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Ways to squeeze out more smartness from a smart home

(TECH NEWS) Smart devices are a godsend for the busy, those that can’t be bothered, and the curious, but it’s important to be smart about what you’re signing up for.

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Getting things under control

Smart Homes and Wi-Fi-connected devices have brought us a number of benefits. A fully connected house can be controlled from a smart phone, and personally, I love the ambiance of my Philips Hue lights. As homeowners, renters, or landlords, controlling energy costs is a big focus.

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Does having a lot of connected devices draw more energy? Are we making our carbon foot print worse? Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of research suggest that smart homes and connected devices can do a lot to make us MORE efficient.

Almost everything can be “Smart” nowadays – thermostats, water heaters, meters, plugs, lighting, irrigation, ovens, even crock pots (for us geeky lazy chefs). The “Internet of Things” that we create in our home is constantly growing. There are a couple of cool ways that smart devices can impact our power bill:

You hold all of the power

Smart thermostats, for one, (like Nest) are helpful for a number of reasons.

Routines are one way – by automating a routine where we aren’t cooling a house that we aren’t even in. You can also change the temperature if you forget to set it before you leave for work (just pull over if you do – no home automation and driving). Lastly, you can learn a lot from analytics that show you your usage and how often your system kicks on.

Although it should be noted that a house without good airflow and ventilation won’t benefit too much, using those sweet analytics is the best way to maximize savings.

Heating and cooling costs account for 48% of the typical energy costs for a home.

I’m from Texas. So I know how important it is to stay cool.

Convenience makes a huge deal

Smart lighting is often brighter and more efficient (the joy of LED!), and has the ability to set lighting preferences (dim, have it adjust based on natural light, or set to schedules)which can lead to energy savings. And if you are running late (as we often are), and you happen to leave all your lights on – turning them off remotely can save energy costs.

Smart meters can tell you what in your home is using a lot energy – indicating potential issues and showing you ways to save.

Irrigation options like Cyber-Rain exist as well – with reducing the usage and waste of water by anticipating weather conditions. Although not directly related to your carbon footprint, saving water and reducing water loss is a big deal (particularly in California!).

Do your homework

That’s not to make things too rosy. A lot of smart appliances are more sugar than sustainability, but can help with other aspects of sustainability. Smart fridges for example, with remote cameras, can help reduce food waste and can ensure you don’t buy too much or forget the milk has expired.

Smart home devices can really impact our energy usage if we embrace automation and utilize analytics.

Otherwise, things like constantly playing with your lights (they change color!) or that fancy smart security system may end up just pulling more power from the grid. Like any tool in our life, there is an opportunity for the opposite effect (higher electric bills) if we don’t use the tools correctly.

Smart homes require making smart decisions. If you’re committed to reducing your carbon footprint, use smart devices to correct the human error (leaving your lights on) or help you make a better decision (cooling your home when you’re actually there, etc).

Mo’ devices can mean mo’ money – but only if put yourself in the know.
/micdrop

#smartenergy

Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

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Real Estate Technology

KRACK is the wifi vulnerability Y2K wishes it was

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) It was recently discovered that there is a vulnerability in all wifi networks, know how to keep your information from slipping through the KRACK!

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A security researcher has discovered a new vulnerability that affects literally all WiFi networks – and now that they know about it, it won’t be long before hackers know about it too.

The vulnerability, discovered by security researcher Mathy Vanhoef, lies within the WPA2 encryption used by all WiFi devices and routers. It’s called KRACK, which stands for Key Reinstallation Attacks.

By taking advantage of KRACKs, a hacker can snatch up data that we previously thought was encrypted and totally safe, including credit card numbers, passwords, messages in chat and email, and photographs. A hacker could even hack into your devices with cameras and get a live stream into your home.

They can also inject ransomware or malware into your device.

Security experts are urging all device makers and internet service providers (ISPs) to release updates to patch over KRACKs as soon as possible. In the meantime, there are a few suggestions for how you can protect yourself.

First of all, make sure all of your devices and routers are updated, and turn on auto-updates so that if any new KRACK patches come in, you’ll be sure to get them right away. If you got a router from your ISP, you should call them and bother them until they release a security patch for KRACKs.

In the meantime, use your router’s user guide to find the administrative options and make sure everything is up to date and that you have the strongest privacy settings selected.

If your ISP is slow to respond, you might consider using an Ethernet cable to connect to the Internet, since KRACKs are only a problem with WiFi networks.

