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Be hyper-connected but not hyper-risky

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

(NC) New digital technologies have made parts of our lives easier: we have grown accustomed to paying for our coffees with a simple wave of our phones, we stream our favourite shows on demand, and stay in touch with loved ones across the world using a single app. The impressive list of activities that can be completed with just a few swipes and clicks continues to grow every day.

While emerging technologies are extremely useful and efficient, some of us may feel overwhelmed by the number of risks and security concerns that are associated with a hyper-connected lifestyle. Here are a few steps you can take to help protect your digital identity and information:

• Protect your personal information from identity thieves by not sharing details like your cell number, address, hometown or workplace in emails or personal profiles, for example. If a site or application requires this information, find out how it will be used, and why it is needed.

• Set a strong password for all your devices, and enable them to auto-lock after a short period of inactivity.

• When you upgrade your smartphone or tablet, always set the device back to its original factory settings before disposing of it or selling it. This way, your personal information won’t fall into the wrong hands.

• Update your antivirus/antispyware software regularly.

• Avoid using public, unsecured wireless networks for activities like online banking and shopping, which require sharing sensitive information. When you’re on the go, use a provider’s LTE or 3G service instead.

• Think twice before opening links and files sent from someone you don’t know, and only install apps from trusted sources.

Additional tips for staying safe while using any technology are available at GetCyberSafe.ca.

Source: www.newscanada.com

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When (if) Google Comes to Town

Monday, July 13th, 2015

When Google starts competing in an industry things change, and often not for the better for existing competitors. Google has the wherewithal, brainpower and search engine might to capture sizable market share in virtually any product segment, including mortgages.

It’s been making mortgage inroads for a few years in the U.K. (after buying BeatThatQuote.com for $60 million CAD). And just a few months ago, word got out that Google will start comparing mortgage rates in the U.S.

The natural question is, will it come to Canada? We posed this to Google’s Head of Financial Services in Canada, Lisa Boulanger. She says there is “no news at this time for anything in Canada.”

But Google isn’t scared of small markets. If it can successfully operate an ad business in Liechtenstein with a population of 37,000, it can operate a mortgage comparison business in Canada with 35 million people closing two million residential mortgages a year.

It’s worth pondering how our market would change if Google Compare did come to Canada. Here’s some speculation on what we might expect:

Top Search Placement

In the U.K., Google’s mortgage comparison interface occupies precious real estate—near the top of search results. And it does so for mission-critical keywords like “mortgage rates.”

Its search result looks like this:

Unlike other mortgage providers, Google’s advertisement has interactive controls that invite the user to enter their mortgage size and see what kind of rates Google comes up with.

Here’s another interface Google tried in a past foray into the U.S. market:

Long story short, “Google Compare Canada” could put Google on top of most competitors, making it easily accessible to the two-thirds of Canadians who use search engines to compare mortgages.

Simplicity & Convenience

Google Compare is fast and its minimalist interface gets right to the point. Simplicity helps drive consumer adoption. And integration with Google search pages doesn’t hurt either. “Google comparison products are a major threat as they allow users to compare results without ever leaving the search engine,” notes PerformanceIN’s Tom Sadler.

Competitive

It’s not a stretch to assume that Google’s rates for well-qualified borrowers would undercut most large financial institutions (at least their advertised rates). That too would drive mortgage shoppers to the site, even if only for a second opinion on their lender/broker’s quote. Clearly this wouldn’t be positive for industry margins. According to RealtyTrac’s Peter Miller: “The challenge is that Google — like Walmart — [would] push down supplier prices, the ‘suppliers’ in this case being lenders.”

Commoditization

With more consumers easily comparing mortgage rates on a trustworthy website, the interest rate would take on heightened importance. Perceived differentiation among mortgage providers would diminish because if the provider is on a Google website “they must be reputable.” Such a trend would make life unpleasant for higher-cost producers and those without a strong non-rate-related value proposition.

Major Bank Adoption

With Google in the game, online mortgage rate comparison would become more mainstream. That might be enough to finally convince major banks that they need to play in this space. It worked in the U.K., where Britain’s top 4 banks are all now on Google Compare.

Brand Awareness

Rate comparison sites in Canada (one of which this author owns) can’t compare to Google’s brand power. When consumers learn about Google’s “new way” to search for mortgage rates, they’ll give it a shot—Gen Y’s especially. In fact, 40% of consumers aged 18 to 34 say they’d considered banking with Google. And many more would try its rate-comparison technology.

More Broker Channel Lenders

Without a doubt, new direct-to-consumer lending models would pop up. But a more competitive market might also bring more lenders into the broker channel. Their goal being to boost their distribution reach and stem market share declines. That’s what happened in the U.K., with holdouts and banking heavyweights HSBC and TSB recently joining the broker channel, among others.

*********

Some might dismiss these scenarios as pure speculation. But underestimating Google is like underestimating a grizzly’s spring appetite. We don’t know if Google will enter our mortgage market, but all of us in the business would do well to assume they will. Preparing for this type of future threat could make any mortgage originator’s business stronger today.

Source: canadianmortgagetrends.com

10 keys to making social media profitable

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Managing director of Obviam – Creative Social Media, Jay Pring knows a thing or two about how to take your social media strategy from being an expense to making a profit.

Here are his 10 top tips:

1. Engage in two-way conversation
If reposting something interesting, add your own opinion or question; that way people can interact with you and spark discussion.

2. Don’t brag
You might love your recent successes, but most social media audiences won’t care. Add context to your success stories to ensure your posts have meaning and relevance.

3. Give a proper response
Don’t just say thanks if someone’s posted a comment. Add a personalized response.

4. Post different content on each platform
No one wants to read the same message on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. It shows a lack of creativity and fails to consider the unique benefits of the various platforms you employ.

5. Be consistent with your topics
If a certain post gained a lot of attention it means that people want to hear or see more. Make a second post asking your fans for their opinion.

6. Don’t act like the authority
If you’re well informed on a topic, that doesn’t give you the right to act as an authority on it in your posts. Don’t talk down to your fans.This could come off as intimidating or unappealing.

7. Use LinkedIn at least once a day
LinkedIn is a great place to connect with old colleagues, classmates, or customers. It’s a great way to promote your professional services.

8. Add a little humour
Who wants a bland brand? Spice up your posts with some gentle, thought-provoking humour. But avoid sexism, racism or religion so as not to offend.

9. Ask and you won’t receive
Asking people to like and follow you isn’t very effective. Give them compelling content and a reason to follow you and share your posts.

10. Do not use tragedy for promotion
Brands have suffered by using a tragedy to promote themselves. It’s not only incredibly disrespectful but shines a terrible light on your brand and personality. No apology can fix that.

Source: mortgagebrokernews.ca

Outdoor photography tips using your smartphone

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

(NC) Canadian summers can be unpredictable, so it’s important to make the most of the outdoors and get outside while the weather is nice.

You don’t need an expensive camera with multiple functions to take a great photo. Check out these simple tips and tricks to take the perfect outdoor photograph on your smartphone.

Find the right lighting. To take the best photo, use natural light whenever possible. The right amount of sunlight can make facial expressions more cheerful, environments more inviting and food look more delicious. However, don’t shoot subjects in direct sunlight – this creates a silhouette effect. Your pictures will look better if you shoot people using sidelight, where texture and depth can be captured. And when the lighting isn’t optimal, the LG G4 with its f/1.8 lens provides a solution through Manual Mode where you can adjust your ISO and Shutter Speed settings to capture the optimal light.

Take a gorgeous landscape photo. For a dramatic landscape photo, consider your foreground, background and be creative with your angles. Position your subject in the foreground to create depth and create a three-dimensional feel. If you have a bright subject in your foreground, choose a darker, more subdued backdrop. Look for phones that can manually adjust focus on objects closer or farther away.

Don’t forget to take a selfie. No trip outdoors would be complete without a selfie. Professional photographers warn against using the front-facing camera because of poor quality. Luckily new smartphone technology has you covered. Devices like the LG G4 have incredible camera capabilities, including an industry-leading 8MP front camera with a soft light feature. The screen illuminates to give you professional results, even in low light. This means you can always take a great selfie, no matter where you are.

More information is available online at LGG4.ca

Source: www.newscanada.com

New High-Tech Home Gadgets

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

New High-Tech Home GadgetsAlan and I really appreciate the various technology we use in our home to make it “smarter.” Whether it’s control of our music or TV, it can be very convenient to control areas of our home life that we enjoy simply by using an app on our cell phones.

As with The Jetsons cartoon, our imaginations run wild with the idea of modern gadgets to make our homes efficient and automated, and make our lives simpler. For cutting-edge products you can control from your smartphone, check out these contributions from the International Consumer Electronics Show. Held each year in Las Vegas, the event showcases technological advances and products that offer cutting-edge advances in consumer technology.

Home security

Home security cameras work well when you’re home, but what about when you’re away? The DoorBird home security camera sends an alert to your smartphone every time your doorbell is rung. The integrated speaker system allows you to talk to the visitor even if you’re not there, and keeps track of who comes and goes. You can even open your door for delivery, cleaning and repair personnel from another room or another location.

The system comes with a motion sensor, Wi-Fi connection and available add-on cameras. The DoorBird runs from an app on your Apple iOS or Android device.

Climate-control

No matter how efficient the heating and air-conditioning is in your home, one room or another may be warmer or cooler than the rest of the home simply due to its orientation to the sun. There is no longer any reason for one room to be sweltering and another to be freezing with the Ecovent.

Working with your existing central air system, the Ecovent replaces your current wall, floor or ceiling vents with battery-powered vents that open and close automatically to send the cool air to where it’s needed most. The system knows the temperature in every room and adjusts the vents accordingly. Operating from your smart phone app, the system also works with smart thermostats such as the Nest learning thermostat. Easily installed by most do-it-yourself-ers, the Ecovent system improves energy efficiency by up to 30 percent.

Attitude

Okay, your home doesn’t really have an attitude, but you do. And bright an early in the morning it can be a little testy until you get your first jolt of caffeine. Or, what about a fresh cup when you walk through the door at then end of a long day? Introducing the Smarter Wi-Fi coffee machine that grinds, brews and pours your coffee all from the control of your smartphone app.

This coffee maker alerts you when your coffee is ready and offers you a fresh cup of coffee when it detects that you’ve arrived home. While there are other smart coffee makers on the market, this one differs in that it brews a single serving instead of an entire carafe.

Having high-tech gadgets for your home is great, but what if you just need the home? We can help you with that. Give us a call at either of the phone numbers listed above and we’ll help you find a home for all those gadgets to go in.

Source: AlanandHeatherDavis.com

 

Going mobile with your website: Statistics prove it’s a must-have

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

March 5,2015

By Robin Wilding

The days of an mobile-optimized website being an up sell or a “nice to have” are over.

If you’re not engaging your users on a mobile platform that caters to their needs, then you’re throwing away up to half the traffic that you worked hard to earn.

Consider these mobile website statistics:

  • Almost 80 per cent of homebuyers visit three or more real estate websites before taking action.
  • According to comScore, mobile users represent 51 per cent of all Internet traffic.
  • 74 per cent of web surfers will leave after five seconds if your website hasn’t loaded on their mobile device.
  • 46 per cent of those users will never return.
  • Every additional 100ms added to a website’s loading time leads to a one per cent decrease in sales and conversions.
  • Real estate is hyper-local and half of all local searches performed are done on mobile devices.
  • 36 per cent of homebuyers do their research on their mobile devices while sitting on the couch while watching TV.
  • You have less time to capture a user’s attention on a smartphone. The average computer browsing session is 39 minutes. Smartphone sessions are less than half that, at just 17 minutes.
  • Your website needs to transition from mobile to non-mobile smoothly, because up to 60 per cent of online searches are continued on a computer.
  • Conversely, 23 per cent of laptop or PC-based searches end up on mobile devices.
  • More than 80 per cent of Facebook users are surfing on mobile devices (a wink wink for agents leveraging social media marketing).
  • 61 per cent of users lose faith in a brand without an effective mobile experience.

