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How to Live a Holistic Lifestyle While Embracing Smart Technology

How to Live a Holistic Lifestyle While Embracing Smart Technology

When you think of living a holistic lifestyle, do you picture someone being completely off-grid with no computer, no internet, and no smartphone? While some people do live this way, the absence of IoT tech doesn’t define a holistic lifestyle.

Smart technology and a holistic life aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, plenty of people live a happy, healthy, joyful life filled with smart technology. The key is they don’t allow their tech to control their lives. They’re not glued to their smartphones, and if their smart coffee maker stopped working, they’d happily brew a cup of coffee by hand.

There are countless ways smart technology can improve your life. Here are just a few specific ways.

Smart tech can give you critical food and drug recall alerts

Part of living a healthy, holistic lifestyle involves knowing when your favorite food brands test positive for dangerous contaminants. This goes for your pets’ food, too. Food recalls are far too common, and it’s hard to stay on top of every single situation. The easiest way to stay on top of each situation is to subscribe to alert mailing lists and pipe your emails through your smartphone so you’ll never miss a recall.

Even more common than food recalls are drug recalls. As much as you might try to live without over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, sometimes that’s hard. For instance, you might need to take ibuprofen once in a while to ward off a stress headache. There’s no shame in that. However, some seemingly innocent OTC drugs end up having devastating health consequences.

For example, the popular heartburn drug, Zantac, has been voluntarily recalled by the manufacturer. Zantac is the brand name for the generic drug called ranitidine. Unbeknownst to the public for years, the chemical structure of ranitidine literally becomes a carcinogen during metabolization. That’s pretty scary.

If you’re not taking any OTC drugs, you might be taking a medication that is keeping you alive. If that drug gets recalled or black boxed, your doctor may not know about it for a while. Using a smartphone to receive alerts when drugs are recalled could save your life.

Smart technology and holistic living are compatible

You can live a holistic lifestyle while embracing smart technology; you don’t need to choose one or the other. Technology won’t negatively impact your health unless you’re literally sitting at your computer all day long and you never get up to interact with the world.

In some cases, smart tech can even help you live a healthier life. For example, Fitbit tracks a user’s health data like steps taken, burned calories, and heart rate. Tracking this data can help individuals see the impact of their exercise routines, and it also helps them achieve their goals. Other wearable smart tech can be used to transmit data to a healthcare provider, and some wearable devices deliver pulsed electromagnetic frequency (PEMF) treatments.

Other smart devices are incredibly helpful to people with disabilities. For example, there are smart shoes that provide haptic feedback to guide blind people safely around neighborhoods using a smartphone GPS connection.

Haptic shoes convey directional information in a way that doesn’t distract the wearer or anyone else around them. The shoes are equipped with actuators and vibrators on all sides. After the wearer’s smartphone calculates their route, vibrations in the shoe guide the wearer to their destination. These amazing shoes also detect obstacles like steps and curbs and use the same vibrations to guide the wearer around immediate obstacles.

You can use smart tech to connect with likeminded people

Smartphones and smart tablets are tools that can connect you with likeminded people. No matter what your passion is in life, you’ll find a group of people online who share your interests.

The best way to connect with people is to use video conferencing software. Audio phone calls are okay, but why just use voice when you can connect through video conferencing? If you have an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, you already have video conferencing built into your device via FaceTime.

It’s more fun connecting with people through video chat than voice chat. You can tell so much more about a person when you can see them live. Video is the next best thing to an in-person meeting.

You can also connect with people all around the world and you won’t pay a dime beyond what you would pay for data. If you’re on Wi-Fi, then there’s no extra charge.

Connecting with people all around the world is inspiring and can be beneficial for your business. People from different cultures often have different ways of viewing situations and can come up with ideas and solutions you would have never thought about.

You can use smart tech to discover potential business partners

If you’re running a business, there’s no better way to find potential business partners than by assessing the people you’re already connecting with online.

If you’re discussing business with people over the internet, you might get a feeling that someone is a potential business partner. Smart tech will facilitate video conversations so you can get a better idea of who those people are.

Most people can sense who a person is just by being in their presence. Video conferencing is the next best thing if you’re working with people across the world.

Smart technology allows you to bring your workouts anywhere

Perhaps one of the coolest ways smart tech supports a holistic lifestyle is facilitating the ability to take your workouts anywhere. Some online workout programs are hosted in the cloud, like Apple Fitness Plus, which makes them available anywhere you have an internet connection.

You can also upload your workout programs to your private cloud hosting account if they’re not already available online. Last, if uploading is too much work, you can simply load your smart device with your workout programs and use your device to play the programs. If you happen to be in a hotel with a smart TV, you can connect your device to the TV to play your workout video on a larger screen.

Smart tech will help you track progress and goals

As long as you aren’t tediously tracking data that doesn’t matter, using smart tech to track your progress and goals in any area of life will prove beneficial. For instance, you can use your smartphone to track your reps while you’re at the gym instead of lugging around a notepad. You can also download an app to track what you eat. There are also apps that will tell you what to eat and when to eat depending on your body type and specific goals.

Technology has always been great for tracking progress. You can also track your business goals, sales, and just about anything else from a smartphone app.

Embrace smart technology as a way to enhance your holistic lifestyle

Living a holistic lifestyle is central to wellbeing. A holistic lifestyle involves taking care of your entire self – your mind, body, and soul. Smart technology can help you take better care of yourself by providing you with tools to stay on track.

Regardless of what you’ve read online, living a holistic lifestyle isn’t about giving up gluten, eating a plant-based diet, and living in a converted shipping container tiny home. Living a holistic lifestyle is about unifying your mental self with your physical self to promote overall wellness. It’s a lifestyle that keeps you in touch with the way your thoughts and attitude impact your physical health and keeps you in tune with nature, whether you eat gluten, fish, beef, or potatoes. It’s not about what you eat – it’s about who you are.

Technology has the power to facilitate your growth both in your personal life and in business. There’s no reason you can’t use a little smart technology to sustain a joyful, healthy life.

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How to Attract and Retain Reliable and Trustworthy Tenants

How to Attract and Retain Reliable and Trustworthy Tenants

Every landlord dreams of having long-term, reliable, trustworthy tenants who pay rent on time and in full. An even bigger dream is having tenants who clean up properly before moving out and leave all necessary repairs to the professionals.

Ideally, the dream is to secure honest tenants who don’t hide details that would change their lease terms. For instance, tenants who run a home-based business are more likely to cause damage in the process of making their goods. For this reason, many leases prohibit tenants from running a home-based business. Some tenants will hide their business, while others will be upfront and honest.

While securing great tenants with integrity is just a dream for many landlords, it can be your reality by employing the following strategies.

1. Set the tone for your relationship on day one

From the very first interaction you have, you are training your tenants how to be with you. If you want your tenants to honor their lease terms, you need to set the bar extremely high from day one.

For example, the first time you interact with a tenant will probably be a phone call asking if a unit is available or perhaps they’ll just submit an application online. Make these small interactions count. Be professional rather than casual and be firm with anything you tell prospective clients about rent prices, deposit amounts, rules, and cleaning fees.

If establishing a strict relationship with your tenants is difficult, hire a property management company. You won’t have to worry about anything. They’ll screen, select, and onboard tenants for you and they’ll handle all of their needs like maintenance and repairs.

2. Hold clients responsible for being on time

Not acknowledging when a tenant is late for a meeting will set a tenant up to feel comfortable with paying rent late. The truth is, most people are conditioned to be perpetually late. They don’t like to make or follow through with commitments. They want to maintain control to relax their way through life and do things on their terms.

Don’t set your tenants up to be lax about anything. Make sure they know you mean business. For instance, say you schedule a walkthrough from 2-2:30pm. Tell your prospective tenant ahead of time that being late will cut into the time available for the walkthrough and follow through. If they don’t show up until 2:15, don’t give them any extra time.

If you start making exceptions in the beginning of your relationship, even before someone becomes a tenant, you’ll train that person to know they’ve got wiggle room with your deadlines. This can result in all kinds of problems including using the laundry room after hours, blasting loud music late at night, paying rent late, and expecting to have late fees waived.

