App of the Month


This month we begin a regular new feature called App of the Month. We will look at the popular apps that seek to help make our lives a little better in some way, shape, or form.  So many apps come out every day that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. It’s difficult to determine the best of the best but if you’re getting bored with what you’ve got and want to try something new, check out this regular app feature. This month, the blue ribbon goes to a maps & navigation app called Waze.

Waze, is a GPS navigation software that works on smartphones and tablets with GPS support and provides turn-by-turn navigation information and user-submitted travel times and route details, while downloading location-dependent information over a mobile telephone network. Waze describes its app as a community-driven GPS navigation app, which is free to download and use. The app was first developed and popularized by Waze Mobile, an Israeli company founded by Ehud Shabtai, Amir Shinar and Uri Levine, funded by two Israeli venture capital firms, Magma and Vertex, and an early-stage American venture capital firm Bluerun Ventures. Waze Mobile was acquired in 2013 by Google.

Cool Features
  • Wazers share real-time road information to bypass traffic and saves precious time off their daily commutes.
  • Waze analyzes traffic in real-time to find you the quickest detours and shortcuts.
  • Simply driving with Waze helps other drivers. You can also actively report on incidents like crashes, hazards, police and more.
  • Customized voice navigation is fun! I like the “boy band” voice. He sings navigation to you as you drive…hilarious!
  • Gas prices – in honor of my father who will drive 5 extra miles to save $.03/gallon this feature is awesome. It will show you the current prices at all the gas stations on or near your route.
Waze vs. Google Maps

When evaluating Google Maps vs Waze, there are a few key differences:

Waze is community-based, Google Maps is more data-based
Waze is pretty much just for cars, Google Maps offers walking, driving, and biking options.
Waze requires a data connection, Google Maps is available offline.
Google Maps includes business data such as menus, hours, and phone numbers, while Waze does not.
Google Maps is fairly basic, Waze offers a high level of customization (including celebrity voiceovers!)

If it is any indication of usefulness, Uber or Lyft drivers overwhelmingly use Waze. My personal take is that Waze is more useful, given the sheer amount of data that the app collects through it’s massive user base. The collaborators are the the key to real-time data. Whenever possible, I don’t want to stop for traffic, hit potholes, or get a speeding ticket.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Google Maps, and I use it when I am driving. I don’t always need to avoid traffic, or don’t necessarily care about avoiding traffic when I have nothing to do.

In summary, it really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to just get to your destination, Google Maps is probably good enough. But if you’re looking to supercharge your navigation, give Waze a try.

Download the free app by clicking on either of these two platforms:



Augmented Reality and Real Estate

The Decision

I use my iPhone a lot, and I use it hard. As each new phone feature gets introduced I push the limits of its claimed capability. It’s a business tool and it’s a social device at the same time. For that reason, I’m normally very careful when handling my device. But recently, I had the misfortune of discovering a major crack across the face of the screen. Ugh! I didn’t drop it. Truly. It slipped in between the seats in my car. In the process of me reaching down to fish it out, I must have jarred it too aggressively – enough to cause a crack. Have you ever seen a grown man cry? It’s sad. Now, what do I do?

Faced with this unexpected decision, I’ve been anguishing over my options. My choices are either, a) pay $100+ to get my screen fixed or, b) explore the latest $900+ tantalizing offerings from the Apple cartel. If I choose to repair my screen, will I be going backward in technology time with an almost 3-year old iPhone 6? Will I be a good financial steward if I even consider shelling out over NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS? The hesitation begins. Is this really a vital business tool in my day-to-day operation of my business and personal life? Are these questions just first-world problems that we encounter in two-year phone contract renewal cycles?

It’s true, I am geeked out by all the latest technology and quality of life enhancements that are graciously provided by these personal devices. I am also very impressed and compelled by the litany of features and benefits of the new line of Apple iPhones; iPhone 8, iPhone 8+ and the highly acclaimed and anticipated iPhone X. In particular,

  • Wireless charging
  • True tone ambient light balance display
  • 12 megapixel camera
  • Portrait lighting
  • 4k video capture
  • AR calibrated camera sensors
  • A11 bionic 6-core processor (70% faster than iPhone 7)
  • Face I.D.
  • Glass back

Mostly, I am most especially intrigued by Apple’s introduction of their version of Augmented Reality in ARKit. Could this be the deal clincher? Could this be the ‘one thing’ that pushes me over the indecision bubble?

