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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Get Smarter Agent, or smarter agents?

smart_razor2.jpg
id_tech.gifI was quoted in this week's New York Magazine regarding Smarter Agent, a new location based cell phone service for searching properties, using the phone's GPS location cross-referenced to a database of listings. I know there's something attractive about an advertising medium distributed on ubiquitous mobile phones that are aware of where and when I'm accessing the system— especially if I own the local MacDonald's and it's lunchtime. Beyond lunch, the jury is still out on people finding it to be a very useful way to find a home.

“Have you ever used a browser on a cell phone?” he [comitini] asks. “It’s one of the most frustrating experiences”
FROM 'OPN HSE!' BY S.JHOANNA ROBLEDO, NEW YORK MAGAZINE
shoe-phone.jpgI still remember being a kid in the pre-cell phone era, watching Mel Brook's TV show "Get Smart", in which secret agent Maxwell Smart would talk into his 'shoe-phone'. I can't help but feel the same way about some of the new mobile tools which seem equally clunky. Typing on a keypad the size of a tablespoon, or browsing the web through the peephole-like aperture of a cellphone screen (many websites are designed close to 1200 pixels wide today, while even the biggest PDA phone screens will only display about a 320 pixel section of it) are not great experiences. Sites optimized for mobile use can help ease the pain, but the ergonomics are still hard to push past being just acceptable in my opinion. They tend to be on-the-fly tools, that are used when better options are not readily available. I'd much rather run customer searches on a desktop computer, and properly call for appointments and missing details. If my objective is to efficiently get into a number of properties in a few hours, it usually requires some advanced planning. So outside of open houses, Smarter Agent seems positioned awkwardly in the work-flow of house hunting.
“There’s no such thing as a 100 percent complete list of apartments”
ERIC BLUMBERG, PRESIDENT SMARTER AGENT
Ultimately it comes down to the quality of the information and how to use it. Real estate agents have a level of product knowledge beyond the listing data that's hard to put in a can— the more qualitative things that make a difference everyday like a building's management, access to local services, transportation, quality of light and layouts, etc... People use real estate brokers for the same reason they use technology, to get things done better and faster. Smarter Agent, could be somewhat useful to smaller firms, depending on the quality of it's data; but it's uniqueness may be less revolutionary at second glance. Mobile data access is a popular notion lately. Corcoran recently introduced an mobile extension of its listing system for its agents. It gives everyone of us out working with a customer, the ability to access the most comprehensive listings database through our cell phones, whenever needed. It is a virtual tool that provides field support for a far more comprehensive brokerage business process. While not yet GPS enabled, I usually know where in town I'm standing, and can pull the data in moments flat. Many of my colleagues like it and use it a lot. read the full article »