3. Reward tenants for amazing behavior

There are always fees and punishments for bad behavior, but what about good behavior? Find ways to appreciate good tenants. For example, if a tenant pays rent on time every month for 6 months, give them a $50-$100 discount on their 7th month.

A discount will be an incentive for them to continue paying on time. After a year of on-time payments, you could renew their lease at a discount for the entire year to come.

You could also reward tenants with a month of free parking, or a $20 gift card to Starbucks. The rewards you provide for your tenants are up to you. However, most landlords don’t reward their tenants, so even small efforts will be greatly appreciated.

When your tenants feel appreciated, they’ll be more likely to stick around even if they find a cheaper place to live.

4. Set your credit and income qualifications high

Some tenants with lower income can easily afford rent because they don’t have many bills. However, that’s not always the case. Since you can’t verify exactly how a tenant spends all of their money, it’s best to set high credit and income qualifications.

The standard minimum for credit scores is 650. Most landlords will not accept tenants with a score under 650. However, you can set the bar a little higher if you want.

When it comes to income, you want tenants who earn at least three times the monthly rent. You need to make sure your tenants have enough income to pay for their car, car insurance, cell phone, utilities, cable, internet, credit card bills, student loans, and whatever additional debts most people have today.

You will find tenants who are exceptions to these rules. There are people who don’t play the credit game and don’t have any debt, but consider those people on a case-by-case basis and only advertise your high standards. If someone really wants to live in your unit despite not having credit or 3x the rent as income, they’ll contact you to discuss their situation.

5. Cover utilities if possible

Including utilities in the rent is a controversial move that many landlords advise against. Tenants who know their landlords cover utilities are more likely to let space heaters, central heaters, and A/C units run all day and night. There’s no incentive to monitor or conserve their usage.

However, covering utilities can give tenants the certainty they need to feel financially stable. Some tenants function better when they know exactly how much their bills will be each month.

Although it’s controversial, there’s a way to make it work. The first thing you need to do is include a clause in the lease that allows you to start billing tenants for abusing utilities. This is easiest when you’re renting single-family homes because you can hold tenants accountable for the electricity they use.

Apartment buildings, condos, and some townhomes don’t have separate meters for each unit so it’s hard to set parameters for what constitutes abuse. For example, if you own an apartment complex with 20 units, you’ll never know if one family is running up your monthly electricity bill by $500 while everyone else is using around $200.

While it’s a great strategy for creating happy tenants, use your discretion when covering utilities in the rent.

6. Don’t spy on your tenants or use smart devices against them

While smart home devices can be convenient, use them with caution. Tenants want convenience, but not at the cost of sacrificing their privacy. An ADT survey found that 93% of consumers are concerned about how their data is being used.

Recently, several landlords have been in the news for attempting to force tenants to use smart security systems to enter the building and access their mailbox. Tenants felt like facial recognition software was a violation of privacy. Other tenants opposed the idea of smart locks because the electronic key fob was also a tracking device.

Although there is no federal law prohibiting landlords from using smart surveillance and keyless entry systems, the courts have been ruling in favor of concerned tenants.

If you’re going to install smart home devices and security systems, make sure you know where your tenants’ data is going. If the device manufacturer collects that data and sells it to marketers, you should skip that device to protect your tenants’ desire for privacy. Your tenants will appreciate you using only the smart devices and services that don’t sell their data.

7. Let your tenants know you won’t use smart devices against them

There have been landlords who have used smart locks to lock tenants out of their house for not paying rent. Some landlords have even used apps to prevent tenants from using their thermostat to turn on the heat or air conditioning.

Make sure you tell your tenant that you’re providing smart devices for their convenience and that you’re not going to use it against them. Technically, it would be illegal for you to prevent a tenant from accessing their home or thermostat, but since some landlords ignore the law, many tenants are afraid to rent homes that employ these smart devices.

You can earn a whole lot of trust from a tenant by eliminating their fears surrounding smart home devices.

Create good communication with your tenants

The ultimate way to attract and retain reliable and trustworthy tenants is to maintain good communication. When a tenant contacts you with a request, reply as soon as possible, even if only to let them know you’ll get back with them when you have a solution. Good, clear communication is one of the most effective ways to retain your best tenants.

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Benefits of Smart Devices for People Living with Disabilities

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Thanks to technology, life has become incredibly convenient. We can buy stuff online, talk to family and friends across the country and the globe, and control numerous smart devices through our tablet or smartphone. Those taking advantage of the Internet of things include the world’s largest minority, namely, individuals with disabilities.

In addition to the many other technologies of our digital world, disabled individuals benefit from the use of smart devices. It’s a lot like how the general public gets to enjoy the benefits of website accessibility. When websites are made accessible, it improves the user experience for all. If you’re not sure about getting on this technological trend, let us give you the reasons why you should.

What are smart home devices?

google miniA smart home is a residence that features devices interconnected with each other via the Internet that will enable the owner to remotely monitor and control them. Smart home devices include appliances, lights, thermostats, doorbells, door locks, cameras, speakers, etc.

How does a device qualify as a smart home device? Technically, any product inside your home that can be plugged into your home network and commanded by voice, remote control, tablet, or smartphone is considered a smart device.

How does smart home technology help people with disabilities?

Having your devices “talk” to each other has obviously transformed the lives of many people, but what has it done for those who are living with disabilities? How do these smart home devices help improve their daily lives?

A smart home system gives control to people with disabilities. These devices can help them enjoy independent living while easing the worries of their loved ones. They’re giving power to this community while providing them with cost savings. Smart devices are considerably less expensive than single-purpose assistive devices.

disabilityHow do smart home systems do all of that? One good example is a smart door sensor that is connected to smart speakers. Blind people can use this smart home technology to let them know if someone has entered or left the house. Another good example is the Amazon Echo program.

This personal assistant device can listen to your voice commands and control Bluetooth-enabled devices and appliances. People with limited physical mobility no longer need to get up to change the thermostat or to get in touch with a loved one. Opening curtains or blinds can be difficult for some people with restricted mobility. Having a smart device enables them to perform this task with ease.

Robotic vacuum cleaners, smoke alarms, ovens, and even coffee makers are just some of the other things that can be controlled using smartphones or even just spoken commands. As such, people living with disabilities are given the “ability” to perform tasks that they used to ask others to perform for them. It increases accessibility without requiring them to make changes to how their home is designed or built. Simply put, this type of technology provides them with “home control,â€� which can make a huge difference in how they can live their everyday life.

Best devices to make your home smarter

Door sensors

If you’re investing in a smart device, security should be your top priority. What better way to make your house secure than to get a door sensor? A door sensor sends you an alert whenever someone tries to enter your home. You’ll never have to worry about leaving your home unattended again because you’ll know immediately if your door opens.

For people living with disabilities such as dementia, loved ones can feel much safer with a door sensor installed. It eases their mind because they’ll be able to know right away if their family member leaves home without them.

Electronic door locks

A smart lock enables you to open and lock your doors remotely. It ensures you’re never locked out of your home—something that can easily happen if you forget your key or the code into your house.

It also allows you to provide people temporary access to your homes whenever you want it. In fact, you can even dictate the number of times and days someone can go in and out of your home. With a smart lock, you’re not just able to provide access. You’re also able to monitor access.

Motion sensors

motion sensorMotion sensors, as we all know, can detect movement in an area where there shouldn’t be any. These play an integral role in any security system. It can alert you when your children are entering an area in the home (like the basement) when they shouldn’t be; It will let you know if your teen is breaking curfew or going out while you’re asleep. Also, It will alert you when intruders are going into your home.

With a smart home system, you can set up your motion sensor to trigger other connected devices such as lights or alarms. These devices can even be used to help you save money. For example, you can set the device to turn off lights whenever there is no motion detected in a room for a certain period.

Smart lights

Smart lighting is more than just being able to turn your lights on and off remotely. It enables you to control lighting levels allowing you to change a bulb’s brightness to suit your needs and/or the time of day. It also allows you to save energy. As we’ve already mentioned, you can connect motion sensors with your smart lighting allowing you to turn off the lights in unoccupied rooms. In short, you’re able to conserve electricity as well as your personal energy.