This is amazing stuff!

With Apple’s release of iOS 11 on September 12, 2017, iPhone and iPad owners will see a flood of augmented reality app titles hit the App Store thanks to Apple’s introduction of ARKit. In fact, look out for an industry explosion of new apps featuring this hot new technology. There are truly unlimited applications in so many different industry categories that it is mind-blowing . Companies are racing to be ahead of this technology. So much so, that a whopping $108 billion has already been invested into this sector.

“Yes, there will be plenty of ARKit games and entertainment, but given the size of Apple’s developer community, coupled with workplace and industry-specific enterprise app development through Apple’s burgeoning business initiatives, the explosion of AR application development should be surprising and unprecedented.”  – David Wilson

What is AR?

Augmented Reality (AR) is mixing real-world images with artificial ones in real time – sometimes also known as Mixed Reality. This contrasts with Virtual Reality (VR) where the entire image is artificial.

“Augmented Reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.”

AR has been around for literally decades but hasn’t yet become a mainstream technology. Google tried to change this with Project Tango, but this required special hardware and didn’t catch on. The Google AR platform is currently only compatible with roughly 10 million specialized Android devices. All this looks set to change, however, with Apple’s promotion of AR technology.

This technology is not exclusive to Apple. And, all this time while everyone was complaining about how Apple apparently was dragging its feet with virtual reality technology it did a head-fake in releasing ARKit. Combined with the new line-up of iPhones featuring the mighty A11 processor Apple has effectively leapfrogged its competition 100-fold moving “light years” ahead with it version of augmented reality. Sorry Google. Sorry Microsoft.

One thing I have come to learn is that the use of technology in my real estate business is paramount. AR has the potential to become quickly transformational in many sectors, including; retail, manufacturing, marketing, education, transportation and real estate. There are many applications that are both required and helpful in order to best serve me and my clients. The AR world has brought a whole new layer of advantage into my daily world. I recently took time to research this groundbreaking technology and explore see how and if these new apps can demonstratively be useful to me. Maybe through this process, I can finally put to rest my anguish and anxiety over which iPhone solution I will pursue.

Several examples of apps using AR that I see as having a potentially positive impact on my bottom line are shown in the following summaries. I’ve also added a few near the end just for fun.


SmartPicture Technologies has released a very cool dimensional intelligence app for measuring rooms called PLNAR.

Measuring rooms? Who needs that? Umm…I DO! 

As a real estate professional, and more specifically, as a listing agent, we routinely take measurements of residential properties. It is critical to collect and disclose structural information for rooms of all types, including; bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, family rooms, garages, and even foundations. PLNAR is the app that harnesses ARKit to gather these room measurements, including specifications for interior structures like doors and windows, in real time.


Using an iPhone or iPad’s rear camera, users simply point their device at anchor points in a given room to generate accurate digital measurements of any flat surface. Using a simple reticule, users can conduct point-to-point measurements of a room’s floor and walls. Other objects like counter tops can also be measured.

Users can label measured segments to notate key features like walls, doors, windows, openings and more, a handy tool when creating an area blueprint.

Beyond basic dimensioning, PLNAR is able to ingest room measurements to generate area and perimeter calculations, simplifying flooring and other interior design projects.

The app supports multiple projects and room plans, while users can export data as PDF documents for easy sharing.

PLNAR is a free download from the iOS App Store.


Homesnap is already a very useful tool to realtors. This app features a nifty mobile home search interface. Homesnap is powered by the same real-time data used by licensed REALTORS®.

Simply snap a photo of any home to reveal home value estimates, interior photos, beds, baths, taxes, lot boundaries, school ratings and much more.

One of the Homesnap app’s most-used features is the ability to walk property lines using your phone or tablet. With the release of iOS 11, they’ve taken advantage of augmented reality (AR) to make this feature even cooler.
Now when iOS 11 users walk property lines with the Homesnap app, they’ll get a real-time, physical view of the property’s boundaries. It’s truly an unparalleled AR experience!

Here’s how it works: Just fire up Homesnap on your iPhone or iPad, pull up the home’s listing, scroll to the map, and tap “Walk the Property Lines.” As you walk the perimeter of the home, your iPhone (or iPad) will display the property lines on top of a real-time view captured by the device’s built-in camera.

