From self-driving cars to ultrafast 5G connections, tech developments are making their way to the market to enhance how you do business in the future. And the tech industry’s annual mega-event—the International Consumer Electronics Show—had plenty to show off this year, too.
Considering that nearly 80 percent of 18- to 39-year-olds and about 70 percent of consumers aged 40-plus said in a 2018 Sotheby’s International Realty survey that having a tech-savvy real estate agent is important, staying ahead of budding trends is essential. Technology for real estate professionals should increase “productivity and task automation, freeing up time to build more meaningful relationships with clients,” the report notes.
Read about five products and tools that caught buzz at CES this year that may help you run your business more efficiently in the near future.
1. Tech That Bends
The era of flexible electronics is coming. The potential for flexible displays has long been hyped, and now tech manufacturers are finally showing progress. As phone screens ironically get larger, the bendiness in new introductions makes the hybrid smartphone-tablet a reality. For processing digital transactions, you can now use rollable, lightweight keyboards, too. Road-warrior sales associates may find flexible tech is easier to tote in a pocket or purse. The bendable products may also usher in an era of stowable tech in home design, such as rollable television screens.
What to watch:
Foldable hybrids: Royole showed off the FlexPai at CES, a smartphone and tablet hybrid with a flexible, foldable screen. It can be folded or unfolded depending on whether you want a smaller smartphone screen or a larger tablet screen. The device can be bent freely 180 degrees and the screen cannot be easily cracked or scratched, the company says. Samsung also showed off a flexible phone-tablet hybrid at CES—its Galaxy F. Similar to the FlexPai, the device has a tablet-sized display when unfolded, but folds up to a regular-sized smartphone.
Flexible keyboards: Royole’s thin, transparent, flexible keyboard can be placed on any flat surface and connected to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. You can simply roll it up and stick it in your pocket when you’re finished. Pricing has yet to be determined, but it’s expected to hit the market during the second quarter of 2019.
Disappearing televisions: Television screens could vanish when they’re not in use. LG Signature’s OLED TV R is a rollable 65-inch television that disappears into a box below a modern, silver credenza when it’s off. When you’re ready to watch, it can unroll to its full height in seconds. You can also put the TV in “line view,” so that only about a quarter of the screen is showing. In this wide, rectangular view, the TV can be set to just display a clock, weather, personal photos, or other designs. LG debuted a prototype of this “wallpaper TV” back at CES 2018, but it will at last be available to the public starting in the second half of 2019. Pricing has yet to be determined.
2. The Complete Smart Home
Smart-home tech could change how you show a listed home, and you may need to be well versed in smart-home tech itself to demonstrate its possibilities. Voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant are being implanted into more smart-home tech to make operating a home as easy as talking (such as “Alexa, turn on the lights”). At CES 2019, Google announced that its voice assistant would be available in more than 1 billion devices by the end of January. Ample smart-home products are heading to the market, including smart thermostats, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, Wi-Fi cameras, locks and doorbells, switches, dimmers, and lightbulbs.
Yet, smart-home knowledge among industry professionals may be falling short. Only 14 percent of REALTORS® say they’re familiar with home security devices, according to a 2018 survey by the National Association of REALTORS®, yet consumers often cite security as one of the top reasons to adopt smart-home tech in the first place.
What to Watch:
Smart surfaces: The everyday surface may have more technology embedded into it. For example, Savvy Mirror from Electric Mirror is a 22-inch display that can be controlled via voice and touch. When not in use, it looks like just any other bathroom mirror. Use it to stream music, check email or your calendar, run smartphone apps, and more.
Smart-home showrooms: As they bank on smart homes becoming an important selling point, more builders are partnering with tech companies to show buyers the possibilities of a connected home. For example, Lennar has teamed with Amazon for smart-home “showrooms,” and KB Home has teamed with Google to show off how numerous smart-home gadgets can all work together. At CES 2019, KB Home showed its KB Home ProjeKt, a 3,200-square-foot concept home that features more than 400 gadgets. For example, inside the home, a smart speaker controls the living room lighting; the home’s air quality, temperature, and lighting are controlled by a Google Home network; a video doorbell streams live feeds of the front porch; blinds rise and lights turn on based on voice commands; and a robot named Keeker even welcomes you to the home. The house features 76 connected lights, Google Home integration, a Whirlpool refrigerator that communicates with an app-connected oven and dishwasher, and solar energy that powers up the home using Tesla Powerwall batteries.
“The home of tomorrow must meet the future needs of its residents, so we designed the KB Home ProjeKt as a smart, sustainable, flexible home that looks beyond energy savings and helps people live a healthier, more energetic life,” says Jeff Mezger, KB Home chairman, president and chief executive officer. “The challenge for builders is to employ technology to design healthy homes that are attainable for everyone—from first-time buyers to empty nesters—so that future homeowners can benefit from a healthy home.”
3. Holograms Come to the Real World
Real life and the virtual world converge with augmented reality. AR displays digital information—like graphics, text, and sound—over the real world. Google Glasses, wearable smart glasses for viewing AR, were first introduced in 2012, but failed to materialize into the mainstream. Years later, more AR apps are heading onto smartphones and tablets, thanks to the launch in 2017 of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, frameworks for developers to create AR for devices.
