Recently in Data Transformation Category

The Economist:

HEN the Sloan Digital Sky Survey started work in 2000, its telescope in New Mexico collected more data in its first few weeks than had been amassed in the entire history of astronomy. Now, a decade later, its archive contains a whopping 140 terabytes of information. A successor, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, due to come on stream in Chile in 2016, will acquire that quantity of data every five days.

Such astronomical amounts of information can be found closer to Earth too. Wal-Mart, a retail giant, handles more than 1m customer transactions every hour, feeding databases estimated at more than 2.5 petabytes--the equivalent of 167 times the books in America's Library of Congress (see article for an explanation of how data are quantified). Facebook, a social-networking website, is home to 40 billion photos. And decoding the human genome involves analysing 3 billion base pairs--which took ten years the first time it was done, in 2003, but can now be achieved in one week.

All these examples tell the same story: that the world contains an unimaginably vast amount of digital information which is getting ever vaster ever more rapidly. This makes it possible to do many things that previously could not be done: spot business trends, prevent diseases, combat crime and so on. Managed well, the data can be used to unlock new sources of economic value, provide fresh insights into science and hold governments to account.

First: happy new year and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2010!

Second: 2010 change and opportunity.

I have been traveling extensively the past few weeks. It is always interesting and useful to observe people, their activities and gadgets.

Hands down, iPhone and iPod Touch devices dominated aircraft, airport and holiday scenes. I did see a few blackberries (one family had a company blackberry and several iPhones) and one Droid.

The recent smartphone explosion along with the introduction of useful "tablet" or "slate" devices will continue to change the way in which people use, create and interact with real estate information.

Most importantly, it will change their expectations......

What does this mean for brokers and agents?

## A) Mobile

The "killer app" - from a VP customer - for real estate buyers, sellers and professionals.

www.virtualproperties.com/iphone/

Our second major release in 9 months, your branded iPhone app provides essential website functions in a faster, easier to use application. Always on, this "app" can be accessed at home, work, on the go, while working out, dining, traveling - anywhere.

Our software makes sure the app is up to date with the latest property information and technology. It includes property comparison tools and unlimited use mapping services. Stop paying for maps on a per click basis.

Your organization must be in this space.

There will be competing devices, though it is not yet clear who will successfully challenge the iPhone infrastructure.

## B) "Tablet or Slate" computing and real estate

There has been no shortage of hype recently about these new devices. From my perspective, the real change will be to traditional laptop formats. Physical keyboards will certainly be available for some time, but, virtual keyboards (via touchscreens with "multi-touch" gestures) will take over the volume portable device space.

Many real estate firms have published traditional magazines, as a marketing and advertising vehicle.

This conceptual video, by Bonner Mag+ neatly summarizes digital magazine possibilities with emerging devices:

http://www.bonnier.com/en/content/digital-magazines-bonnier-mag-prototype

The video reinforces the benefits of high quality, well organized information. Our Main Street single entry cloud software generates timely media and text content for many publications in different formats, including html and pdf. Our clients do not need to add yet another vendor and platform to support these emerging applications.

www.virtualproperties.com/rt/ms.html

## C) Your Website

The iPhone app explosion is changing buyer and seller information convenience and access expectations. Does your website address these changing customer desires?

Accelerate your website with our Main Street cloud software's new customer portal tools. From lead generation to transactions and customer for life, Main Street manages your world in real time.

One vendor.

Virtual Properties is your trusted technology team - since 1995. Do you have the right people, platform and technology partner for 2010 and beyond?



Morgan Stanley's Latest: The Mobile Internet Report:

Our global technology and telecom analysts set out to do a deep dive into the rapidly changing mobile Internet market. We wanted to create a data-rich, theme-based framework for thinking about how the market may develop. We intend to expand and edit the framework as the market evolves. A lot has changed since we published "The Internet Report" in 1995 on the web.

We decided to create The Mobile Internet Report largely in PowerPoint and publish it on the web, expecting that bits and pieces of it will be cut / pasted / redistributed and debated / dismissed / lauded. Our goal is to get our thoughts and data into the conversation about what may be the biggest technology trend ever, one that may help make us all more informed in ways that are unique to the web circa 2009, and beyond.

