Julia Grace is the head of engineering at Tindie, an online marketplace that connects independent hardware creators with people looking for unique electronics and hardware products.

Julia Grace

Julia Grace

In addition to supporting the “maker movement” by giving hardware designers a way to sell their goods, Grace is a vocal advocate for encouraging more girls to learn to code and supporting the next generation of makers and developers.

Grace will be onstage at Real Estate Connect to discuss what’s next with the “Internet of Things,” and show us some unique hardware that will make our homes smarter and put more control over them just a few taps away on our smartphone. Don’t miss Grace at our “Gadgets and Gear” session as she shows us what’s next in hardware and software, and why that matters to you.

Inman: What’s the most disruptive force changing the economy and consumer behavior and why?

JG: The wide adoption of smartphones has caused a rapid acceleration of software layers to spring up between consumers and the more traditional services and stores they use.

For example, I can use Instacart, Google Shopping Express, TaskRabbit and Eat24 (all software companies) to get all my groceries, run all my errands, clean my house and deliver my dinner. None of these companies house and manage inventory, own physical stores, cook food, etc., but they take advantage of the existing infrastructure to provide a simple, easy way alternative for consumers to interact with these services.

This is just the beginning, and more software companies will spring up to augment existing businesses, or in some cases, replace them.

Inman: Every day there are more services described as “Uber for X.” Do you think this trend will continue? If so, what’s next? If no, why not?

JG: Yes. There are many other industries that will be totally changed by the wide proliferation of smartphones and (as I mention above) the fact that software is enabling a totally different way of performing many of the activities we used to do without interacting with a smartphone or computer.

It is hard to say what is next, but I would foresee any industry where the consumer experience is poor, painful or clunky is ripe for disruption by software. Recently, Washio raised a large Series A funding to replace laundromats and dry cleaners, etc.

Inman: What’s the one trend you’re keeping an eye on for 2015 and why?

JG: The connected home movement where we can control our homes using applications on our smartphones is of particular interest to me. I think more and more appliances will be connected to the Internet, and with that comes a lot of issues around privacy.

When you use something like Nest (part of Google), you can then take advantage of a large platform and company with a lot of experience building powerful cloud infrastructures to store and provide actionable feedback on the data you’re sending (e.g., how to lower your heating bills, etc.).

I foresee Google aggregating Nest data and sharing trends across the thousands, if not millions, who will have a Nest thermostat (and devices connected to Nest through their developer API). This will empower consumers to make better decisions about refrigerators, heaters, TVs, etc., as well as where to live and what types of houses to buy as our heating and cooling  information is now stored in the Google cloud.

But some consumers may not want this, allowing for alternatives to come to the market.

Inman: What is the one thing real estate needs to do to innovate on the consumer experience?

JG: Consumers used to have different expectations for the services and activities they used to do around work versus personal. Blackberry at one time thought they didn’t have to compete directly with the iPhone because iPhones wouldn’t make their way into the workplace and the Blackberry would always remain the business device. That has all changed.

Consumers expect that same ease of use and simplicity of the applications and experiences they have in their personal lives in their professional and work lives. Thus all aspects of buying a home or finding commercial real estate will all need to meet these new expectations of consumers, who expect simple, powerful, easy-to-use apps that they can use anytime, anywhere.

If there is any part of real estate that is clunky or painful — someone will eventually capitalize on this opportunity and consumers will flock to this service.

Inman: What’s the most important takeaway of your talk at Real Estate Connect?

JG: We are just at the beginning of the “Internet of Things” — this includes the movement towards a connected home where appliances can can talk to apps on your smartphone — as well as to each other. The implications of this are that how we find, assess and configure our homes (meaning power, Internet, etc.) will change as consumer priorities shift to every part of their home being a data source.

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