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Not everything can be coordinated in cyberspace. When you gotta move, don’t take a turn without Twist.

Twist screen shotCathleen and I have been playing with a new iPhone app called Twist. (Hat tip: GeekWire.)

What is it? In the shortest possible summary, Twist is ETA software. You tell it where you’re going, it tells you and the people you’re meeting there when you will arrive. Or they can tell you when they will arrive, so you don’t waste time thumb-twiddling. ETA is calculated on your actual motion, so it doesn’t tell anyone anything until you actually hit the road.

Twist integrates with iCal (which integrates with Google Calendar). It will tell you when you need to leave for an appointment so you won’t be late.

It also taps into your contact database, so you can select any destination you already know about. Twist keeps track of your past destinations, so reusing them is a breeze. And you can set up favorite destinations you use all the time (like your home or office), adding in the contacts associated with that site, for one-touch Twisting. (Realtors: Think about how many times you go back to a house you have listed or put under contract.)

And it integrates with Google Maps to give you driving directions and real-time progress updates on your travels. I don’t use GPS, and I’m off-the-charts kinesthetic, so this is more gee-whiz fun for me that something I need, but the people on the other end can track my mapping, too.

Here’s the PR movie for Twist, which for some reason is focused on dating:

Who (besides nervous daters) can use Twist? Happily-committed couples; if you’re cheating, Twist will tell on you. Bosses with drivers on the road, stipulating that the ability to supervise creates a liability for failure to supervise. And: Real estate professionals. Twist makes it easy to plan your day, to coordinate with clients, vendors and other team members — and to tell your spouse and kids when they might expect to see you again.

What would I change in the software?

I want every event in my calendar to be Twisted automatically, in the background, without my intervention. Moreover, I want the calendar integration to be more heuristic: It it looks like a street address, use it. Software that tries to engineer me is never fun.

I want the ETA estimates to be based on my track record as a driver. I move through space at least 30% faster than Twist thinks I should. Over time, the ETA times should be based on my actual pace and not Twist’s (and Google’s?) surmises.

Likewise, if I regularly deviate from the suggested route (I know all the sneaky back ways to get where I’m going), I want to use my route, not Twist’s. Anyone coming by separate vehicle should have my superior route to follow, as well.

There’s more that I haven’t even talked about: Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, walking and mass-transit options, weather, photos (including Google street view), etc. If you are committed to living a fully transparent life, Twist gives you a documented paper trail for all your movements and appointments.

Hiding from the spouse? Hiding from the boss? Hiding from The Man? Twist is not for you. But if you want to maximize your use of the precious minutes of your day, it’s a sweet little app.

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  • 4 comments

    Did you Seymour Glass? It’s a perfect day for an iPhone killer.

    Project Glass. Too much to love. Phone with no hands. Video with no hands. Internet with no hands. I can use an iPad when I need it, but 80% of what I’m doing with mobile computing, this can do. Here is where we’ll miss Steve Jobs. Google is better than Microsoft with new ideas, but what we’ll notice, when this ships, is everything that should be there but isn’t.

     
    More: No phone on-board, no stereo ear-buds. A lot of hardware for so little functionality, a lot of room for me-tooish clones. This is the first of many new ideas where the passing of Steve Jobs will be sorely felt.

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    The Next Big (Tech) Step in Real Estate?

    I watched the following video earlier this week and was blown away.  The basics of what’s described (kind of a mobile computer/projector/app device) are not that complicated; as a matter of fact, the mock up is made from off the shelf components.  Imagine when these are combined into one sleek pendant hanging on a stylish chain…

    The video shows some of the more fun uses (draw a temporary watch on your wrist with your fingertip, take a picture by holding up your hands to frame an image, “see” social media key words associated with anyone you meet… in real time, the list is amazing), but I was struck by how powerful this can be for real estate agents.  I listed a few ideas below – watch the video first though.

    Imagine walking your clients through a home with this device.  Want to look at the neighborhood comps again? Why crowd around my Pad when we can just sit down in the dining room and see everything laid out on the table itself.  Curious how a room would look if it weren’t painted Jimi Hendrix purple? Go ahead and stand back while I bathe the room in light close to the color you prefer. (Foam green?  Really?)  Don’t know if your entertainment center will fit on that wall?  No problem, I’ll project a 3D image and we’ll check it out while we’re here.  Prefer a guided tour of everything that’s right with this home (and maybe some of what’s wrong)?  Great, the owners themselves are here virtually and will discuss each room as we walk into it.  Want to write an offer?  Great, let’s just step over to the living room wall here and sign your name using your finger.

