What's New in Technology for 2006?  
  It's been another rocky year in the technology sector, and in particular, technology for real estate has undergone some shake-outs, some shake-ups, and some shake-downs.  In short, what started 2005 as the "hot" technology passed quickly into oblivion, and legal battles and Department of Justice directives and investigations have driven technologies in new directions and are forcing the "new paradigm" into existence despite legal speed bumps and technological cul-de-sacs along the way.  
  In general, many of the tools and techniques for display of listings are morphing faster than anyone can keep up, and legislative efforts to free up information for consumers, while simultaneously protecting that information from theft, compromise, or criminal misuse, are changing the face of Internet-based real estate almost daily.  
  Where will it all wind up? Your guess is as good as Bill Gates', at this point in time.  Look for the holy grail of real estate, the "listing", to become public domain in 2006 or -7, with less secrecy and hoarding of information and more open and friendly marketing methods as a result.  No more dependence upon the listing as the proverbial carrot on a stick; REALTORS® and agents will need to supply real value, in useful quantity and quality, to get that listing agreement signed.

Consumers will, as a result of new technologies and standards of compliance, enjoy a safer, more information-filled, and easier home-buying process.

REALTORS® will enjoy more integrated solutions for managing their marketing efforts, tracking the listing/selling/buying/financing process, and keeping the "touch" on their client lists.

  Notable technologies coming into play in 2006:

USB External Hard Disks - These devices offer the ultimate in security for sensitive client data, namely, if it's not in use, take it offline.  Exposing one's entire hard disk to the Internet is no longer necessary or advisable.  Instead, these quickly-attached and -detached devices can store, in many cases, more data that the original hard disk contained in the computer, and make backing up crucial files a user-friendly and de-mystified process.

Wireless everything - Wireless mice and keyboards have matured, and now are offered in very practical and usable packages for the home office.  Throw off the chains of those old "wired" devices, and dance around the room (or, more commonly, slouch on da couch), with BlueTooth or USB wireless input devices.

Wireless Internet took a great leap forward in 2005, also, and Verizon's EV-DO network offers broadband-speed Internet almost anywhere.  Cingular just rolled out a competing network.  This author managed the servers here in the Vista Admin office of NSDCAR from the bottom of a canyon in Big Sur this summer, and learned just how useful "Internet Anywhere" can be.  Those that are paying big bucks for home broadband connections may want to consider going mobile; trade in that bulky desktop computer for a fast multimedia notebook platform, then drop the home broadband for a Verizon AirCard.  Voila!  Mobile office, home office, car office, showing office… anywhere the busy REALTOR® goes, the connection goes along!

Web-based Subscription Software - This is the next generation in every kind of software… even operating systems.  Imagine subscribing to your own "virtual" server, and having all of your software applications safely protected from virus, malware, hardware failures, natural disasters, you name it.  For one monthly fee, access to all your digital "stuff" is available, 24/7, from ANY Internet-enabled computer.  Winforms™ on the web is one example of this, as is the Relay™ Transaction Management platform.  Microsoft offers "Office on the Web", and will even be offering their Windows operating systems in subscription format, in the coming year.  This market has just begun to appear and mature… the next generation of offerings will undoubtedly be irresistibly slick.

Video for the Web - … and for phones, and for games, and for advertising most of all!  Video is hot, and the technologies for optimizing video and presenting it with minimal bandwidth loads is improving almost hourly, to date.  Look for much more in this realm, and explore cautiously; burgeoning technologies left lots of people with a Sony Beta-Max decorating their garage shelves, remember?  It will remain to be seen just how practical and how accepted video in a two-inch format will really be; my bet is that folks will finally figure out that the best phone is just that… a phone!

Digital Photography - Every generation of digital camera gets more user-friendly, produces better quality images, and is more forgiving of the photographer's lack of skill than the previous generation.  It seems that lately, the bells and whistles are taking a back seat to ease of use. Folks have finally figured out that for real estate purposes, the maximum megapixels is not the holy grail.  Is it fast, easy, and accurate?  Houses and landscaping don't jump around much, so we don't need TV-network-quality cameras to create a nice flyer or web presentation.  And since we're not going to shoot the house from somewhere in the next county, a "zoom" feature that rivals the Hubble Telescope just isn't necessary.  One by one, we whittle away the dross, and find the products that just work.

'Til next time...