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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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smart homes

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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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

Crowdseekr is a search engine for real estate crowdfunding opportunities

(REAL ESTATE) If you’re looking for investors, or you’re an investor looking for a real estate opportunity, Crowdseekr is the perfect resource to post or find what you are looking for.

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CrowdSeekr has been around for less than a year and is developing a powerful tool for discovering real estate crowdfunding investment opportunities from multiple platforms.

Crowdfunding seems like a natural fit for the real estate market. According to investopedia.com, “crowdfunding makes use of the easy accessibility of vast networks of friends, family and colleagues through social media websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get the word out about a new business and attract investors.”

In that regard, crowdfunding has the potential to increase entrepreneurship by expanding the pool of investors from whom funds can be raised beyond the traditional circle of owners, relatives and venture capitalists.

But the playing field is filling up fast. Industry experts point out that in the US alone, there are currently over 150 real estate related crowdfunding sites. It is estimated that by 2020 this will be a 220 billion dollar industry.

That said, CrowdSeekr (headquartered in Oklahoma) is banking on developing a powerful tool for discovering real estate crowdfunding investment opportunities from multiple platforms. Investors will be able to use CrowdSeekr’s advanced search tools to identify real estate crowdfunding projects that meet their investment criteria.

According to a recent investopedia article, CrowdSeekr creates a powerful marketing channel for real estate crowdfunding platforms by reaching more investors than they could have otherwise acquired by themselves. CrowdSeekr follows suit, and allows investors to conduct customized searches across multiple crowdfunding platforms. Investors will benefit from a site that offers many deals in one place and robust search options.

One thing that industry experts are wary of is the undercapitalization of many crowdfunding startups. In fact, to get started with crowdfunding in real estate, say many real estate professionals, the trick is going with a firm that’s going to be around for a while.

In other words, work with a crowdfunding company that will survive. That means well-capitalized. What scares many industry professionals is the number of crowdfunding companies out there that are headed up by two students who just graduated from college, and who aren’t capitalized themselves.

Crowdseekr doesn’t seem to have that problem. According to crowdfunder.com, Tim Strange, the co-Founder of CrowdSeekr.com is a thirty-year veteran of commercial real estate brokerage, investments and sponsorship having closed over $1 billion in transactions. Strange is also the president of the largest Rotary club in the world. Strange has sold and leased more than 7 million square feet in transactions valued at almost $1 Billion.

If time is money, as the old saying goes, then the ensuing New Year will tell if Crowdseekr has the right stuff to make it in today’s crowdfunding market.

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Real Estate Technology

Smart home features your clients will be asking about now and in the future

The smart home is no longer a theory, it is becoming mainstream, so you should know the different options in case clients ask, “does this house have X, or do Y?”

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SMART HOME

It started with smartphones. Now watches, cars, and, yes Realtors, even houses can be wired for smart technology. The following is a bird’s eye view of all of the features you’re either being asked about currently, or will be asked about in the future.

Locks, lights, appliances

Devices with smart technology allow home owners to control several household appliances and amenities, from locks to lights to window blinds, all through a single device. Smart devices are convenient and also help make homes more efficient, saving home owners money on utilities.

For example, smart thermostats can often be controlled remotely, and the smartest actual memorize your habits and routines to automatically adjust the house’s temperature for your comfort. If you find yourself turning on the AC each night before hitting the sheets, a smart thermostat will quickly learn to do it for you. Many thermostats come with motion sensors, so the thermostat adjusts depending on whether or not you are home.

Power, security, sprinklers

Home owners can also manage power use by using smart power strips, lighting, timers and monitors, and appliances that can be controlled remotely. Smart power systems provide feedback about power use, showing how to optimize efficiency.

Smart devices are available to run home security systems, including alarm systems and cameras that live stream to your smartphone, so you can keep an eye on the house while you are away.
You can even install a smart garden irrigation system that responds to weather conditions and waters your garden even when you aren’t home, saving you time and money.

Combining functions

Many smart devices combine functions, controlling your thermostat, your appliances, and your security system all at once. Complex smart home systems often run through a central hub that uses the wireless spectrum to network each appliance with your handheld device. Homey comes recommended as a particularly cute and useful hub that responds to voice commands.

The smart home device market is embryonic, but growing quickly. Your more tech-savvy clientele may want to know if the properties you are showing already have, or could become equipped with the smart home devices.

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Real Estate Technology

Cam’s 360 degree view in real time could change home tours forever

(TECH) Virtual tours just got awesome. Luna, a 360 degree camera in beta, is the size of a golf ball, waterproof and streams its video feed live.

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luna 360 cam

Homebuyers know that no matter how many videos they watch, or photos they click through, nothing can replace the experience of walking through a potential home. Although photos and videos will never fully replace the experience of being somewhere in person, Luna, a new 360-degree camera, promises to bring users one step closer to the real life experience by providing them with panoramic photos and videos.

With its unique dual-fisheye-lens design, Luna is a great marketing tool for real estate professionals that want to give customers a 360° virtual home tour. The spherical camera is about the size of a golf ball, just six centimeters in diameter and a little over 180 grams. Users just click the top of Luna one time to take a panoramic 360° photograph, two times to take a video, or hold down the button to shut off the camera completely.

The camera uses intelligent auto-stitching software, so images are automatically created in the panoramic view and users need not bother with the hassle of other stitching programs.

There are few places that can’t be captured by Luna’s unique camera, especially with it’s host of accessories that make it possible to fly Luna on a drone or attach it to a fishing rod. With its waterproof enclosure, agents can use Luna to show customers the bottom tiling of a swim pool, or create a video of the property grounds despite the drizzling rain. And, with Luna attached to a flying drone, why not take a closer look at the roofing?

Luna’s convenient size and easy-use features make it possible for agents to take and operate the camera almost anywhere. And with a whole host of accessories, the exploration opportunities are virtually endless.

From a marketing perspective, perhaps Luna’s best quality is its ability to stream 360° content live over the Internet. Consumers can watch on their phone or device as their agent gives them a live preview, or they can take independent control over the camera and decide where to look. This feature allows customers to explore interactively with a unique 360° view, as if walking through the house on their own.

Although Luna is still currently in beta, it promises to be a great device for real estate agents looking to bring their remote consumers one step closer to a real walk through experience. The unique 360° photos and video can be used to create interest in their properties online, and hopefully convince potential homebuyers to take a live-streaming virtual tour.

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