How Computer Science is Revolutionizing the Housing Market

by Jackie Edwards

House sales in the US are surpassing all expectations, reaching a high since last November and jumping 6.7% between April and May of this year. This is of course down to a number of factors, but one that is often overlooked is the role of technology. With rapid advances in computer science, the way we find and purchase a new house is changing. Some of the changes involve the boring, but important financial stuff, while others are a bit more exciting. All taken together though, technological progress could explain why home ownership is increasing across the country.

Easier Transactions

Back in the days when cash was all we had, buying a house was a difficult process. Even sending checks in the mail was a burden that slowed everything down. This made the purchase of a property extremely cumbersome. With the digitization of money, we are overcoming this obstacle. Bank transfers can now be made in an instant and monthly payments can be sent automatically.

The US is behind in the adoption of online payments, however. While just 3% of Americans have used contactless payment in the past month, this number rises to 54% among British consumers. Digital transactions are so popular across the pond that HM Land Registry (the government department which registers property ownership) aims to digitize and automate 95% of transactions by 2022. It’s all about efficiency, so homes can be bought and registered quickly and cheaply.

Cutting Paperwork and Middlemen

With a similar goal in mind, tech is helping to change property purchases by cutting out unnecessary stages in the buying process. The internet allows direct communication between landlords and tenants, as well as house sellers and buyers. The role of the estate agent is being replaced by a computer algorithm, meaning fewer people to deal with and, in turn, fewer people to pay. Buying a house online requires no paperwork or even a need to schedule a meeting. The terms and regulations of the transaction can be emailed as a PDF attachment and returned signed within minutes.

Virtual Viewings

So that’s the boring (but important) stuff out the way, but how is technology making home buying fun again? One way is with the incorporation of virtual reality. One of the problems with purchasing a property is that it must be viewed multiple times by potential buyers, which means coordinating an appropriate time between house hunter, real estate agent and the current occupiers of the home. To do this several times, when people are busy with work and social commitments can cause difficulties. Airbnb is leading the way in solving this problem, by aiming to create virtual viewings of their homes, with the help of headsets to reduce the need to travel. This is especially useful for properties in a far away town or overseas.

Computers are affecting almost every area of society, but the housing market could be most impacted. It is now easier than ever to buy a home, with costs being cut to make it more affordable for those on low incomes. The ease at which payments can be made combined with the chance for virtual viewing increases convenience for everybody involved.

How is Science Sculpting the Modern Athlete?

by Jackie Edwards

Sport is big business these days, with the market worth $60.5 million in North America and predicted to rise to $73.5 billion in 2019. Sports is not only a moneymaker for event promoters and the media; it is also increasingly being seen as a top career choice for those with the talent, drive, and commitment required to succeed. New developments in sport have shown that success is not all about the individual athlete. In popular sports like tennis, football, or golf, science & technology are playing an important role in helping competitors perform at their full potential. In this post, we look at just a few ways that science is changing the way we play and compete.

Swing Training Technology for Golf

You would need to be a master physicist to work out the exact angle at which to position your club when playing golf, but science and technology are making it a whole lot easier with swing training technology, which brings real-time body positioning analysis to everyday golfers with the help of a handy app. The app ‘tells’ golfers exactly how to position their body and gives them top information on how to do better next time. Of course, the app won’t fix deeper problems such as weak muscles in the shoulder and back. Top level athletes will also need to regularly carry out specific training programs for golf, which include strength training for key muscle groups. In essence, performing the right swing depends on issues like back strength, so you may need to address this first to perfect your game.

Head and Neck Support for Motor Sports

Dale Earnhardt’s death on the track at the Daytona 500 race revealed the extent to which the head and neck area are vulnerable in motor sports. HANS devices have been created by scientists to stop the head from whipping forwards and backwards in the event of an accident, and to lend more support to the neck. The device is U-shaped and is positioned behind the neck, with two ‘arms’ that extend over the pectorals. Over 140,000 devices have already been sold worldwide.

Wearable Computers and Hawk-Eye Camera Systems

Wearable computers are allowing both players and managers to assess a player’s level of fatigue, hydration levels, etc. This type of information is vital to avoid heart attacks and other major health events from taking place on the field. Smart fabrics will enable athletes to glean even more information, including heart function data and movement of the body’s center of mass. Scientists have stated that the future could take us beyond wearables. The Hawk-Eye camera system is currently used to obtain information on running biomechanics and other metrics during games of elite players. The NBA, meanwhile, relies on Second Spectrum’s computer vision technology to obtain information about player positioning and other 3D data such as ball and referee positioning.

We have presented just a few ways in which science and technology are enabling athletes to perform more optimally, but also to stay safe. Wearable devices and fabrics, aerial camera systems, and new safety gear are making sport a much more scientifically accurate and appealing pursuit. Information is power, and nowhere is this truer than on the field or track.

The Psychology Behind Scamming

by Jackie Edwards

From winning the lottery and PPI refunds to identity theft and online marriage proposals, we’re all potential targets for fraudsters. Globally, scammers conned unsuspecting victims out of $12.7 billion in 2013 — and that was just with 419 advance fee fraud scams. Scam victims typically lose out financially — often without reimbursement — and suffer significant emotional trauma, making them less likely to come forward due to embarrassment. While scams have become more complex and harder to detect in the modern age, the foundational influence techniques scammers use on their victims remain the same. Become aware of how scams exploit emotions and human nature, and you’re less likely to fall for these psychological techniques.

Exploitation of social norms

From birth, we’re conditioned to have unwavering respect for authority figures. Scammers take advantage of this social norm and therefore often pose as bank employees, government officials, or qualified professionals who appear trustworthy. In a similar vein, scammers try to exploit man’s inherent good nature. You may find it hard to say “no” to a charity asking for donations. Or you may be compelled to send money to help pay for emergency medical or travel expenses — which often plays out in online dating scams.

Scarcity-based incentives

Most of us have fallen prey to tempting “limited-time only” sales when shopping. Retailers and scammers alike rely on scarcity-based incentives: offers that expire soon, offers that are one-time only, or deals that will fall through if you don’t act RIGHT NOW! They conjure a sense of urgency in order to get you to take immediate action. The fear of missing out is primal and you’re more likely to forgo rationality and self-control in the face of it. Scammers want you acting now instead of taking time to asses the situation and likely realizing things don’t add up.

Eliciting of emotion

People who lack control over their emotions are more likely to be persuaded by scammers, a report by the UK Office of Fair Trading reveals. Sometimes these will be positive emotions like the excitement of winning money or online relationships. Alternatively, negative feelings like fear and panic are often elicited via supposed fraudulent bank activity. It’s natural to want to alleviate strong, unpleasant emotions as soon as possible. People will therefore act out of fear and desperation — rather than reason — and respond to the scam in order to feel better in the short run.

So, how do you know who to trust? Never give out personal information or money to anybody — especially on first contact. Delete emails from people you don’t know. Do your own research to verify something — but don’t call numbers or click links you’ve been given. Give yourself time to carefully think about the situation. Does it elicit strong emotions urging you to act? If in doubt, always go with your gut. Finally, if you find yourself the target of a scam, report it and let others know, so they can avoid falling prey to the same or similar scam in the future.