Thursday, February 9, 2017

Is your Smart TV Watching You?

Your TV may be watching you. More and more reports are coming out now about internet connected smart TVs that are collecting information about you, who you are and what you do in your living rooms and in your home.

Reference article on

It's not just this TV manufacturer that has been caught recording data on users. It is apparently becoming wide spread. 

So, where is this technology heading? The next logical step in this evolution is for the smart home to be integrated into the TV and turned on 24x7--listening to you and your family, whether the TV is "turned on" or not. Smart Home technology is becoming popular today by a number of companies, where every part of your home is getting connected to the internet.This is not all bad and this is not a conspiracy--this is today's technology. And this is the direction that technology companies are focused on, as they follow consumer money--especially advertising dollars. 

One of the problems, as I see it, is not so much in how technology follows money, but is in the confidential information that these devices can collect and store and what happens to that information over time. Stored data is vulnerable data. Reference George O--1984 for the tip of the berg.

Buyers Beware: when your home is smarter than you are, you may be heading for problems that will have to be unwound by someone smarter than the devices that collect the data and the hackers that break in and steal it. This is the fundamental challenge with the smart home--hackers will hack and eventually they will get in. So, when someone breaks into your home network, what will they have access to and what will they find? Can they open a door? Can they get into your credit and banking accounts? Can they view your cameras and watch your family at home? Can they monitor when you are home and not at home from far away? Can they figure out your Amazon accounts and start buying stuff for you or know when packages are being delivered to your home? 

How smart should your home be? Like any technology, if the technology is demonstratively smarter than the user, you may wake up one day trying to figure out how your world got turned upside down at a moment's notice. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Will Austin See a Revival in Manufacturing Jobs?

PLEASE NOTE: This article is not a political statement, nor an attempt to position any particular political belief, personality or political position, but is my business perspective of how what is happening in the US manufacturing arena could easily impact the Greater Austin area, as well as other parts of Texas. Regardless of our political position, as business people, we must constantly and habitually looking at the business climate of our nation, our state and our cities in Central Texas. I am a student of business, just as many of you are, and what is good for business is very simply good for business. And what is happening in our nation will either be good for business or it will not. We shall see.

Today, the CEO of Ford Motor Corporation, made very strong and forward looking statements about a renaissance in manufacturing jobs in the United States. Companies like Ford have Carrier have had to publicly reconsider building new major manufacturing plants outside the United States and with proposed import taxes on goods coming into the United States, many companies will have to strategically reconsider decades of manufacturing outside the United States. When it becomes as profitable to build goods inside the united states as outside the US, and corporate taxes for major manufacturers is comparable inside the US as outside the US, we will likely begin to see a repatriation of corporate dollars, corporate facilities and jobs back to the united states in fields such as technology, toys, building materials, clothing, tools, and many other industries--that have been outsourced to other countries for many years.

So, what might that mean to Austin? Well, let's start with one of Austin/Round Rock's largest employers--Dell. Did you know that Dell Computers used to manufacture its computers in Austin? Dell had massive manufacturing and assembly lines just off of Parmer Lane. Did you know that component suppliers used to have warehouses of their products just waiting for daily orders from Dell and employees managed the flow of components into and out of these warehouses to the Dell manufacture machine? Did you know that this was all shut down and moved to Ireland and Asia many years ago because it was more profitable to make Dell computer technology outside the US?

Now the country sits anxiously to see if Dell, Hewlett Packard, IBM, and many others who have a large presences in Austin and Houston and Dallas, will reclaim their manufacturing prowess in the USofA and Texas. We wait to see if companies that make name brand tennis shoes, clothing, steel, sheet-rock, toys and thousands of other products and industries will repatriate to the US to bring jobs back to places like Detroit and Memphis and yes, back to Austin. Austin is not hurting for high tech jobs, but bringing blue collar manufacturing jobs back and management jobs in manufacturing to our area would be a wonderful thing to many people.

Time will tell.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Interest Rates Are Going Up

If you have not been listening to the news this week, the Federal Reserve has raised the base interest rate by 1/4 point yesterday. This is good in that it signals the Federal Reserve has a certain level of confidence in the economy that we have only seen one other time during the past 8+ years and that they now believe we are on a path toward growth and prosperity. But this also means that loans and mortgages will begin to cost banks more and therefore cost consumers more than they have for the past several years. This is a move toward putting the nation on a path toward supply and demand, rather than the artificially depressed interest rates.

While we are still about 2-3% points lower than the average interest rate over the past couple of decades and home ownership is incredibly affordable, this increase of 1/4 of a percentage point will increase monthly mortgage payments on new loans by as much as 2.5%--that's about $50 a month more on a $200,000 mortgage.

So, what does this mean to you and me? 

Investors--take note. The financials of new investments will likely continue to change over 2017. All time lows in interest rates is something that is mostly likely going to begin a slow transition to a more market driven number.

First time home buyers--now is still a great time to look at buying a new home. Sit down with your Realtor and your Mortgage Lender to determine if you are ready to buy your first home. 

Sellers--this may be a good time for you to consider selling, especially if your home is on the cusp of a price bracket that the changing interest rates make your home less desirable due to higher monthly payments--like a price point in the entry segment of the market.

Buyers and Sellers in general--take note, weigh your options and know that while the interest rates are going up, price brackets may start to stabilize or flatten out to accommodate shifts in interest rates with time. Real Estate is a dynamic industry and changes do occur over time. In Austin, we have not seen a significant change in the market away from the steady increase in home values over the past 5+ years. Whether this will or will not change depends on a whole host of factors. With the increase in jobs in Central Texas and the continued population growth, my expectation is that prices will get flat as the first sign of a change in our market. That has not happened yet. We shall see if and when that does happen. 

Happy hunting! tT

DISCLAIMER: i am not a mortgage banker or broker.  i do not claim to be an expert on matters of mortgages or banking and I am not a Seer of the future. buyer-beware! do your own research. read. ask questions. consult experts. come to your own conclusions. my opinion is just that--my opinion and I have been wrong a couple of times in the past when it comes to predicting the future--as I am sure you have.

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