Voice assistants

Voice assistant technology has transformed the lives of everyone. Commanded through voice, it is a software that performs as a digital assistant providing users with a service through an application. A good example of voice assistants includes Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.

With a voice assistant, you can control various devices through one specific app or device, such as the Amazon Alexa app, Amazon Echo, or Google Nest. Among other things, you can use it to call loved ones, search Google, watch a movie, create a shopping list, set reminders, and alarms, play music, lock the door, and change the thermostat. No hands required.

Video doorbells

A video doorbell is just as the name suggests. Your doorbell has a camera that records video. Why should you install it? Well, this smart device is a great criminal deterrent. Seeing a camera recording their actions just outside your door can make them think twice about breaking into your home. You can record everyone that goes to your door, which provides you with valuable video footage that can serve as evidence of a crime or blackmail material for a loved one.

Another benefit to this device is that it allows you to watch over your Amazon deliveries while you’re out of the home. It will also enable you to screen your visitors during those days when you’d rather be left alone.

Leak sensors

As you’ve probably already guessed by its name, this smart device alerts you whenever it detects a leak. Traditional devices will sound an alarm, which only works when you’re at home and can hear it. With a leak sensor such as a smart water leak detector, you get the alert on your smartphone.

Why would you need this? Prevention is better than a cure. Water damage is hard to detect until it has become a visible problem. That could cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Some people with disabilities might not have the ability to search for a leak. With a smart leak sensor installed in areas where leaks are likely to occur, they’ll get notified if and where it happens.

Thermostats

ThermostatsSome people like to keep their homes warm; others prefer it cooler. A smart thermostat allows you to set the temperature inside your home just the way you want it. Why is this important?

Well, with a smart thermostat, you can lower the heat while you’re out of the house to save on costs and then warm it up when you’re on your way home. For people living with disabilities, being able to remotely control the temperature of their home is a convenience that makes life easier.

Smart home devices are easy to install and setup.

Smart home devices can be intimidating to some of us. It sounds too much like science fiction, but the future is now. People don’t have to be afraid of this technology because it’s easy to install and set up. Most smart devices are designed to be user-friendly. Moreover, for most of them, you only need to install an app and plug the device into your home network.

Advantages of using smart home technologies

The advantages of a smart home are too numerous to cover in just a short article. For this reason, we’ll only cover five, but these are the big ones.

Home assistant

House chores certainly have never been this easy to accomplish. You can use your smart home devices to preheat your oven, get your coffee going, or have the carpet vacuumed while you’re miles away. Some smart home devices can even let you know when your food has cooked to perfection on the grill and is ready to serve. All of that is done without lifting more than a finger.

Smart heating/cooling

With a smart thermostat, you can make sure your home is warm and ready to welcome you in its arms as soon as you get home. Adjust your water temperature so that you’re ready for a hot shower as soon as you step through the door. The cooling and heating of your home is easily achieved through your smartphone.

Save energy and money.

Smart home devices enable you to regulate how much energy is spent in your home. You can lower the heat while you’re out of the house by only turning it up when you’re about to get home. You can turn off lights in unoccupied rooms or dim them down to keep energy costs low. Some applications can even help you monitor how much energy your household is using and notifies you of ways you can save energy, and when you save energy, you save money.

Health tracking

Health trackingIf you want to keep an eye on your health or the health of someone you love, smart health trackers can do that for you. It can check your stress level, calories, heart rate, pulse, and even your sleep patterns.

Safety

The world is a dangerous place. There’s no doubt about that. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy a worry-free life. With smart home technology, you can keep an eye on your home whether you’re inside it or far away. If there’s an intruder when you’re at the office or a water leak while you’re on vacation, you can get notified immediately instead of when you get back home hours, if not days/weeks, later.

Smart home technology can even let you allow people access to your home if necessary while you’re not in town. Moreover, it’ll give you peace of mind knowing that you’re able to lock the door even when you’re already at the airport waiting for your flight.

Conclusion:

There’s no question that smart home devices have made life easier for many consumers. For people living with disabilities, they’ve made life more normal. These devices have given them more control over how they will live their lives, enabling them to accomplish more on their own. Disabled people no longer need to rely on assistive technologies that usually only serve one purpose and cost a lot of money.

With smart home devices, their lives are better and their pockets fuller.

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Smart Home and Data Protection: Between Convenience and Security

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According to projections, more than one-fifth (precisely 21.3%) of households worldwide would be using smart home devices by 2025. To put that into perspective, the penetration rate in 2020 stands at 4.9%. Here is all about smart home and data protection and the struggle between convenience and security.

What is the cost of your privacy and cybersecurity?

While smart home devices’ proliferation is for good causes (safety, comfort, convenience, wellness, entertainment, etc.), more than enough reports have shown that these benefits come at the expense of privacy and cybersecurity.

Research has shown that most people have little trust in smart device providers.

According to an ADT survey, 93% of smart home devices consumers are concerned about how companies share their data. The human wariness factor is certainly not misplaced.

Smart home devices collect very personal information, and security is paramount.

Data Security Concerns

The fear of users of connected devices is two-fold. On the one hand, there are suppliers infamous for unauthorized data collection, usage, and sharing. On the other hand, some attackers would stop at nothing to intrude on devices and access a user’s data for nefarious purposes.

  • Unauthorized data collection and usage (suppliers).

“New technologies cause new problems,� said Surya Mattu as he received his 2018 Technology in Journalism award. This is the award that Mattu won with his co-journalist, Kashmir Hill.

Together, they investigated how much data smart home devices collect and share about their users. By building a special router to monitor the smart home devices installed in Hill’s apartment while the experiment lasted — Mattu was able to collect personal and sometimes very sensitive data about her and her husband.

As an ESET study revealed, even in privacy policies that guarantee user data protection, the use of the term “but not limited to” in privacy policies  — extends the potentials of data collection.

Agreeing to these terms may inadvertently grant the vendors unrestrained access to and usage of other forms of data than the ones that have been explicitly stated in the policy.

In addition, there may be privacy risks through device integration across vendors, especially when one of them has significant security issues.

  • Unauthorized data access and intrusion (attackers).

Last year, several reports emerged of vulnerabilities in the Nest Cam IQ indoor camera that could enable hackers to hijack the device and interrupt the network.

The vulnerabilities found included denial-of-service (DOS), code execution, and information disclosure.

Compared to other devices such as smartphones and laptops, smart home devices are notorious security liabilities.

A Kaspersky team uncovered a security vulnerability that enabled hackers to access backup data stored on Fibaro Home Center hub in a test study.

The backup data contained the owner’s personal information, including location and contact details. Apart from that, the team exploited a remote code execution vulnerability to access the smart hub, all the devices it controlled, as well as the home network.

With an attack such as this, there was hardly any conceivable limit to what hackers can do. Anything from pulling off a prank to robbing the house is possible.

Examples of attacks that smart home devices may face.

  • Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks allow a hacker to intercept the communication between two devices to steal personal information, impersonate a party, or corrupt data, among others.
  • Denial-of-service (DOS) attacks interrupt a device or network, rendering it unavailable to the rightful users. An example is the Mirai botnet attacks that occurred a few years ago. Permanent DOS attacks can cause irreparable damage to a device.

Regulations and Government Policies

Apparently, governments have not lived up to expectations as regards regulating data protection for smart home devices.

Some of the minimal laws that exist contain ambiguous provisions that complicate data protection issues. Two of the major laws that address smart home devices are the GDPR and the CCPA.

  • GDPR

The EU General Data Protection Regulation controls the use and sharing of personal data collected by businesses. The data includes smart home device vendors.

The GDPR does not prevent the use and collection of data. However, and more importantly, it forces companies to become transparent in handling users’ data and gives consumers more power over control of their data.

  • CCPA

The introduction of the California Consumer Privacy Act at the beginning of the year rightly generated plaudits.