    Those are just a few ideas from a non-tech guy.  What would you do with this device?

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  • 6 comments

    Google releases a Buzz which may be a BuzzKill for others

    I’m sure we can all agree that Google is big. Huge in fact. From what I understand they had a Super Bowl add this year. Who Dat? Google Dat! But everything they do is not always a hit. When was the last time you checked out Knol?

    Moving along. This morning the buzz around the web is that Google has introduced the Twitter/Facebook killer with Google Buzz. Poor Twitter gets killed ever once and awhile and so is apparently a cat of nine lives on it’s final death bed. Just don’t tell that to the 14 bazillion users out there tweeting at this very moment.

    One big part of this domination tool though is Geolocation.

    At first look, Google Buzz reminds me of Pownce. A twitter-like social network that came along about the same time twitter became popular and allowed your to share files, photos and other media in your updates. Pownce, of course, with many of the others have fallen by the statusphere wayside or are still being populated with home listing updates via Ping.fm from Realtors trained by geniuses that tell them the more spam they have in their nature, the better their homes will sell.

    Back to Google. Here’s a look at all the Buzz from the release video:

    I have not been able to log into the Gmail inbox interface yet, but I did have a chance to take a look at the mobile version on my iPhone. Now here’s where it might get interesting despite what Google’s biggest competitors think.

    My first look on the iPhone. The top two nav features are “Following”, which is who’s in your network and “Nearby”, anyone checking in around your given location. Which is great considering mobile home page is location aware and features “near me now” already. After giving Buzz approval to locate you via GPS what you find is something that looks like this… and where it gets interesting is in the layers:

    Unlike Twitter it’s all about location when your take a look at what’s happening nearby. Comments to each update can be threaded.

    Like Foursquare a drop down menu of nearby pinpoints will allow you to choose one and make an update from that location.

    This ties in easily with place pages, where you can phone direct, open up a map, or read reviews just like on Yelp.

    Open up the map and Buzz can be layered with traffic and other data, move around and zoom in on any area of the city.

    I’m just scratching the surface of this as you can also share privately, import stuff from other sites like Twitter, Flickr, Picassa, and Reader, plus do everything right from the integration in you Gmail inbox.

    Something else that was cool is to see how this all played out on on the Internet. After I received my first reply from Mark Eckenrode, I was given a link to a page just like what Twitter does for individual messages. Except from here I could reply on the page…

    … or view his profile (looks a lot like Twitter)

    … and that brought me back to my Google Profile, where you’ll now find a public Buzz stream included.

    So now Google me… or yourself and see what happens. Just more data. Connecting more dots and building a stronger social graph of who you are, where you can be found, and what you are doing while your are there. This could be big. It ties in from many different points to offer the user a rich experience and even though we draw comparisons for other social networks with Open Data Standards, the platform is anything but Facebook.

    A very interesting move in the Geolocation game. As always, the winner has the users and almost everyone uses Google. Not a bad place to start.

    I can see plenty of uses for this as well as reason to have concerns about safety. But I would much rather hear your take on it. What does all this noise mean to you?

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  • 12 comments

    How Can The iPad Can Change Mortgage Marketing? It’s The App, Stupid

    I was plunged into the Apple world when my daughter won an iTouch from a magazine drive.  I dived into it nine months ago when I bought an iPhone.   Here’s why mobile devices work-  you can harness the power of the internet and international communications in your pocket.  To ignore this trend is to deny what most Europeans and Asians already.

    Why then are Americans the laggards in the mobile me movement?  I think it’s because we’re wealthier than our cousins across the ponds.  Until we get mobile devices with a readable screen, that aren’t hard to use, we’re going to stay chained to desks or flopped with lap weights.  Americans won’t adapt because we don’t have to…yet.

    Enter the iPad.  Everyone can use it and that says a lot about it’s user-friendliness.  More importantly, my father can use it and that says a lot about it’s reach.

    What can this  mean to the mortgage industry?

    POINT OF SALE: For the most part, mortgage shoppers care less about the loan terms than convenience and the ability to get approved.  I want the ability to give them all three on a mobile app.  I want them, and the real estate agents to use that app to get a pre-approval, check payments and cash-to-close, follow the mortgage market as it relates to their loan approval, and watch the loan process from a magazine sized computer.

    MOBILITY:  The loan process lasts 30-150 days.  I want that borrower or agent to check rates and recheck their application status by simply touching that app button.  If  I’ m the user, I want the ability to take a loan application…anywhere:

    • at a Chargers tailgate party while watching the ribs on the BBQ
    • in the schoolyard at my daughter’s school
    • at a Chamber of Commerce networking mixer
    • in a real estate agent’s office
    • at an open house on a Sunday
    • at the beach

    COMMUNICATION:  I want to receive a text message every time they open that app and/or login.  I want to know what they’re doing in there so that I can anticipate their questions and perceive their concerns.  I want them to be able to send me a text message, from inside of the iPad app.

    I thought the iPhone was going to deliver this platform but the screen is too small.  I’ve gone from fighter pilot eyesight to Mr Magoo, in nine short months, because of that small screen.  The iPad can restore my 20/20 vision.

    How can I make this happen?

    My customized mortgage rate search provider, which powers RatePeeker.com,  has to build the front door.  It has to be my brand so that I control the most important real estate in the mobile marketing world; the screen.   The iPhone/iPad screen is today what the refrigerator used to be; a “magnet” holder.

    After the consumer sees the approximate loan terms, she needs the ability to convert to a full loan application screen.  All that data has to interface with my loan origination system (LOS) so that I can pull credit and secure an approval.   Then the app has to have a document management screen so that we can communicate what is required to see an approval.

    Smart, tech-savvy secondary market investors will have a mobile platform that allows my customers to enter through my app button and keeps me in front of our mutual customer for the life of the loan.  I want to know when that customer enters through my portal…forever.

    I know I’m asking for a lot.  While we’re “dreaming”, I’d appreciate what real estate agents would like my app to do.

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  • 8 comments

    Yelping Googly Trulia! Is Google is doing some last minute Holiday shopping?

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    All this week there has been a lot of buzz around the interwebs about Google’s possible acquisition of Yelp.com. The local reviews website has been wildly popular almost everywhere I have been in the country and could stand an image makeover in my humble opinion. One big enhancement could be the business user side to there social networking and business placement. Something Google is doing a good job of with their “Place Pages” for Google search and maps (example: San Francisco Real Estate Services )

    With Google Place pages, business owners have the opportunity to have a publish the content of a business page, including video, where as “Yelp for business owners” seems to be geared towards offering buy up features such as advanced profile control and targeted advertising to the tune of $300-$1,000 a month. I’ve never really cared for this option too much as an advertiser or a consumer and think that Google might do a much better job of providing what’s best for the consumer. Yelp’s approach has been, in my experience, at bit heavily controlled.

    Yelp for Real Estate has been at best an ongoing resource of placement for you business, à la Citysearch, and some seem to think a resource where Reviews of actual agents should be found.

    What else might be under the tree?

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    Even Bigger news for Real Estate on the Google front broke just last night when Kara Swisher from All Things Digital posted about talks going on regarding the acquisition of Trulia.com.

    It is unclear what price Google (GOOG) would pay, but sources estimate that Trulia’s valuation ranges between $150 million and $200 million, although there could be a big premium on that.

    Rumors about Google’s interest in the real estate search market–and specifically in Trulia–have been rebounding around Silicon Valley for the last year.

    But Google has pulled the trigger on a number of acquisitions of innovative start-ups recently and, sources said, will continue to do so.

    There’s also been a lot of chat about Google’s interest in Real Estate in the online Real Estate space which is mostly about us looking inward. Google, in my opinion, is far less interested in anything involving something like an MLS, an RPR, or anything else as much as eyeballs and ads, same as it’s ever been for them.

    These are interesting developments in what is all about Geography and Placement. I find it of particular interest when some of my own favorite apps have everything to do with the GPS in my iPhone.

    Any other ideas out there about what little elves could be working on in Santa’s workshop?

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  • 5 comments

    The twelve days of iPhone apps: Turning your phone into a real estate agent’s pocket powerhouse

    All right: So: Let’s start in the middle.

    First, we have four cell phones among the two of us. We have the two spares in case we need to put a phone in the pocket of a subcontractor. We keep a close eye on the folks who work with us, but we don’t ever want for our people to be without a lifeline.

    Even so, the phones we actually use are the iPhones. It seems plausible to me that I may add a Droid and a Pre in 2010, both of them to keep any eye on what else can be done. But the iPhone app universe is exploding like the universe of time, space, mass and energy, and it seems reasonable to me that that the iPhone will be driving cell phone/pocket computer/etc. innovation for the foreseeable future.

    Just in recent days, the appworld has added live video streaming and real-time credit card processing, and my thinking is that there are a lot of as yet undisclosed tricks in the iPhone developers’ APIs. In other words, I suspect that Apple has been holding back on the iPhone’s feature set to kill competitive features as they’re aborning, nipping every supposed incipient iPhone-killer in the bud.

    I realized last night that I want for my laptop (a MacBook Pro) and my desktop computer (an iMac) to be the same one computer. Does that make sense? I want for those two computers to be cloned and continuously-syncing instances of the same one database of files. And I want for my iPhone to be a moon of that doubled planetary system.

    This is singularity thinking: One way that human beings could leap to the next level of our evolution is by moving into computing hardware. The philosophy of all this is brain-breaking: Hardware geeks insist that the human mind must be a finite-state machine, while everyone with an introspective consciousness acts reflexively upon a seemingly undoubted belief in free will.

    That’s a problem we’ll have to deal with on the way to the singularity. Meanwhile, a software instance of “you” could be cloned to live on as many hardware devices as you could afford — in many different locations. Syncing your multiple selves would have to overcome propagation issues, but in exchange you will have achieved a practical immortality: To kill you would entail killing every instance of “you.”

    That’s what I want for my everyday working computers. It’s possible that cloud-based datasets will address this issue for me, for now, by other means. If so, then every computing device would become a de facto terminal for dealing with files stored in the cloud.

    Meanwhile, back in the here and now, I’ve been trying to reorganize the way I deal with my iPhone. At first, I tried very hard to limit the number of apps I downloaded. Cathleen is a sucker for every skeezy piece of software out there — with the result that, eventually, all of her desktop machines die the grinding death of skeezy sclerosis. But I’m always about mission-critical. And in the case of the iPhone, I wanted to limit the amount of dicking around I had to do with multiple screens full of apps.

    And that’s a strategy that works better in the abstract. Even with the most ruthless, most Spartan kind of app-management, I still ended up with six pages of crap. But starting with iTunes 9, you can reorganize your apps within iTunes, on the desktop, with your new arrangement being written out to the phone when you sync.

    In consequence, as of last night, I have embarked on a new strategy. I set up twelve pages in iTunes, one for each general category of apps I’m using. I plan to go through these pages, one by one, and figure out which apps I’m really using, eliminating the others. Eventually, if I can get some categories down to fewer than eight apps each, I may consolidate some pages.

    These are the categories I’ve chosen:

    • Page One
    • Utilities
    • Task Management
    • Real Estate
    • Navigation
    • Communication
    • Blogging and Social Media
    • Shopping
    • Reference and Literature
    • News, Video and Radio
    • Fitness
    • Games

    I’m not sure these are right. If you’re convinced I’m wrong, now would be a good time to speak up.

    I’ll be going through all this in public, in any case. If you have suggestions as we deal with each category, I’m all ears. I do a boat load of work on my iPhone, and my goal is to deal with every mission-critical job in real estate brokerage from my phone. I’ll still build signs and flyers on my iMac, but I want to be able to handle anything that involves direct client contact from anywhere I happen to be, all without schlepping a laptop.

    And: Now that I have twelve pages of apps to deal with, I would be very grateful if I could name those pages from within iTunes, then have a pop-up menu on the iPhone screen for ease of navigation. This is an innovation to watch for, I expect.

    Anyway, I’ll start playing in earnest tomorrow. If you have suggestions — apps you love or category ideas — I’m all ears.

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  • 3 comments