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Articles for ‘Technology’

Quirky New Smart Gadgets for Your Home

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 by Jennifer Williams

Smart Home gadgets for under $100

With all of our “smart” technology, Quirky, an online community where amateur inventors can bring their ideas to life, and GE, have unveiled seven new smart gadgets guaranteed to increase the IQ of your home.  Under $100, they’re packed with ways to help you control your home appliances right from your smartphone, anywhere, anytime.

Let’s start with explaining Wink, an app available in both iOS and Android that acts as a main control center for connected devices. It works with devices from various manufacturers including: Philips, Nest, and General Electric (GE), which is one of Quirky’s partners. Through Wink, you’re able to monitor and control any sensor separately or let them communicate with each other and you can set some very cool actions. For example, if you open a window, your heat/AC will turn off; or when your garage door opens, your lights, furnace, and even television can all turn on.

The first new gadget is a window and door sensor named Tripper, created by Robert Sweeney, independent inventor for Quirky. For only $40, this tiny white rectangle will alert you when your windows or doors open. This is great for families with small children or even pets, which have a way of sneaking out unnoticed. Not only can you get an alert for openings, Tripper can be connected to Wink and set to turn off your heat or AC when a window is opened.

Tripper

Tripper

The next product is Overflow, created by Michael Taylor, Quirky contributor. For only $35, it monitors the moisture levels where ever there may be a problem: under your water heater, basements, garages, or attics. Just set the maximum moisture level and if it goes over, you’ll receive an alert. Though it won’t solve any leaks, you’ll be aware of it before the problem becomes a huge disaster! Overflow connects with the Wink app as well.

Overflow

Overflow

 

By the same inventor of Overflow, comes Outlink, a $50 wall outlet that monitors energy usage and allows you to turn appliances on and off remotely. Even when items are off, they continue to suck up energy if they’re still plugged in. Just replace your current outlets for things like your television, fans, hair dryer or anything that stays plugged in when not in use, with Outlink. With a few quick clicks on your smart phone, everything can be regulated and it’s much easier than trying to run around every morning and unplug all your appliances.

Outlink

Outlink

Taylor’s third contribution is a switch that essentially acts as a main light switch for your home. For $60, Tapt will let you control any of the lights in your house with a mere touch of a button or through your smartphone. This is perfect for those times when you’re settled into bed for the night and see the bathroom light on, or trying to get your kids up in the morning, just turn on their lights! With Wink, you can program lights and appliances to on and off while your away or asleep, adding a layer of security as well.

Tapt

Tapt

Created by Nathan Firth, Quirky contributor, Ascend connects to your garage door and now you control it from your phone. For $90, you actually just swipe your finger up on the garage door image on your phone, then watch your door go up. You’ll get real time alerts when the door is opened. Better still, it works from anywhere around the world, allowing you to always have access to an “extra” key. Let friends or family in the house even if you’re not there.

Ascend

Ascend

We all have those rooms that are either too hot or cold compared to the rest of the house. This problem led Denny Fong, Quirky contributor, to his idea. Traditional thermostats can’t control individual rooms, but Norm can. Norm is designed to connect with a series of sensors (not included in the $80 device price) that tell it which rooms are in use and Norm will heat or cool accordingly. The Wink hubs sell for $50 each and you would need as many as spaces you want to control. No more cold nights needing extra blankets!

Norm

Norm

Quirky is currently selling bundle packs as well with many of the main items included to get you well on your way to the smartest house on the block!

What home sellers don’t know…

Thursday, December 17th, 2009 by Gary Lucido

…will definitely hurt them.

I was poking around this morning doing some research on enhancing real estate searches for our Web site. We’re about to introduce building specific searches. While testing the listings for 340 On The Park I discovered that we are only allowed to show 9 listings, while there are actually 15 units for sale in the building. Why can’t we show those other 6 listings? Well, we could if we required you to register but we don’t want to do that because registration is a pain in the ass. Furthermore, it’s a real turn off for real estate buyers who are afraid that some pushy real estate agent is going to start harassing them – not to mention that many home buyers provide bogus registration information when faced with that requirement.