AR could be useful for helping buyers reimagine properties and even redesign spaces to fit their personal preferences. Imaging walking through a listing with clients where they can hold up a device to get a real-time look of their preferred interior decor or room modifications. Several AR design apps allow you to place furniture or even swap paint colors while viewing the actual space through the phone’s camera. AR could also one day aid showings by overlaying digital information, such as details about the home’s systems and appliances.
What to watch:
Stage a home instantly: The Curate app from Sotheby’s International Realty, along with similar efforts from furniture companies like Wayfair and Ikea, offer design apps that use augmented reality to redesign a space using a phone’s camera.
Smart glasses: Vuzix Blade AR—lightweight augmented-reality smart glasses—won a CES 2019 innovation award this year for making AR more wearable. Vuzix Blade looks like regular sunglasses but gives the sensation of having Amazon’s Alexa on your head. It overlays information onto the lenses via your own voice prompts. Users can call up websites, view directions on a map, stream movies, and more in the sunglasses’ field of view while never losing sight of the real view.
4. 5G Is Getting More Real
Over the past few years, 5G connectivity has been getting a lot of attention. This fifth generation of cellular technology promises to enhance the speed, coverage, and responsiveness of wireless networks. You can get 10 to 100 times faster speeds than your current connections. Plus, users will see “low latency,” which is the response time between when you click on a link or start streaming a video on present networks. The current lag time is about 20 milliseconds; with 5G, that’ll drop to as low as 1 millisecond. At CES 2019, Verizon CEO Hans Westberg called 5G “a quantum leap compared to 4G.”
When it comes to real estate, the superfast connectivity of 5G will help make digital transitions even faster. With 5G, there will be no lag time in transferring large files. Out-of-sync video conferences will be a thing of the past. Plus, 5G is expected to be the foundation that fosters the approaching era of augmented reality, driverless cars, and a fully connected smart home.
What to watch:
5G debuts: The availability of 5G networks is starting to reach more cities. AT&T so far has launched its 5G network, called 5G Evolution (5G E), in 19 U.S. cities, including Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and New Orleans. T-Mobile launched 5G in 30 cities this year, Sprint in nine cities, and Verizon offers 5G Home in select markets. Carriers predict that 5G will be more widely available across the country by 2020.
5G devices: Samsung touted claims to the first 5G smartphone at CES 2019. It showed off a prototype and announced plans to release a 5G phone to the market this year with Verizon and two 5G phones with AT&T. Intel’s Project Athena offers new industry specifications for laptops that will carry 5G. The first devices to use the specifications will be available in the second half of 2019, from partners like Dell and Lenovo—both REALTOR Benefits® Program Partners—and Google. “Including 5G and artificial intelligence, Project Athena creates a path forward to accelerate laptop innovation,” Intel said at a CES 2019 news conference.
Faster routers: D-Link showed off what it touts as the first 5G router. Its 5G NR Enhanced Gateway picks up 5G signals from a wireless carrier to boost a hotspot. It will also connect up to 40 times faster remotely than current broadband speeds, and is expected to be available the second half of 2019.
5. Cars That Drive Themselves
The idea of autonomous driving may seem like something from a sci-fi movie, but the technology is already on many roads today. While fully autonomous vehicles in the mainstream may still be a few years off, automakers at CES 2019 continue to show off what this evolution in cars could mean for reinventing the look and function of vehicles in people’s everyday lives.
Self-driving cars will free agents up from having to chauffeur clients to showing appointments. Instead, real estate pros be able to focus on preparing clients for the house visit during the commute. Further, self-driving cars may have long-term implications on the design of homes, such as fewer garages or garage stalls needed, and work commute may become a less pressing issue when home shopping.
What to watch:
Driverless feature add-ons: More carmakers are debuting on-the-road assistants to pave the way to a fully autonomous car. They would even be able to take over the steering wheel in certain situations. The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA offers semi-autonomous driving systems with a hands-free mode and a new voice control system. It goes on sale later this year (pricing has yet to be announced). Toyota showed a self-driving car prototype at CES using its Lexus LS sedan (dubbed Guardian 4.0). When the car senses an accident could be “imminent,” it automatically will correct a driver’s oversteering or braking. Nissan demoed 12V—“invisible-to-visible” technology—that uses augmented reality to superimpose driving aids on the car’s windshield, such as the speed limit, real-time navigation data, and even arrows to available parking spaces.
Evolving car aesthetics: The look of the car interior will get a drastic makeover as more autonomy comes to vehicles too. Several automakers showed autonomous vehicles that featured more of an interior lounging space than a place to control a wheel. Electric car startup Byton debuted its M-Byte electric SUV that included a 48-inch cockpit screen and a touchscreen at the center of the steering wheel. Also, in an attempt to combat road rage, Kia unveiled its R.E.A.D. Emotion Concept, which will read a driver’s emotional state as he or she enters the car. Based on that reading, the car will change the color of the lighting, television content, and seating (such as vibrating the seat if it senses that a person is stressed).
More testing: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has earmarked $30 million for a new research facility to focus on autonomous-driving technology and driver-assist systems. Teaming with Waymo, it plans to one day launch a commercial ridesharing service using autonomous cars or minivans, such as the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid.