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By Riki Markowtiz

Each year, tech companies launch an abundance of new apps and tools for the real estate industry. The new year is also a good time to announce upgrades and improved functionality to existing systems. The goal is to make it easier to find new buyers and sellers, and provide ways to serve clients faster and safer than ever. For 2016, one trend we’re seeing from technology leaders and startups alike is an investment in lead-generation systems, personal safety tools, and robots!

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytic programs are lead-generation tools that analyze large amounts of data. These customer relationship management (CRM) applications can help agents and mortgage professionals accurately identify better prospects, create targeted marketing campaigns, and close deals faster.

SmartZip launched in 2009 and has been perfecting their predictive marketing SAAS solutions since. At the end of last year, they announced improvements to SmartTargeting – technology originally designed to save time when identifying potential sellers. The cloud-based service uses current data and market trends to predict and identify likely high quality sellers. Agents can track conversions, marketing impressions, prediction analysis, and more.

What’s new in 2016

SmartTargeting received a re-design and upgrade. The easy-to-use mobile and laptop CheckIn app is even more convenient for tracking a variety of actions. With an “Activity Stream” function, agents can create files for notes, videos and photos, and access deep demographic insights, including marketing interactions and selling intent.

Other predictive analysis tools

TLCengine helps REALTORS empower homebuyers by identifying the true cost of purchasing and owning a home. The technology analyzes different lifestyle cost variables – everything from the cost of borrowing money to heating and cooling a specific home, and planning for extra expenses. TLCengine also analyzes clients’ local gas and insurance fees, and how transportation will effect commute times, auto maintenance responsibilities, and ore. There are 31 unique variables the company uses to determine a potential buyer’s True Lifestyle Cost, or TLC.

Safety

In recent years, safety wearables have surged in popularity. Companies like Secure Couture and Cuff create attractive accessories outfitted with alarm technology. The idea is that when meeting new clients, agents have access to a panic button. More recently, companies like Secure Show are working specifically with the real estate industry to make safety more proactive rather than reactive.

What’s new in 2016

SmartWatcher is an app that has a safety timer. If a user does not check-in at a predetermined time, GPS coordinates are sent to an emergency contact. This year, a new feature will allow users to designate someone to watch them – while in route, at an open house, or wherever one needs a second pair of eyes. Another app, Safer Streets, notifies people when they’re in a dangerous location, based on technology that aggregates a variety of official crime data. Walky – for those who walk a lot – allows users to avoid areas based on certain criteria, like neighborhoods that have dark, unlit streets, hazardous walkways, or even a high crime rate. Parent company, Watch Over Me, is rolling out new features city by city.

Cuff is a technology company that designed a tiny module for jewelry, key chains, and other accessories. It takes a second to hit the alarm, which then sends location alerts to an individual’s network. Cuff is also great for networking. When an agent wants to stash his or her phone, but still needs to be alerted to important phone calls or texts, the Cuff module will vibrate. Now you can politely excuse yourself and take calls away from clients and colleagues.

What’s new in 2016

This year, Cuff is jumping on the fitness bandwagon by using their technology to track movement and activity and help reach fitness goals. In 2015, a study by University of South Wales researchers found that attractive real estate agents can earn more. Now that Cuff will be bundling safety, notifications, and fitness features, there’s no need to spend money on a one-trick fitness-tracking device.

This past year, Secure Couture unveiled its Stiletto line of personal security jewelry. Unlike other wearables, hitting the alarm calls emergency contacts and 911. When activated, the alarm modules can “speak” for the person in danger. A microphone allows 911 operators to listen in or communicate with victims in need of assistance.

Robotics

[blockquote_center]Robotics is one of the more exciting technology advancements for the real estate industry right now.[/blockquote_center]Not only does it fit in the safety space, but more importantly, agents can show properties to far more potential buyers, including those who are out of state – or even overseas.

The Double 2, by Double Robotics, is a telepresence robot that will have a slew of new features in 2016. The new model has improved shock absorption mechanics and can better traverse common obstacles like cords and doorway thresholds. A 150-degree wide-angle lens increases field of vision by 70-percent. Users can take better photos since the camera aperture is at the top of the device – 11 inches higher than the previous model.

Marketing Tools

Any business that has ever paid to build a company website from scratch knows how expensive it can be. From the design stage, to UX, adding new content, to ongoing maintenance and updates – the entire process can cost a fortune. Most small firms probably never even considered having their own business app. It turns out it may not be that cost-prohibitive or work intensive after all.

ClientLinkt, which launched less than a year ago, builds custom-branded apps that clients can download directly from the Apple or Android store. Once downloaded, your company logo appears on the user’s phone along with all her other apps. It’s a great way to stay connected to your past and current client base, and offer post-sale value, like market updates and home maintenance tips.

What’s new in 2016

ClientLinkt is launching advanced communication tools to automate notifications. New social media and review-request functions will drive word-of-mouth to potential clients and increase lead generation. The company recently launched ClientLinked Marketplace, which allows businesses to choose from pre-negotiated discounts, like moving services, storage, and home renovations, and then share these discounts with clients.

Business Organization Tools

Organization tools and content management systems (CMS) are probably the most common new apps to hit the market each year. Here is some of what’s in store for the real estate industry in 2016.

RealMassive

RealMassive provides commercial real estate data in real time. Commercial real estate professionals can collaborate and streamline marketing efforts and also gain insight into their property’s performance. Through an intuitive analysis platform, brokers will have access to accurate availability data.

What’s new in 2016

RealMassive is upgrading their mobile app, making it easier to engage with the marketplace while on the go. Because the company is based in Austin, locals get to see upgrades and features faster than other cities. RealMassive also tries out new features here before anywhere else.

DocuSign

If you haven’t heard of DocuSign, you need to look up from your Smith Corona typewriter once in a while. DocuSign has been facilitating the electronic signature process for more than a decade, and each year, the company comes up with more ways to make the technology faster, easier to use, more secure, and harder to live without.

What’s new in 2016

DocuSign’s transaction rooms will have even more security, especially for deals facilitated on a mobile device.

RealSavvy

RealSavvy is a personal CMS for agents and homebuyers. It’s a place where buyers, agents, inspectors, lenders, and escrow agents can stay in the loop on a single transaction. RealSavvy is connected directly to Austin’s MLS and updated every 10 minutes.

What’s new in 2016

The company recently launched real-time SMS and email alerts and notifications when someone in your circle is actively commenting on or bookmarking a listing. This is a great function for agents who create targeted searches for clients. A massive IOS update is in the works for this month.  RL