The act included a section that tackled IoT security specifically. The IoT security law, as SB 327 is regarded, requires manufacturers of connected devices to “to equip the device with a reasonable security feature or features.�

However, the ambiguity of the text complicates matters. Therefore, the law has been deemed inadequate for guaranteeing IoT security.

The reality is that there aren’t enough regulations globally to ensure the security of smart home devices.

Perhaps, the technology is developing at a pace faster than the law can keep up with. This means that users of smart home devices have an enormous responsibility for vigilance in protecting their data.

Smart Home Safety

  • Permissions

Permission settings allow you to determine how your data is used and share and integrate controls for other devices and apps. Deny permissions that are too intrusive or that you are not comfortable with. And consider as a potential threat any permission to edit router settings.

Note that some permissions are set by default. Therefore, one of the first actions to take after purchasing a smart device is to check all the permissions and deny the unwanted ones.

Likewise, when you stop using a device, whether because it stopped working or otherwise, don’t forget to disconnect it from your network and from other devices.

  • Secure Access

Observe basic security hygiene to keep your devices away from unauthorized intrusions. For passwords, change the default password to a strong password you can easily remember. Likewise, use different passwords for each device and change these passwords intermittently to secure access to your device.

Another important measure is enabling multi-factor authentication. This provides an additional layer of authentication, making it difficult for an intruder to access your account, even if they know your password and username. Also, do not forget to secure your network.

  • Network Segregation

Segregating your network based on the behavior of your devices helps you to protect your most personal and most sensitive data.

Even the FBI recommends it. Keep all your IoT devices and appliances on a separate network from personal devices such as smartphones and laptops. The basic way to do this is to use different routers.

Alternatively, many Wi-Fi routers allow you to create virtual networks that operate as separate networks but are run on the same network. You just have to know how to set these up.

Conclusion

In the end, those who regard convenience as the enemy of security are not entirely wrong.

Applying tighter security measures to smart home devices would accelerate the adoption of these products as a by-product of abating many people’s fears. No one should have to give up their privacy just because their speaker or their lighting system is connected to the internet.

However, while the goal of not giving up your privacy remains the aim — there is a great responsibility for users of smart home devices to ensure their data protection.

After all, the ADT report also stated that less than 40% of the survey respondents were taking any data privacy measures at all!

Image Credit: sebastian scholznuki; unsplash

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Aeris 3-in-1 Aair Pro: Fighting Against Coronavirus from Your Living Room

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Living in California I’ve tested many air purifiers. Between the recent uptick in wildfires as well as the threat of Covid-19, peace of mind in breathing good air has saved my bacon more than once. Recently I got to try out the Aeris 3-in-1 Aair Pro — and color me impressed!

Aeris is fairly new to the US — and gaining in popularity. The Aeris brings to mind the mantra never send a small air purifier to do a big air purifier’s job.

The high performance of the Aeris 3-in-1 leaves most other purifiers (literally) in the dust.

3-in-1 Aeris Aair Pro

The 3-in-1 Aeris Air Pro gets its name from the three layers of filtration Aeris has incorporated into its replaceable filter, in essence performing the job of three purifiers.

The first filter is a protective pre-filter, designed as the first line of defense against larger particulates.  The next layer is activated charcoal, designed specifically to capture gases and odors.

The final layer is its True HEPA filter that stops particles clear down to a tenth of a micron, protecting you from viruses that are on all of our minds these days.

Pricing

Coming in at just under $1000, the 3-in-1 is not the cheapest on the market, but the extra cost does bring some bang for your buck.

The unit boasts a 750 square foot cleaning area, which is saying something for its modest size. Standing just below 24â€� tall and about a 15×15â€� square, it takes up only a bit more space than other air purifiers.

Admittedly, the unit was heavier than I expected, coming in at about forty pounds, but it likely isn’t something you’re going to be moving too frequently. The filter itself, on average, lasts you about a year and is, at the time of writing, $199 to replace.

Pros

 

AQI

Something that I really liked in the Aeris is that it notes the actual air quality index rating (AQI). Most purifiers only give you a generic rating that will, at most, indicate general levels from “healthy” to “very unhealthy,” often using colors for these blanket categories.

The Aair 3-in-1 actually shows you the indoor air quality rating on the unit while the app will display both the indoor and outdoor air quality.

Covid-19

In addition to all the other particulates and pollutants that are removed from the air, it comes as some relief that the 3-in-1 Aair Pro has been tested specifically against Covid-19. Tests indicate that 94% of coronavirus was removed within two hours.

Side note: I was initially concerned that the testing noted “feline coronavirus.” Upon further research, Feline coronavirus/Munich Strain is the alternative virus strain that is used as industry-standard testing because of its close relation to Covid-19, while being non-transmittable to humans.

AI

Aeris has also developed an AI that will learn with age. So, the longer you use it the better it will be at analyzing environmental patterns and household habits to boost its performance. While I haven’t yet noticed a difference I look forward to seeing the improvements listed in my air-quality over time.

Air Quality Over Time

No Ozone

A large issue with many air purifiers is the generation and release of ozone. While these other purifiers may be purifying your air, removing pollutants, allergens, pollens, bacteria, mold, or other particulates — a hidden danger of air-purifying is the release of toxic ozone gases.

The Aeris 3-in-1 is designed to prevent the release of ozone. Having the quality of “NO-ozone” protects those in at-risk groups of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Environmental Changes

Of all the air purifiers I’ve used and tested over the years, I’ve never had one notice (and respond) when I’m cooking. It stands to reason that off-gassing and carcinogenic changes would be occurring while you cook — but this was the first time that an air purifier that did anything about it.

I took bread out of the oven, and within a minute of opening the oven, the Aeris sprung to life in the other room. The Aeris gave me just a small note — but that is really cool.

Cons

While there were many great aspects about the 3-in-1, there was one con that really stood out to me. At present, Aeris doesn’t allow more than one user to be signed into the account through the app.

In the event that you try to log on from another phone or device, the app will actually kick off any user currently logged into the app.

I reached out to customer service and they were wonderful and quick to respond (A+ to their CX team). Sadly, it also doesn’t seem to be an upcoming feature to change that anytime soon.

Only one signed-in user may be a real dealbreaker for many households who have multiple partners, roommates, or children who need to be able to access and control the unit’s settings.

While you can increase fan speed and put into Smart Mode from the unit itself, it was a bit of a bummer to not be able to do so from the app on more than one phone.

One other minor thing to note is that the light of the unit does not turn off when in night mode which may make you reconsider putting the device in bedrooms — or remember you slumber mask.

Additional Notes

Modes: The device features a Manual, Smart, and Night mode. I generally keep mine in smart mode, with a few scheduled “Quick Cleans” now and then.

Noise: Smart mode’s low fan setting is almost impossible to tell it’s on. The Aeris is very quiet on the low settings. That being said, the unit can also pack a punch in the higher fan settings during Quick Clean.

Customer Service: A+

Unit Functions: You can see indoor AQI, raise or lower fan speeds, turn on Smart Mode, or power off.

App Functions: Indoor and outdoor AQI, change device mode settings (Night, Smart, Manual), view filter status. Analytics (Hourly, Daily, Monthly). Schedule modes, change account settings, contact customer service.

Connectivity: I was pretty impressed with the connectivity. I only had to connect the unit to the internet once, and it hasn’t disconnected.

specs on Aeris Aair Pro

The Specs:

Room Size: 750 ft²

Fine Particule CADR: Up to 390 cfm

Gas-Phase CADR: Up to 115 cfm

CCM: P4/F4

Fan: EBM papst

Power: 25W (avg) | >50W (max)

Noise: 35 – 65 dB(a)

WiFi Connectivity: IEEE 802.11b/g/n

PM2.5/PM10 Sensor: aeris asense

Filter Class: F7 and H13

Gas Filter: Active charcoal and active alumina

Filter Layers: 3

Dimensions: 14.56×15.23×23.62 in

Weight: ~36lbs

Overall Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed this air purifier. The Aeris 3-in-1 Aair Pro is a big air purifier, with even bigger results.

Easily handling 750 feet squared areas, and giving you peace of mind in knowing your home’s AQI. While it may be on the more expensive end of home air purification, this is one to seriously consider adding to your home.