So, not only is a user likely to leave your website and never return if it doesn’t load quickly, but they will lose faith in the quality of your brand without a strong mobile front. Of all these mobile website statistics, when you consider that 50 per cent of online research is done on mobile devices and that your mobile website is up against at least three others, you’ll understand why the days of a lackluster mobile experience are over.

Luckily, it’s never been easier to add a positive mobile experience to your website. So make 2015 the year you finally go mobile.

Source: REMonline.com

 

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Google will begin ranking mobile-friendly sites higher starting April 21

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

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Posted 5 days ago

Big changes to Google’s search algorithms are coming: beginning April 21, the company will increase the ranking of sites that are mobile-friendly and surface app results much higher.

The company says that the change will have a “significant impact” on all mobile searches in all languages worldwide, but as a result Google says that users will find higher quality results.

Along with this change, Google will start to use more information from indexed apps as a factor when ranking search results for users that are signed-in and have the app installed.

These changes are great news for mobile users as it should help motivate those sites that still don’t have a mobile site to actually build one. Google started highlighting mobile-friendly sites in results last year.

Site admins who want to test their site’s mobile compatibility can use Google’s tools to quickly evaluate the status of a page.

Source: TheNextWeb.com

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Five Things to Consider When Selecting a Health Smartphone App

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

(NC) With thousands of health apps available on our smartphones for almost any health inquiry, the options can be overwhelming.

“Many of my patients use smartphone apps to take charge of their health,” said Dr. Kendall Ho, emergency room physician at Vancouver General Hospital. “It’s important that Canadians understand how to select an app that is both suitable and supportive of their overall health goals.”

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to choose the best health app for you.

• Your Condition: Apps can be great for many purposes, such as tracking symptoms, managing chronic conditions or measuring fitness goals. Ask your doctor about how you’d like to use an app to ensure it’s a good fit for your condition and wellness goals.

• Ease of Use: Unless it is easy to use, you won’t end up using it. Consider the amount of information you’re required to enter, how often you have to enter it and if calendar reminders are available.

• Effectiveness: Do your research! Reviews from other users can be insightful, especially from someone with the same health condition or goal.

• Privacy: You’ll want the information you enter to remain confidential. It’s critical to research the privacy policies for apps and the companies behind them, and to also understand the privacy settings on your smartphone. Also remember, like any technology, apps can be vulnerable to hacking so consider the information you are giving out.

• Safe: Some apps provide advice that doesn’t reflect your medical history or conditions. A member of your health care team can provide valuable insights on this advice to ensure it’s tailored to you.

For more information on how digital health is making a difference for Canadians, visit betterhealthtogether.ca.

Source: www.newscanada.com

Secure any new mobile device right from the start

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

(NC) Is a new mobile device on your holiday wish list? If so, it’s easy to picture the excitement of receiving a gift of new technology, as well as the fun involved with exploring all the functions of a new tablet, or phone.

Today’s smartphones and tablets do a lot more than just phone calls and text messages. They are mini-computers, handheld wallets, and they can hold a lot of information about you and your online accounts. If you don’t set them up to be secure, your phone can also be a welcome mat for cyber criminals.

So once you unwrap that gift, make sure you follow these simple tips to make your new device secure:

• Enable a passcode immediately so your device will always lock after a short period of inactivity.

• Avoid connecting to unknown or non-password protected Wi-Fi networks, even if they are private. An unsecure wireless network can compromise your information, including your contact list, as well as give someone else use of your data plan.

• Be aware that mobile phishing (fake emails or texts that impersonate a friend or trusted organization) is a growing threat, especially since unusual messages can be harder to spot on small screens.

• Think carefully about what you absolutely need to store on your mobile device, and erase everything else. If it’s lost or stolen, you could be placing personal information in someone else’s hands.

• Back up your device and check out what security software may be available for it to protect all your information.

• Think before you download an app. Understand what information (i.e., location, your contacts, social networking profiles, etc.) the app would access and share before you download it. Always download apps from trusted sources.

Protect while you connect. More information is available online at GetCyberSafe.ca.

Source: www.newscanada.com



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