♦Boundary Viewer

Realtors need to locate property lines day in and day out, and clients invariably want to “see” the boundaries of the property at hand. BoundARyViewer is an innovative, easy way to see those property lines through the magic of Augmented Reality (AR)! We’ve all seen the computer generated “first down lines” in televised football games… BoundARyViewer uses this same technology to project publicly available property boundaries into your smart phone camera view. Simply open the app and point your camera!!

BoundARy Viewer seamlessly accesses state or municipal GIS (Geographic Information System) databases for property line information , and then presents this information on both traditional street map and satellite views, and in 3D through your smart phone camera based upon GPS location and device orientation . You can “follow the line” within the display to walk the property boundaries, or simply get a feel for the layout by panning the camera from a single location. From a vehicle one can see where frontage boundaries are on a drive-by, both for the property at hand and others in the neighborhood.

BoundARy Viewer provides a fun and functional means to better understand property boundaries that simplifies the Realtor’s job, and enhances the customer experience. The 2D Mapping function of BoundaryViewer is free. The 3D Augmented Reality requires a subscription. Unfortunately, as of this publication date, the mapping is not yet available for Minnesota.


Leveraging Apple’s new AR technology, MeasureKit makes it really easy to measure different things in the world using your iPhone’s or iPad’s camera. Here’s how it works: point the camera on the object you want to measure, tap to start, and as you move around your device in space, you see the result on the screen. It’s that easy.  There are currently 7 tools available: ChainingTrajectoryMarker Pin, Person Height, Cube, Level, and Angles.

Just like a real ruler, but better. Measure straight lines on any surface, such as a desk or wall. Ruler automatically attaches to detected horizontal and vertical planes for better accuracy.

In my world, as a realtor, we often need to measure things, specifically room size. You can measure straight lines on any surface, such as a desk or wall. Ruler automatically attaches to detected horizontal and vertical planes for better accuracy. Using Chaining Mode, you can quickly link together multiple rulers in one measuring session and see floor area, as well as total distance. Measuring a room has never been easier!

MeasureKit features an advanced internal algorithm for world understanding using ARKit. This allows the app to offer really smooth and accurate measuring experience including on walls and other vertical planes. While most of similar AR ruler apps are limited to measuring accurately only on a desk & floor, with MeasureKit you can easily measure a painting on your wall, for example.

The ruler tool is free, but all other tools are available for a one-time purchase of $2.99.


Housecraft uses your device’s camera and the power of augmented reality to let you place fully rendered 3D models anywhere in your world.

Perfectly plan your future home with your phone! It’s easy to save room configurations and try them out anywhere. Great for apartment hunts, reorganizing a room, testing how new furniture will look, and more!

Feel exactly how big objects are and how they’ll fit. Admire objects from any angle in any light. Save room configurations, try them out anywhere.

Feel exactly how big objects are and how they’ll fit. You’ll hardly believe how accurate the measurements are once you try it. Plus, you can admire objects from any angle, in any light!


Image: Ikea Place

IKEA has introduced a new app called IKEA Place, built using Apple’s new augmented reality ARKit, which includes 3D and true to scale models of everything from sofas and arm chairs, to foot stools and coffee tables. IKEA Place uses ARKit and is compatible with iPhone 6s and newer.

IKEA Place lets you virtually ‘place’ IKEA products in your space. The app includes 3D and true-to-scale models of everything from sofas and armchairs to footstools and coffee tables. IKEA Place gives you an accurate impression of the furniture’s size, design and functionality in your home so you can stop wondering and start doing.

The app lets also you share your ‘place’ with social apps like WhatsApp or Instagram. And ultimately, order your products through IKEA Store. Look out for updates as more IKEA products and additional functionality arriving soon.

Overstock and Wayfair are in development of how to use AR in their marketing as well. Look for them to be joining the AR game soon.


Similar to IKEA’s Place, Houzz has been updated to try out an AR version of its many products in your home before you commit to spending your cash. You’ll also find iOS 11 drag and drop support for iPad.

View in My Room 3D is an indispensable tool for your next home project with Apple’s new AR technology available in iOS 11. Preview 500k+ furniture and decor products in 3D at lifesize scale from the Houzz Shop before you buy. Design your room’s layout by positioning products exactly where you want them and experience the full effect by walking around your room. Hold your iPhone or iPad close to virtual products to see realistic materials, textures, surfaces and more. Products are organized in shopping list making it easy to buy the ones you like. Managing your ideabooks is more convenient with iOS 11 drag and drop. Use drag and drop multi-touch to move multiple saved photos, products and sketches between ideabooks. On iPad, use drag and drop to copy files or photos from Safari directly into ideabooks.