The post Aeris 3-in-1 Aair Pro: Fighting Against Coronavirus from Your Living Room appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Connected Devices cybersecurity Internet connectivity remote work in 2020 Smart Home smart home devices Work

Security, Connectivity, and Privacy: Plume’s CEO on the Importance of Smart Homes in the World of Remote Work

As workers headed home over six months ago, few companies were prepared for what would follow. Cyberattacks have soared, WiFi connectivity weakened, and businesses simply aren’t operating like they should be.

The IT protections offered by the office simply aren’t there anymore in most cases. If employers and employees alike want to maximize their security, they need to bring some technology into the home.

The problems caused by a newly remote workforce call for advanced technological solutions like Plume, a smart home services pioneer co-founded by Fahri Diner. For Diner, working from home should bring all of the benefits of office life with it, without incurring new problems along the way.

That sounds good, but what exactly does it mean? As Diner describes it, it’s safe, reliable access to the internet, seamlessly integrated with the bleeding edge of smart home tech. And it all starts with a next-generation Wi-Fi optimization solution: Plume Adaptive WiFi.

The Importance of Adaptability

To deal with dead zones—areas without proper WiFi connections—in the home, many people have opted for mesh WiFi systems, networks that disseminate connectivity from a few key points throughout the home. In Diner’s mind, however, this solution doesn’t go nearly far enough.

“Mesh is just a starting point,� Diner explains in a recent Cheddar interview. “We don’t really see ourselves as competing with mesh players.�

In order to get a handle on the difference between mesh WiFi and Adaptive WiFi, think of it in terms of building a highway system. Mesh networks integrate links individually—in other words, building one road at a time without thinking about the optimal way to connect them. Adaptive WiFi, on the other hand, understands your household’s structure and traffic patterns, using this information to build the perfect WiFi highway for you. A highway built haphazardly, piece-by-piece is not going to work as well as it could, so that’s why Adaptive WiFi works as one cohesive system.

For many people, whole-home WiFi access is more of a luxury than an absolute necessity. There is one aspect of Adaptive WiFi, however, that Plume designed specifically with the needs of remote workers in mind: last-mile broadband delivery.

For Diner, this issue is a personal one: “I’ve spent the lion’s share of my professional life working on innovative projects to bring high-speed broadband to people,� Diner writes in a blog post. “The magic that I know happens in the upstream network over tens of thousands of miles disappears in the last few meters—oh come on!�

Some homes, by virtue of their plan, provider, or location, simply don’t get as strong of a signal as others. To help get around this problem, Adaptive WiFi distributes broadband to exactly where it’s being used the most—according to the unique needs of each device and application—ensuring that you’re always getting the amount of signal you need in order to do your work.

With greater connectivity comes greater possibility of infiltration. Adaptive WiFi wouldn’t be what it is if not for another of its key features: intelligent security.

Security: A Crucial Component of Any WiFi Network

The last thing that IT experts wanted was for workers to suddenly leave the office and go work from places without proper cybersecurity protocols, so imagine their shock when the lockdowns began in March of this year. 

No longer are important data points and corporate secrets being sent on secure, in-house networks—they’re coming from workers’ living rooms.

For hackers the world over, it’s like Christmas has come early. Plume IQ data shows that cyberattacks have doubled since lockdowns began, with almost 90% of households reporting at least one blocked attack.

Plume’s advanced cybersecurity carefully observes all broadband activity using AI, so it detects and stops attacks as they happen. By comparing your WiFi signals to enterprise-grade threat intelligence databases, it can determine whether any unusual activity is taking place and immediately put a stop to it. Using sophisticated anomaly detection, Plume’s AI Security can even determine which device has been compromised in real-time and isolate that device such that the threat is fully contained. 

While it’s great to have a network that both functions seamlessly and protects you from attack, Diner sees these as only the beginning. The true value of Adaptive WiFi rests in its ability to power the hands-off smart home.

Adaptive WiFi & Smart Homes

In order for workers to reach office levels of productivity, they need office levels of convenience—that’s where smart devices step in.

Smart devices need a strong, reliable network in order to function properly, but they also can’t become potential points of network vulnerability either. You need a network that can handle both the functionality and the security of a smart home.

In a recent keynote presentation, Diner describes just what a challenge that is. Over 800 million devices are connected to Plume’s OpenSync smart home operating system, covering well over 1,600 brands and facilitating the transmission of 62 petabytes of data per day. 

Transitioning to a smart home could overwhelm a traditional WiFi system and expose potential vulnerabilities in the network. Consumers need to know that a smart home is only as good as the network it runs on.

Plume has partnerships with ISPs the world over in order to provide the best possible service to customers. Diner points to his company’s latest partnership with networking equipment provider ADTRAN as a prime example of how Plume works to maximize connectivity for everyone.

The Importance of Data Privacy

The purpose of all cybersecurity is ultimately to ensure data privacy, and Diner points to three principles that demonstrate how Plume treats customer data:

  • Personal data must stay personal.

Plume keeps no records of data transmitted through their networks, period. The company even provides VPN pass-throughs for those wanting an additional layer of data security. 

  • Personal data is never monetized.

Plume doesn’t monetize user data and never will—to do anything else would be to betray customer trust.

  • Users are in control of their data.

Back in April 2019, Plume released a suite of tools that allow users to control the exact relationship that Plume has with their data, ensuring that no one is in the dark with regards to how their data is used. 

Work-from-home arrangements demand a new level of network, and Diner’s Plume has stepped into the market to provide one. Plume may not be a household name just yet, but all roads today seem to lead straight towards Adaptive WiFi for remote workers.

The post Security, Connectivity, and Privacy: Plume’s CEO on the Importance of Smart Homes in the World of Remote Work appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Smart Home

9 Strategies to Stay Cozy Warm Without Running up Your Heating Bill

9 Strategies to Stay Cozy Warm Without Running up Your Heating Bill

Do you live in a cold climate? Do trees shade your house so that it’s cold even during the summer heat? If you’re constantly running your central heat to keep warm throughout the year, you’re only making the electric company rich.

The good news is you don’t need to rely on central heat to stay warm all the time. You don’t have to stop using your central heat, and you don’t need to buy expensive new gadgets to create a smart home. All you need are these 9 strategies to reduce your electric bill and stay warm at the same time.

1. Seal up baseboard gaps and/or missing baseboards

Drafts are a major source of cold air that will keep your central heat running nonstop. When you have cold air constantly flowing through your home, your heating system will never reach the temperature set on the thermostat. That means your system will run indefinitely until you turn it off or set the temperature lower than you prefer.

Sealing up gaps and missing baseboards prevents cold air from flowing freely into your home and saves you money on your electric bill at the same time.

If you don’t mind the way it looks, get some of that expanding foam material that comes in a can and spray it in the cracks from the outside of your house. This is the easiest and cheapest way to seal small baseboard gaps.

Otherwise, fix your baseboards properly and/or install baseboards if yours are missing.

2. Use infrared space heaters

Unless you live in a futuristic smart city where all appliances run on solar power, you need a standard source of heat. If you don’t have central heat, you need something portable like a space heater.

Space heaters have a reputation for being energy hogs, but that’s not always true. There are two factors that determine how a space heater’s efficiency:

  • The power required to run the space heater
  • The method of heat conversion

Infrared heat is an extremely efficient source of heat because infrared heat is absorbed deep within your skin. Infrared heat sticks to your clothes, too, which keeps you warm for a longer period of time. In contrast, heat created through convection only heats the air around the unit. The problem with convection heat is that the hot air rises and moves away from you. You’ll only stay warm when you’re huddled up close to the heater.

There are many different ways space heaters create hot air, including:

  • Standard convection heating
  • Infrared heat
  • Ventless gas heaters (usually wall-mounted)
  • Blue flames

Which space heater is right for you? That depends on your living space, your budget, and your preferences for aesthetics. To learn more about how various space heaters work, check out eFireplace Store’s thorough guide to space heaters for a detailed explanation. The guide includes everything from how the hot air is created to how the actual units function.

3. Layer clothing correctly

You probably know that you need to layer up when it’s cold, but how you layer your clothing matters.

