nothing new

RFID technology is nothing new.

It has been around for over 10 years already.

However, while it is nothing new, RFID is a technology that people remain highly interested in. It seems that in recent years an entire market for RFID has exploded.

Why do you need RFID?

How many times have you misplaced something? If you are anything like me, more times than you’d care to admit. I have spent more than a few minutes of my life looking for keys, sunglasses, and my debit card (a few times I have even been holding/wearing the item I’m looking for).

With RFID tags, you can place a small tag/sticker on items you frequently misplace, and use the tracking technology (often coupled with a smartphone app) to find your items quickly.

If you have ever lost your keys, phone, tablet, wallet, or remote; RFID tags can end the frustration. This is especially useful for business professionals always on the go.

Tag all of the things, even your dog

When you tag your phone, briefcase, laptop, or even your luggage, your smartphone will alert you when the item is out of a set range (say 100 feet) and when it returns. If you are at a conference and leave your briefcase in the meeting room, as soon as you get halfway down that long hallway, your smartphone will alert you that you’ve left the item behind and you need to go back for it. Super helpful.

RFID devices are even used with pet doors.

If you place a device on your pets’ collar, the pet door reads the chip and allows them to enter, but only your pets. This will keep out those pesky raccoons that try to come in and help themselves to your refrigerator.

Four RFID options

Previously, we discussed four RFID trackers and their advantages. Here’s a follow up on those four, plus a couple of new kids on the RFID block. These are all basic, but popular options to get your feet wet with the RFID technology:

StickNFind is one company offering these devices. The device is about the size of a quarter. It costs $25 and you can track anything you tag with a device via your smartphone. You can have up to twenty active stickers (devices) at a time. The smartphone application also allows users to trigger an alert if a sticker moves out of a specified range. This is called the “Virtual Leash” feature; users can set a distance range for each sticker, like I mentioned above.

Update: They now come in several different colors, including clear so that the sticker is hardly noticeable. They have also expanded out into indoor Bluetooth beacons, as well as enterprise type beacons.

ItemTrackr can track any Bluetooth device such as cars, headsets, low energy tags (like SticknFind) and much more. You can ring your lost Bluetooth device from the app. It will also record the GPS map and time you lost your item. This is especially helpful when you need to remember where you parked your car or left your keys. There is also something called, “separation alert:” if you are about to walk off without your Bluetooth device, the app will play a reminder so that you do not forget it.

Update: Trackr has sold over 4.5 million devices. Now, you can also press the Trackr tag if you’ve lost your phone and the Trackr will ring your phone and help you find it, even if it’s on silent. Trackr also offer Amazon Alexa integration allowing you to simply ask Alexa, “Ask Trackr to find my phone” and it will ring.

InRange by Phillips is another Bluetooth enabled leash system. For $49.95 receive the Bluetooth device, a pouch for the tag, batteries and a pin to release the battery door. Items are tracked via the iPhone/iPad app and can be paired with up to three InRange devices. This device also allows you to still make calls via Bluetooth without any interference.

Update: While it looks like Phillips still offers support for this device, it also looks as though they no longer sell it.

Bikn Bikn, it seems, has unfortunately terminated their RFID cases.

Newer options to satisfy your RFID needs:

Pixie: Just apply the first Pixie Point to the back of your iPhone and the other Points to your most important things to make them quickly discoverable within a 30-50 foot range indoors. Through the magical Pixie Dust Augmented Reality view and the Pixie Pointer distance and direction indicator, Pixie guides you to any item that’s been “Pixified”. It shows you what you can’t see, even if it’s between the books on the shelf, inside a drawer or in the next room. It’s basically “x” marks the spot for items you commonly misplace.

Tile: Tile offers two options for keeping track of your items: Tile Mate and Tile Slim. Tile Mate is compact and easy to attach to anything and goes wherever you go. Small, durable and lightweight, it’s perfect for attaching to keys, luggage, and backpacks. Tile Slim is the world’s thinnest Bluetooth tracker; it’s as thin as two credit cards making it easy to stick, slide, or tuck into tight spots like wallets, purses, passports and more. Both Tiles are water-resistant (to rain, not scuba diving), offer a loud melody when you’ve lost your item, and have batteries that last over a year without charging.

PebbleBee: PebbleBee offers three different choices for preventing lost items: The Finder, The Honey, and The Stone. The Finder is a stainless steel tracker (approx.. 1” in diameter) that can be attached to nearly anything. It also the longest range tracker ever at 200ft. and has a replaceable battery and improved longevity. The Honey is the most affordable option to keep your items from being misplaced. It has a range of up to 150 feet and includes a range finder with helps you find an item if it’s hidden. When you get close, you can turn on the loud speaker, or the built-in LED from your smartphone to find your item quickly. The Stone is a smart “button” that controls your phone and home to save you time. Stone works with IFTT, Nest, Hue, SmartThings, and many other “smart” platforms and it can also automate tasks. To learn more about everything Stone can do check it out on PebbleBee.

Not an exhaustive list

There are many other trackers available, but these are some of the most popular options to suit your needs.

All of these trackers serve the same basic function: to track your possessions and help you insure they do not get lost.Click To Tweet
This seems like something worth investing in if you have a hard time keeping up with your belongings, or travel extensively. Better to have it and never need it, than spend countless hours searching for a single item so you can get out the door.

#LessHideMoreSeek

Senior Staff Writer at The Real Daily, Jennifer Walpole holds a Master of English from the University of Oklahoma. She has long been a dedicated business and technology writer, and she holds real estate close to her heart, as she comes from a family of brokers.

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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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