Our key takeaways are:

Material wealth creation / destruction should surpass earlier computing cycles. The mobile Internet cycle, the 5th cycle in 50 years, is just starting. Winners in each cycle often create more market capitalization than in the last. New winners emerge, some incumbents survive - or thrive - while many past winners falter.

The mobile Internet is ramping faster than desktop Internet did, and we believe more users may connect to the Internet via mobile devices than desktop PCs within 5 years.

Five IP-based products / services are growing / converging and providing the underpinnings for dramatic growth in mobile Internet usage - 3G adoption + social networking + video + VoIP + impressive mobile devices.

Apple + Facebook platforms serving to raise the bar for how users connect / communicate - their respective ramps in user and developer engagement may be unprecedented.

and, via Fortune:

"Apple has a two or three-year lead" according to Katy Huberty, thanks to an installed base of 57 million handsets, 100,000 apps and 200 million iTunes subscribers with credit card numbers on file. (She will keep her eye, however, on Samsung, Nokia (NOK) and Google's (GOOG) Android.)

But much of the presentation was spent showing, in slides culled from research over the past two and a half years, that the iPhone is not like previous mobile devices, and its owners not like ordinary cell phone users.

For example, although iPhone and iPod touch owners represent only 17% of the global smartphone installed base, they account for 65% of the world's mobile Web browsing and 50% of its mobile app usage (see chart below).

Key Virtual Properties assets to help you take advantage of the mobile explosion:

In Tight Market, Real Estate Agents Tout Eco Features

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Elizabeth Shogren:

With the real estate market still hurting across most of the country, a growing number of real estate agents, builders and homeowners are pitching the green features of properties to try to lure buyers.

But in much of the country, green buyers and sellers struggle to find each other. In most places, the listing services that realtors and appraisers use make it difficult to search for eco-friendly real estate.

And most buyers still put a higher value on location, price and traditional amenities than on environmentally friendly additions.

Green Sells Better If It Also Saves Money

Still, when real estate agent Jennifer Halm shows clients around the stately, historic-looking condominium building in the popular Old Town neighborhood of Alexandria, Va., she highlights the property's green features.

Main Street along with our unlimited use mapping services and broker branded iPhone app support eco searching and data display.

The Profit and Peril of Mashups

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What is a "mashup"? According to this wikipedia entry, "In web development, a mashup is a web page or application that combines data or functionality from two or more external sources to create a new service."

Real estate brokers and agents may wish to take advantage of "free" internet api's (application programming interface). Websites such as flickr, facebook, youtube, yelp and many others offer programatic interfaces to their data and media.

What are the benefits of such API's?

  • Aggregate local information around properties for sale or rent.
  • Enhance your website "experience".
  • Avoid the cost of collecting and managing local information.
What are the costs and risks of using such API's?
  • Bad data. Automated information aggregators often lack local expertise. Information may be outdated; a long closed restaurant may still have a review on your website.
  • Inappropriate content. I created a Facebook demonstration for a client some time ago. The resulting page included an advertisement for Filipino Girls.
  • What motivates the data aggregator? Is their strategy aligned with yours?
  • Does the data make your site more generic?
  • Competitive stealth advertising on your site. Savvy competitors will figure this out and place their content on your site via the API's.
What are the alternatives to "mashups"?

Your agents have a wealth of local market knowledge. Hire or appoint a "blog-o-spondent" or "blogger-in-chief". This person creates and aggregates your own content (text, audio, video, maps) on your blog, around your website(s) and via appropriate social networks. Over time, agents and staff post directly and incorporate your listings, services and our unlimited use maps (for a fixed price). Create your own platform that emphasizes your brand. This approach improves recruiting, retention and internet marketing in ways that you control and at a much lower cost than traditional advertising.

Main Street reliably supports the tools you need, from blogs, dynamic short links, lead management, surveys and multimedia to market reports and live charting tools.

As always, there is no "free lunch".

Appland: How smartphones are transforming our lives

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Richard Fisher:

My wife is standing at the door to the bathroom, watching me time my toothbrush routine using an application downloaded to my iPhone. Thirty seconds on upper-right molars: done. "What are you doing?" she asks. "Nothing," I mumble through a mouthful of toothpaste. She doesn't speak, but her eyes say "I think I love you a little less." If only she understood

Ever since I bought an Apple iPhone, I have been hooked on apps (see "What's app, Doc?"). Apple's App Store is a virtual shopping mall with all the shopaholic joy of a real mall but none of the annoying teenagers. It is packed to the virtual rafters with thousands of downloadable software tools. Admittedly, the store makes a bad first impression on many people, with novelty apps such as lightsabres dominating the top 25 chart. But dig a little deeper and you will find life-enhancing riches.