In lightly chilly weather, you can put a fleece hoodie on over a cotton t-shirt and get warm. However, that won’t work in colder weather. Cotton doesn’t retain body heat and is therefore a poor choice for a base layer.

If you’re really cold, layer up like this:

  • Use wool or thermal material for a base layer. Some thermals are cotton, but when woven into a waffle pattern they provide warmth. Wool won’t make you sweat. In fact, wool regulates body temperature in both directions – cold and hot.
  • Your second layer should be fleece. Fleece (including Sherpa) is designed to capture your body heat and reflect it back to you.
  • Your third layer should be waterproof. If there is a possibility of rain, you need an outer, waterproof layer.
  • Be careful not to wear fleece as your base layer. If you wear fleece as your base layer, you’re more likely to sweat, which will make you cold instead of warm.

To keep your feet warm, get some fleece slippers and wear them without socks. If your ankles tend to stay cold, get your slippers a half size larger than usual and wear thick fleece socks.

4. Wear fleece-lined leggings under your jeans

Cotton jeans and work pants will make your legs stay cold. Fleece-lined leggings will help. If you’re not the type to run around in leggings, wear them under your jeans. Fleece-lined leggings are common and can be found at big retailers like Walmart and Target for about ten bucks a pair.

If you wear your jeans a little tight, you might need to get the next size up to accommodate your fleece leggings during the cold season.

5. Wear a neck cozy

Wearing a beanie is the most obvious way to keep your head warm, but don’t forget about your neck. Get a neck cozy to keep your neck warm. Some beanie manufacturers make matching sets in all kinds of cool patterns.

Remember, the majority of heat loss happens through your head. The warmer you can keep your upper body, the easier it will be to stay warm.

6. Pop a tent in your living room

Depending on where you live, pitching a tent in your house might be the best way to keep warm. Even though tents are thin, having a smaller enclosed space will keep you warmer. Just pull in a small space heater to warm up the inside before you go to bed.

If you don’t feel like pitching a real tent, get an inflatable tent. Or if you don’t have space, get a Pop Tent. Pop Tents are specifically designed to cover your bed and the entire side wall is a zippered door for easy access to your bed. Zip it up when you sleep and leave it open when you want more air.

7. Use materials that reflect the heat back to you

Certain materials will reflect heat back to you. This is the idea behind wearing Sherpa or fleece clothing. However, you can also reflect heat back to you using materials in your home.

Foil reflects heat extremely well and so does mylar. Wherever you spend the most time, line your walls with foil or mylar to keep the area warm. It will look strange, but if it keeps you warm, it’s worth getting grilled by your friends.

8. Install a wood stove

A wood stove is by far the most efficient way to heat a home because, with the exception of a pellet stove, it doesn’t rely on electricity. Unless you’re in an apartment, you can install a wood stove and start staying warm and saving money on heating at the same time.

A good wood stove will cost you around $1,000, but they’re made of cast iron and will last virtually forever. Wood stoves require annual maintenance and inspection, but the cost is far less than what you’d pay to keep running central heat all year round.

9. Insulate your windows with bubble wrap

If you don’t have double paned windows, bubble wrap is a great (and cheap) substitute. Double paned windows keep cold air out by trapping it in a gap in between two panes of glass. Similarly, bubble wrap will trap cold air when taped to a window with the bubbles against the window.

To get the most out of this warming strategy, get bubble wrap with big, thick bubbles to trap as much air as possible. Attach the bubble wrap with scotch tape to prevent damaging your wood trim.

The downside is you won’t be able to see through the windows you’ve covered in bubble wrap.

You’ll acclimate to the cold sooner than later

If you’re new to a cold climate, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll acclimate to cold weather. After a few years, you’ll be able to tolerate lower temperatures more than you could in previous years. Until then, get some warm blankets, a heated jacket, and use these tips to stay warm all year long.

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automation real estate real estate technology Smart Home Tech

The Untapped Opportunities in Real Estate Automation

Real estate technology, or proptech, is one of the industries that has produced the most unicorns in the last few years. Historically, however, the real estate industry has been among the lowest spenders by sector on technology. Despite being slow to adopt new technologies, real estate contributes 13% of US GDP, making it the country’s largest industry.

Such a large sector represents a huge market ripe for technological disruption, especially in the post-Covid-19 world.

How automation can improve the real estate process

Automated real estate transactions will soon be the norm. By digitizing documents and paper trails, technology improves information security for both consumers and agents. Processing payments digitally also increase transaction security and speed.

Many automated tools help reduce busywork for agents, freeing up their time to focus on tasks that require a personal touch, like building client relationships.

Automation can also help agents maintain consistent timelines and messaging. The expanded capacity to collect and analyze data allows agents to create informed strategies and concrete measures of success.

As a whole, automation saves agents time and generates more opportunities by scaling their efforts. This, in turn, creates more opportunities and increases revenue.

Over the last few years, the real estate industry has begun to prioritize technology.

With the addition of technology –large real estate corporations have hired CIOs and created technology budgets, and most agents recognize the importance of tech for remaining competitive. The consumer research experience has already been transformed, and 44% (nar.realtor) of buyers now begin searching for homes online.

The rest of the buying and selling process, however, can also be improved through technology that automates previously manual procedures.

Marketing

The automated marketing tools market was valued at $3.3 billion in 2019 and is expected to nearly double by 2024. While agents can use much of the automated marketing technology that already exists, there is also a demand for marketing technology specifically adapted to real estate needs.

These real estate-focused tools help agents expand their reach and gain insight into their client base. For example, some real estate-focused tools generate targeted video and ad campaigns based on agency listings. Other marketing tools help agents create and manage social media campaigns across different platforms, automatically scheduling and publishing social media posts. Some even suggest existing relevant real estate content that agents can repost on their channels or use as inspiration.

Data analytic tools also help agents track content views and types of engagement. Based on that data, the software compares content performance, helping agents determine what marketing tactics are working best.

Lead Generation

Automation tools can also help agents generate more high-quality leads. Chatbots, for example, allow agents to engage with potential clients through their website at any time of day. The chatbots provide information that moves the lead down the pipeline, so they are better informed when they speak with the agent.

CRMs designed for agents sync with real estate search platforms and agency social media profiles to gather leads across channels. Then, activity tracking tools monitor and sync potential client activity.

Using this information, agents can adjust their outreach strategy for those potential clients. For some, an automated follow-up sequence triggered by specific activities can be activated. Meanwhile, other higher-quality leads might require more personal attention.

Lead scoring tools help agents determine which leads they should prioritize for personalized outreach. In tracking lead activity and source, these tools also show where the best quality leads are coming from, which helps inform marketing strategy.

For agencies with multiple agents, lead routing software can automatically assign leads to agents based on geographic location. By streamlining and improving the lead generation process, these technologies increase lead opportunities and reduce the time it takes to turn a lead into a customer.

Agents’ everyday workflows

In addition to expanding the lead pipeline, automation can help agents manage their everyday workflow. Agents are constantly juggling many clients at different points in their customer journey, and automatically generated task lists can help agents track and sync their activities for each client by stage. Tasks can be assigned deadlines with automatic reminders to keep agents on schedule.

Calendar automation simplifies scheduling with clients, allowing agents to set windows for types of appointments and block off times for inspections and showings. Thanks to calendar updates in real-time, clients can find an available time that works with their schedule, avoiding the back and forth that manual scheduling entails.

For agencies with multiple agents, automation tools sync any updated information or documents, keeping everyone on the same page, and increasing transparency. Agent activity can also be tracked and evaluated to determine performance across the team.

Transaction process

The transaction process to close deals with clients can also benefit from automation technology. For most agents, this process is currently complex, slow, and mostly analog. For the real estate sector alone, technology for managing the transaction process has been valued as a potentially $100 billion opportunity. As a result, fintech solutions are on the rise, with the adoption of fintech quadrupling from 2015 to 2019.

The transaction process involves many steps, each with the potential for improvement through automation. E-signature and e-notarization technology would speed up the signing procedures and increase process transparency. Digitized paperwork facilitates smart contracts, giving all the involved parties access to the most updated version of the agreement and prevents tampering.