You can also disable WiFi on your smartphone and use your cellular data instead – although this could get expensive if you pay extra for cellular. You should also pull you Internet of Things devices, especially ones with cameras and assistants like Alexa, off of WiFi until your ISP has a KRACK patch.

It also helps to access the web through encrypted websites whenever possible.

Many sites offer either unencrypted access (HTTP) or encrypted access (HTTPS). You can download an extension called HTTPS Everywhere that tells your browser to automatically use encrypted access whenever available.

It’s available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Lastly, be aware that Android devices 6.0 or later are more vulnerable to KRACKs attacks than other devices. Good luck, and keep your information from slipping through the KRACKs!

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Real Estate Technology

Dot coms are on their way out when it comes to Realtors’ sites

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) NAR is making moves to secure their Realtors sites with .Realtor and .realestate authentications.

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The National Association of Realtors (NAR), the governing body of American realtors, has offered the .REALTOR domain to those who are members and has extended its initial kick off program until 2018.

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Currently, members of NAR can acquire a .REALTOR for one free year, as well as branded domain email and website creation. After the first year, REALTORS will pay $39.95 for their domain. NAR is also working on acquiring the domain .realestate for those in its membership as well.

Pile on the pros

This change can affect the online presence of a realtor in many number of ways. Because the .realtor domain is strictly policed by NAR and top level domain (TLD) registration group Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), this allows for a certain amount of trust and credibility to be made with a future customer. Due to the NAR’s deal with ICANN, those who use .REALTOR has that his or her domain registration tied to their National Realtors Database System (NRDS) ID number.

NAR states that this process is similar to the verification process for a .gov or .edu address.

Another reason for the decision to layers of around the strict TLD verification is the protection of the NAR brand, as well as the word realtor. Laypeople frequently confuse the terms “realtor” and “real estate agent,” unaware of the fact that only a member of the NAR is officially a realtor, and licensed non members who sell property are actually real estate agents.

In 2015, .REALTOR was the fastest growing TLD that had authentic websites, i.e. not domains bought for the purpose of scalping.

The NAR is also the largest trade association in the United States, with 1.2 million members. The TLD process for the NAR made history by being the first brand using this type of verification that was previously only afforded to governmental bodies and educational institutions.

Added security

The internet is a vast superhighway of changing parts, and the modification of TLD is a selling point for enhancing a brand.

NAR is offering a service by allowing the TLD to be another source of credibility for its members, a perk few other trade organizations can match.

#DOTrealtor

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Real Estate Technology

Are your phone settings giving hackers a free pass to your life?

(TECHNOLOGY NEWS) If you are one to leave your bluetooth on 24/7 you might want to rethink. Doing so leaves you vulnerable to all sorts of hackers.

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Bluetooth connectivity

Bluetooth is meant to keep you connected. By enabling it, your devices can sync up to one another without even being prompted. However, in this case, what is easier for you is typically also easier for hackers.

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Hackers are incessant and if they want to, can find a way in. But that doesn’t mean that you should hand them an all access pass.

Peace out privacy

With every technological advance, comes some relinquishment of privacy. When you use social media to share your experiences, it’s an open invitation for the world to know where you live, who you’re friends with and what you do.

Newsletters and email accounts require you to share personal information just to use their services.

Bluetooth is no different. Researchers from the group Armis have discovered a way for hackers to infiltrate your devices simply by having Bluetooth enabled.

They call it borne, Blueborne

No, Blueborne is not exactly like James Bond, but it does have the power to mysteriously infiltrate your devices. Researchers found that it takes less than 10 seconds for hackers to gain access to your devices through Blueborne.

You don’t even need to be using Bluetooth.

All it takes is for it to be on. Blueborne scans surroundings to find devices with Bluetooth enabled, and then is used to hack into such devises. From there, hackers gain control over the device and can steal data. Once one device is hacked, it can spread to another device, giving hackers the chance to access multiple devices without increasing their distance.

Prevent hackers

Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, iPhones, iPads, car audio systems as well as Android and Microsoft products are all vulnerable to a Bluetooth cyberattack. One line of defense is to make sure that devices are updated.

Last week, Google and Microsoft created security patches so that owner can update and secure their devices.

Just don’t do it

However, if there is one take away from the discovery of Blueborne it is this: don’t keep your Bluetooth on. Think of Bluetooth the same way as you think of locking your car. It’s obvious that not locking your car makes it easier for people to steal it. The same goes with Bluetooth.

The best way to prevent a cyberattack is to be aware of when Bluetooth is enabled, and to make sure it is off when not in use.

#BlueBorne

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