But why do we have to get you to register to see these other 6 listings? Because the real estate brokers that are listing those units do not participate in an arcane and convoluted program called broker reciprocity. As explained in that prior post real estate listings from brokers that participate in the program get put in the IDX feed, which is broadly available on all realtor Web sites without registration. If a broker does not participate, their real estate listings are only available in the VOW feed that requires registration to access on a realtor’s Web site.

What is surprising about the 340 On The Park situation is that 6 out of 15 listings are not in the IDX feed. That’s a huge number. Just the other day I did a quick estimate and determined that in the city of Chicago only about 2 – 3% of the real estate listings are missing from the IDX feed, which is consistent with what the MLS folks tell me. That’s the reason that we decided to not require registration on our site.

So why is 340 On The Park so different? It all comes down to the dominant broker in the building who has all 6 of those listings. Apparently, this broker does not participate in the reciprocity program. This is especially peculiar in light of the fact that a real estate broker has to actually go through the trouble of opting out of the broker reciprocity program. In addition, opting out of the program only prevents the listings from showing up on other realtors’ Web sites. The listing brokerage still has the ability to advertise the listing on any Web site they choose – e.g. Realtor.com, where these “missing” listings do appear and without registration. So the listing brokerage selectively withholds access from the Web sites of brokers like us who refuse to require registration for accessing MLS listings (we still have access to the properties through the MLS system but we can’t put them on our Web site without requiring registration).

All of these shenanigans highlight yet another problem you can run into using the top producer. So, if your home is currently listed and you want to find out if your realtor is holding out on you just check for your home on our site. If it doesn’t show up then it’s not getting the broadest distribution possible.

As I asked before, why would any broker not want their listings to receive the broadest exposure possible? Could it be that they are trying to restrict access to their listings so as to increase  the likelihood of their getting both sides of the transaction? Nahhhh. A real estate broker would never put their own self-interest above that of their client.

New! Browse Chicago Real Estate By Neighborhood Or Zip Code

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009 by Gary Lucido

We’ve just added a new feature on our Web site that allows the curious to browse through and drill down into Chicago’s and Dupage’s real estate listings and get quick snapshots of the local real estate market, instead of just searching for a particular property. There are two different paths you can take from our home page – either browse by neighborhood or browse by zip code. Each of these starting pages gives you an overview of the Chicago and Dupage real estate market – the number of listings by type of property for each of our featured neighborhoods or zip codes. We picked these featured neighborhoods and zip codes based upon our current clients’ interests. If you don’t find a neighborhood or zip code you are interested in let me know. However, you can drill down on a more comprehensive list of neighborhoods from our neighborhoods page, which also includes profiles, maps, and real estate market statistics.

From these starting points you can drill down by type of property and then by number of bedrooms and bathrooms. 3 clicks is all it takes to get you to a specific home for sale. For example, starting at our neighborhood page you can click on the Lakeview condo and townhome link – 1009 listings at the time of this post. This page breaks down the Lakeview condo market into the different combinations of bedrooms and bathrooms. For each combination we show you the number of listings, the average price, and the minimum and maximum prices.

From there you could click on the link for the 47 3 bedroom/ 3 bath condos, which produces a list of the 47 individual homes for sale along with basic information on each listing such as total number of rooms, parking, and square footage. Clicking on any of those links takes you to the listing sheet for that particular property with all the pertinent details, including photographs.

Oh yeah…and, unlike most real estate brokers, we don’t force you to register so you can remain anonymous.

Interactive Floor Plans – Let Your Mouse Do The Walking

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 by Gary Lucido

The interactive floor plan is yet another way to avoid leaving your current home while looking for a new home. It’s really pretty cool and the ease with which we implemented this for our latest listing is yet another example of how a large broker has absolutely no advantage over independents like us. All we had to do was send an email to a Chicago based service provider who sent out a photographer to sketch out a floor plan and take photos from various angles throughout the home. Those photos were then linked from icons overlaid on a floor plan of the home, representing the locations from which the photos were taken. When you click on one of the icons it changes into a picture of a camera with shading representing the field of view and the corresponding photo is displayed on the side. A picture is worth a thousand words:

Interactive Floor Plan

You can click on the floor plan above to see the live example.

The interactive floor plan allows buyers to really get a feel for how the home is laid out and what it looks like from various angles. The only downside is that some buyers may think they’ve seen it all and try to make a decision based solely upon the online experience. We would recommend that the interactive floor plan be used only to rule out obvious misses.



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