Digital money transfers also offer a more secure option for agents and clients.

After a money transfer is made, blockchain technology could automate the digital paperwork update for a faster and smoother ownership transfer. Using technology, agents can improve the customer experience by providing an easier, quicker transaction process, which results both in satisfied customers and efficient agents.

A turning point for the real estate industry

Due to Covid-19, many agents have turned to new technology to continue working. This period will likely be a turning point, marking the start of large-scale adoption of real estate technology throughout the sector. With the market potential, and numerous opportunities to improve security, efficiency, and consistency, proptech will be an industry to keep an eye on.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Smart Home

Smart Home Security: Responsible Development

smart home security

Currently, smart home solutions are gaining popularity for a good reason. They allow owners to remotely monitor their houses, increase energy efficiency, and even assist in health tracking. Given all those advantages, homeowners are jumping on the opportunity to enhance their homes’ comfort and security for a better quality of life. Consequently, the smart home market amounted to $76.6 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $151.4 billion by 2024, according to Markets and Markets.

Responsible Development and Maintenance of Smart Home Devices

As the number of smart devices grows, so do their software and hardware vulnerabilities, which can be exploited by malicious individuals, making smart home safety a significant concern. For instance, a couple based in Wisconsin, suffered a terrifying incident when their smart home was attacked. Hackers penetrated their smart home network and played disturbing, loud music while speaking to them through their smart camera.

As if that was not scary enough, the attackers manipulated the couple’s thermostat to change the room temperature to over 30 degrees Celsius. This and other similar incidents have created market opportunities for vendors to release new solutions for smart home security, making the forecast for this industry jump to $4.37 billion in 2022, rising at a CAGR of 19.6% from 2018.

Securing smart home devices is the responsibility of both vendors and consumers. And as consumers are becoming aware of the risks, they search for vendors who make security their top priority during smart device development.

The State of Smart Home Security

Connected smart home devices can be hacked, just like any other smart electronics.

Outdoor smart devices such as doorbells and garage doors are the most vulnerable as they can be accessed easily by anyone driving by. Kitchen appliances are less likely to be targeted, but these devices are not safe either. Even though an individual appliance does not present much value in of itself, attackers can still target it to break into the smart home security system.

Once inside, they can access personal information or perform a more sophisticated attack such as building a botnet. In one bizarre example, a North American casino was compromised through a smart fish tank. Once the hackers were in, they moved rapidly across the network and stole 10 GB of personal data before anyone realized something fishy was going on.

While installing a smart camera can make people feel safe, it also opens a digital gateway into their home. One infamous incident involves Ring security cameras. Attackers hacked into the Ring IoT system and found users’ passwords stored in free text.

With those passwords, the attackers could compromise the wireless security system and spy on people. Ring was quick to blame the users for this security breach, saying they used weak passwords. However, further investigation proved that Ring did not take enough precautions to ensure the security of the private data.

Even smart light bulbs have been compromised. In a recent incident with the Philips Hue smart bulb, hackers were able to exploit a vulnerability in the way the company implemented the Zigbee communication protocol. From up to 100 meters away, criminals were able to gain access to homeowners’ wi-fi networks and install malicious spyware and ransomware.

Almost all smart devices can be a target for attack. Even a smart coffee machine can be used to access its owner’s bank account details. As a trend on secure smart home devices is spreading among consumers, vendors are expected to step up and make security a part of their development process. Even the most seemingly harmless devices need to be secured. For example, Softeq Development has produced a remote-control app for outdoor lights with multiple security protocols.

Incorporating Security into the Heart of the Development Process

In a recent study, a group of researchers from North Carolina State University examined 24 popular smart home devices and found that the vast majority contained flaws, which could potentially put the homeowners at risk.

One wide-spread flaw enabled hackers to passively listen to signals coming from smart devices, and collect and analyze data by merely being in close proximity to the house. For example, by monitoring a smart lock, the attacker could find out whether the owner was home.

Another common flaw in the analyzed devices was the possibility to deactivate them before the intrusion. A hacker could upload a piece of malware that would block all security alerts, such as smart door opening while letting heartbeat messages pass through to prevent raising suspicion.

To produce a secure device, it is not enough to just quickly incorporate a few security functions into the final product. Security must be an integral part of every phase of the development process.

Design Phase

While developing smart devices, the manufacturer has to take care of security during the early stages of the product life cycle.

  • Separate security functions from other functions establish limited interfaces between secure and non-secure functions. This separation narrows the scope for developers specialized in security, allowing the rest of the team to handle non-secure functionality.
  • Make explicit assumptions about security requirements document any security assumption made during the design phase, do not count on the fact that everyone else has the same expectations by default. This includes suppositions regarding the device’s usage, environment, etc.
  • Consider inviting an external security expert for a final security check of the completed design is beneficial to search for inconsistencies. For instance, sensitive data can be safely captured and stored, but at the same time, it can be leaked through other channels such as error messages.
  • Take a layered approach to security. Keep in mind that the security measures you are implementing, are very likely to be compromised at some point. To minimize the risk of exposure, include redundant security measures into your design.

Development Phase

During this stage, developers implement the security rules prescribed in the design phase. Even if the design was strong, programming errors can unintentionally introduce new vulnerabilities.

  • Keep security in mind when choosing a programming language

Some programming languages (such as Rust) offer memory management capabilities, which makes them preferable from a security standpoint. However, any vulnerabilities of this kind will present a single point of failure. For example, C and C++ are often used in developing software for smart devices as they allow for efficient use of system resources.

However, these languages open an opportunity for programmers to perform operations that undermine security. On the other hand, Ada, despite being one of the older programming languages, is still a good option for secure programming.

  • Stick with the established security frameworks when possible, do not redevelop them

There are existing libraries for different security aspects and redeveloping them is not a good practice. Although using existing libraries is favorable, they are not exempt from flaws. While choosing which library to use, investigate its reliability: check if the library is widely adopted by others. Does it implement a standard security mechanism? Has it been audited? Simple questions like this at the outset can save a lot of trouble down the road.

  • Make sure your firmware is up to date

When developing firmware, rely on the security frameworks that were thoroughly investigated and improved by security experts, and always update them to the newest version when available. Be careful to ensure that the newest version hasn’t been replaced by a “man in the middle”. Digital signatures can be used as reliable verification tools. A digital signature is incorporated into the firmware at its origin and read by the receivers using a private key.

Testing Phase

In this step, you are not only testing the functionality but also exploring the robustness of error handling and fault tolerance.

  • Invite external auditors to run security tests

Third-party experts simulate different attacks and try to weaken your product. Such external tests include penetration testing, network scan, etc. The number and complexity of these tests should be proportional to the security requirements. When the level of security is very high, the attack scenarios become increasingly complex.

  • Perform a privacy impact assessment test

This test is used to ensure the data is processed in accordance with the GDPR (when applicable), or any equivalent regulations governing privacy in your country (e.g. CCPA). Be aware that your national security agencies might have privacy assessment guidelines prepared and available for everyone to use.

Continuous Monitoring after Smart Devices are Deployed

Even after a smart device leaves the shop, a responsible vendor will continue monitoring it for vulnerabilities. Collecting traffic data coming from smart devices will help to study device-specific traffic patterns and improve future versions. There are several measures smart device producers can take to contribute to security after deployment.

Supplying Consumers with Security Tips

Many security tips seem like common sense to vendors. However, they might not be so obvious to end-users. Even if the tips are well-known to consumers, it’s likely that they’ll undervalue the impact they can make. To avoid incidents that could easily be prevented, supply your customers with tips on how to keep their smart devices secure. These tips should include, but not be limited to:

  • Changing the default password and choosing a secure option
  • Installing device updates when available
  • Checking permissions while installing devices
  • Giving your devices a name
  • Unplugging devices when not in use
  • Disabling features that you do not use
  • Securing your wi-fi and avoiding connection to public networks
  • Performing network segmentation if possible, so that not all devices have access to the whole network

Device Discovery

With machine learning-based techniques you can accurately identify every connected IoT device, construct a taxonomy of devices, and analyze network traffic. Being able to distinguish, for instance, a refrigerator from a thermostat is essential for security as it allows you to see what data traffic patterns belong to what device.