I confess that I now turn to the App Store in almost every situation. In unfamiliar places, I use apps to find the nearest gas station, cinema or even public toilet. I track the length and time of my commute. All my gym workouts are logged. Finding a nice place to eat while on the move is a cinch. Even this article is brought to you thanks to a voice recorder app (iDictaphone) that I used for recording interviews, and one that helped me "mind map" my thoughts when planning it out. Sometimes I daydream about becoming the most virtually enhanced human in the world.

Virtual Properties released a location based (GPS HomeFinder) real estate broker/agent branded iPhone app earlier this year. An update will be available this fall. Our clients have deployed mobile websites as well, ranging from straightforward support for many phones to sophisticated smartphone sites.

These mobile applications use GPS and mapping data. We offer detailed, frequently updated maps and satellite imagery for a fixed fee. This means our clients can grow applications and volumes without paying more - an important factor in today's market. (Search engine map fees are based on usage - the more you use, the more you pay). Contact us at 608 271 9601 or zellmer@virtualproperties.com to learn more.

Real Time Information Execution Benefits

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Don Sull:

Execution starts with when a team or organization forms a shared understanding of the market situation. A start-up's business plan and an established company's strategy are both examples of what I call mental maps, shared models that represent reality and serve to guide action. Mental maps can range from detailed plans in thick binders to a simple insight sketched on a cocktail napkin. Differences in form should not obscure similarity in role-all mental maps represent the environment, highlight important variables, and suggest a way forward.

Even the best mental map is an imperfect representation. Mental maps can only incorporate current knowledge, and exclude new insights that will only emerge in the future. Maps simplify a complex reality, thereby ignoring potentially important variables and interactions. Competitors will go out of their way to exploit blind spots in any map. We know only one thing about our maps with certainty-they are flawed.

How can leaders update imperfect mental maps as circumstances shift? An important part of the answer lies in collecting the right type of information. Along with my co-author Stefano Turconi, I have been studying the type of data required to map a situation in flux, and identified four critical attributes: The best information is real time, unfiltered, shared, and holistic. My next few posts will discuss each in turn, beginning with real time.

Main Street, a real time internet system for agents, clients and brokers, was designed from day one to be your comprehensive information source. One, real time system is an asset (arguably your most valuable asset) that allows your organization to implement and execute new initiatives faster than brokerages mired in information spaghetti. Related: Both sides now.

I gave a version of this 14 minute talk at the 2009 LeadingRE annual conference without slides, in an effort to emphasize the fact that successful technology implementation (and ROI) requires strong, consistent leadership, the right people and technology partner, in that order.

The online version includes a few, simple slides.

"What Do Agents Really Need?"

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Megan Wilber 1MB PDF:

So in an industry climate that is ever-changing, what are agents today looking for from their brokerage? Are they looking for quality? Support? Leadership?
The Hasson Company is a Virtual Properties customer.

The Digital Company: 2013

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Economist Intelligence Unit:

As employees master the use of collaborative technologies to interact with customers and partners, as well as with other colleagues, business information will come to flow more freely over the next five years, both within and outside the firm. Enabling and acting on such flows will be necessary if companies are to transform how they innovate products, services and business processes (through, for example, the integration of customers and third parties into the innovation process).

Realising the benefits of such expanded collaboration in 2013 will require business leaders to come to terms with autonomy: for employees, in how they access information and spend their work time; and for business units, in what technologies they purchase and how they use them. Above all, it will require from executives a great deal of courage--to allow technology to bring customers and other third parties into the company's operations--and trust in their employees to access and use information freely.

This is the main finding of the second paper [640K PDF] in a wide-ranging research programme conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, The digital company 2013: Freedom to collaborate, which is sponsored by AT&T, Nokia, PricewaterhouseCoopers, SAP, Concep, Return Path and WebEx. The goal of the programme is to determine how technology will impact businesses five years from now. The analysis is based on a survey of more than 600 senior executives from around the globe, as well as in-depth interviews with business leaders and independent technology experts.

June, 2008 paper [280K PDF]: The digital company 2013: How technology will empower the customer.

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