Anomaly Detection and Classification

When smart home devices are recognized and profiled, you can build an incremental behavioral model for every profile. When a device’s current behavior deviates from the established norm (such as the number of sent/received packets), this might be indicative of an attack.

Traffic monitoring alerts you to compromised devices at an early stage and lets you take preventive actions. Monitor both internal to external traffic (to detect DDoS attacks) and external to internal (to detect home network penetration attacks).

Reliable Data Storage Provision

Insecure data storage is an invitation for data breaches. In 2019, IoT devices vendor Wyze admitted to leaving data gathered from two million people exposed on the Internet where criminals could freely harvest it. This data included email addresses as well as health information.

What’s in it for Your Business?

There is no one-size-fits-all best smart home security system. Nevertheless, you will be more successful in delivering secure smart devices if you adopt a comprehensive approach to security in all phases of the development process and continue monitoring smart devices after deployment. This will not only make you a trusted vendor, but it will also open new business opportunities. For example, you can sell the data you are collecting (with consent, privacy, etc.) through:

  • Cross-selling programs with trusted vendors
  • Forecasting supply-demand and selling the insights

With the increased demand for smart devices, vendors fail to provide proper security and end up headlining the news with bad publicity. It’s a challenge to supply consumers with secure smart devices as it takes a rigorous development process, continuous monitoring, and reliable data storage. But those vendors who put security on their priorities list will receive consumers’ trust and new options to advance their business.

The post Smart Home Security: Responsible Development appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Smart Home Tech

8 Modern Technologies Landlords are Loving

8 Modern Technologies Landlords are Loving

Are you overwhelmed with your landlord duties? Are you looking at technology to make life as a property investor easier? If you’ve ever wondered how other landlords get things done without becoming overwhelmed, here are 8 essential technologies they use.

1. Online rent collection software

Even when you make rent due on the first of the month, tenant checks won’t all be delivered on the same day. Some people mail checks early, while others mail them the day rent is due or even a day late. Do you check your box a couple days after rent is due, or do you check every day until all rent has come in? Either way, wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to check the mail at all?

If you’re burdened even slightly by having to check the mail more than once to collect rent from your tenants, you need online rent collection software. If you’re tired of chasing after late rent and being haggled about late fees, you need online rent collection software.

You might already know that property management companies collect rent online and it saves a tremendous amount of time. For instance, Green Residential collects rent online from tenants in Katy, Texas and even distributes the rent to landlords electronically. However, you don’t need to be a property manager to utilize online rent collection services. While some rent collection applications require a minimum number of tenants, others don’t.

Research the various rent collection applications to see which one is right for you. Here’s a summary of three applications:

Cozy

Cozy is a rent collection program that provides free ACH transfers and offers a paid upgrade to speed up collection time. If a tenant uses a credit card to pay the rent, Cozy charges the tenant a 2.75% fee.

Zillow Rental Manager

Zillow provides free ACH transfers, but tenants are charged a 2.95% fee for using a credit card and $9.95 for using a debit card.

Rentler

Rentler is another online rent collection application that provides free ACH transfers and charges tenants 2.9% to use a card (debit or credit).

Of the above three online rent payment solutions, Zillow is popular, but Cozy and Rentler are the better options. One reason is that Cozy and Rentler allow for multiple payments per lease. For example, say you have a tenant that needs to pay the rent from two different bank accounts. Or, say you have two renters who each need to make separate payments. Your tenants can make as many payments from as many accounts as it takes to pay the rent. Zillow only allows one payment total.

Another reason Cozy and Rentler are the better options is because they both apply late fees automatically after a grace period you specify. Zillow doesn’t provide this feature. Cozy and Rentler also allow for tenants to have a credit in the system if they overpay; Zillow doesn’t. Zillow also doesn’t keep track of tenant security deposits.

There are other rent collection applications on the market, so do your research before committing to any particular program.

2. Smart home tech

The global market for smart home technology is expected to grow 16.9% through the end of 2023. That growth rate can translate to pretty profits for landlords willing to equip their rentals with smart technology. Statistics show that homes equipped with smart technology rent faster than homes with outdated appliances and standard features.

Busy people want convenience more than anything today and smart home tech is one way to deliver that convenience. Many landlords install smart technology that can be controlled by a mobile app, including:

  • A smart thermostat
  • A smart coffee maker built into the wall
  • Smart refrigerators and freezers that alert you when the door is left open; some refrigerators reveal the contents when you tap on the door
  • Smart lighting systems
  • Smart video surveillance systems that stream in real-time
  • And more

If you’re a landlord who wants the financial advantage of installing smart home tech in your rental units, make sure you review the security risks with your tenants before signing the lease. While you’re legally responsible for maintaining the devices at a functional level, make sure your tenants know what their part is to keep smart home tech secure.

3. Smart security systems

Landlords love smart security systems, especially in common areas. Landlords need to make sure their building isn’t being accessed by people who don’t live there, or guests who are up to no good.

In the last few years, many landlords have installed high-tech biometric security systems in common areas like mailrooms, lobbies, and community areas.

While some tenants don’t like high-tech security systems, others don’t seem to mind because they want to feel safe. However, A New York court recently ruled against landlords using facial recognition security systems, so talk to a lawyer (and your tenants) before installing a biometric system.

On the upside, your tenants might be happy to have their standard door lock replaced with a smart security lock to feel safer. In some areas, landlords aren’t allowed to install a smart lock until a unit is vacant, so check your local laws first.

4. The internet

It’s understandable that landlords want to know what kind of people they’re renting to. Landlords can use the internet to research prospective tenants, provided they don’t use what they find to discriminate against anyone. Most legal experts advise landlords not to research tenants on social media simply because a tenant might claim discrimination (even when it’s not true). However, many landlords disagree and research tenants anyway.

You can find out just about everything about people online through social media and searching for their name in search engines. Just proceed with extreme caution.

5. Digital marketing software

Landlords are some of the busiest business owners around. Many have started embracing software to market vacancies and stay in communication with tenants. For example, many landlords use CRM software to manage the flow of leads. Who’s hot? Who’s not? Your web form questions combined with the right CRM software will help you figure that out.

Communicating online with tenants and prospective tenants is also a time saver for landlords. Landlords that keep communications online can rent vacant units faster, thereby decreasing the amount of time a unit sits empty.

6. Investing apps

There are plenty of applications for landlords who are serious about investing. For example, Property Fixer is an app that supports investors that flip homes either from short sales, foreclosures, or any other deals. This app projects potential profits and helps investors calculate the cost of a potential project to determine ROI.

The app from Auction.com is used by investors who want to spot the latest property deals in specific locations. With Auction.com, investors can see pending foreclosures available to purchase and transactions can be conducted online.

Other apps exist to alert investors when commercial properties become available, and others provide educational material to investors to learn more about real estate from experienced professionals.

7. Online scheduling software

Landlords use online scheduling software to keep track of client meetings, meetings with other investors, special rent due dates, tenant repair and maintenance appointments, and a variety of other duties.

Keeping track of time-sensitive tasks in an online system is ideal because appointments can be synced to mobile devices with alarms so nothing is overlooked.

8. A full-service property management company

One of the most brilliant technologies landlords are using is the full-service property management company. Unlike an individual property manager, a full-service company provides landlords with everything they need – including all the software applications that make landlord life easier. Except the property management company handles everything from tenant screening and credit checks to collecting rent online.

One of the best benefits of working with a property management company is getting paid online. Just like they collect rent from tenants online, they’ll distribute your payments online as well. Nobody has to mail checks, check the mailbox, or stand in line at the post office.

Technology will continue to support landlords

While landlords are collecting rent online and managing tenant needs online, they’re also using software to find additional investments and learn more about the real estate industry.

Technology is progressing at a rapid rate and it’s safe to say that, eventually, there will be an application to help landlords manage every aspect of their duties. For now, the technologies listed in this article are the most popular among both new and seasoned landlords.

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