Read more on Houzz AR technology here.


See Cambria® designs on your own countertops, islands, and more with our new Augmented Reality (AR) app. Just use your Apple device to scan the surface, then select the design you want and you’ll instantly see it at home in your own kitchen.

Like many companies who are using Apple’s ARkit to make their products more appealing to consumers, Cambria expects the app will not only increase retail sales, but partnerships with designers and remodeling companies, who previously had to use samples to envision a finished product. Cambria partners with thousands of designers who work in the commercial real estate, residential, food service, sports and healthcare industries.

“It will help them present their remodel and build (business) to the end consumer,” said Brian Peters, chief marketing officer for Cambria. “We’re the only one in countertops that have (an AR app). We’ll grow for sure with more designers using this.”

Just for fun:

Of course, there are many many additional apps flooding the market by the day. I’m not a gamer, but I’ve got to believe that the gaming experience is mind-boggling with the AR technology. Here are a few more cool AR apps you should check out.

♦Fitness AR

Fitness AR launched an eponymous ARKit app designed to visualize rides, runs and hikes on a three-dimensional map using data captured in Strava’s popular activity tracking title.

As an accompaniment to Strava Running and Cycling GPS, Fitness AR requires users link their Strava account and start a new route to get started. Alternatively, previously logged activity can be shared with Fitness AR for augmented reality processing.

Once a desired activity or route is selected, Fitness AR will display the logged data in a 3D environment directly on a table or flat surface. Like other ARKit apps, Fitness AR’s offering overlays computer generated visuals, in this case a 3D map and extrapolated user activity data, on top of real world objects captured by an iOS device’s rear-facing cameras.

The app promises not only fun interactions with Strava Running and Cycling GPS metrics, but provides insight into potential changes users can make to their daily runs. For example, with a bird’s-eye view of nearby terrain, users might find new running paths, cycling routes or hiking treks to try during their next outing.

Fitness AR is priced at $2.99


A French DIY store created ‘Magic Wallpaper’ – their own wallpaper which utilises AR to tell animated stories at bedtime via a dedicated app. A story appears once you scan a character but scan two characters and the characters interact allowing for hundreds of stories. Beyond a smart and fun app experience, the strategy to get multiple brand mentions and exposures is smart and long-term as parents read along with their kids.


Ladies, Perfect Corp.’s YouCam reaches a mega-milestone as its suite of augmented reality (AR) apps has been downloaded globally more than 500 million times, further proving its influence on the customer beauty experience as we know it. Utilizing the world’s leading AR technology, YouCam Apps, including YouCam Makeup , YouCam Perfect , YouCam Nails , and YouCam Nails , continues to enhance every beauty lover’s journey by offering users top trending selfie makeovers, instant skin diagnostics, one-touch selfie editing, and entertaining animated fun filters from the palm of your hand.

Perfect Corp. is transforming the beauty game by marrying the highest level of augmented reality (“AR”) technology with the ultimate shopping experience, completely reinventing the online-to-offline (“O2O”) consumer beauty journey. The brand continues to push the boundaries of AR technology and invest heavily in AI (artificial intelligence), to further develop cutting-edge applications that attract the attention of leading beauty brands, retailers, makeup experts, and media outlets around the world. YouCam works globally with over 150 brands, including Estee Lauder, Yves Saint Laurent, L’Oréal Paris, MAC Cosmetics, and Macy’s. By offering a hyper-personalized mobile shopping experience, YouCam Apps delivers true-to-life in-store beauty trials allowing for a seamless O2O AR makeover experience.

Learn more about YouCam here.

Carrot Weather – is a crazy-powerful weather app that delivers hilariously twisted forecasts. CARROT Weather is a weather and forecasting app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch that shows you your current weather conditions, as well as highly-detailed forecasts for the next seven days. It also features colorful illustrations to reflect the current weather, along with a healthy dose of snark to give weather reporting a little more personality.

Overflowing with Personality…from spooky fog to torrential downpours, CARROT’s dialogue, characters, and scenery change in… “unexpected” ways. You’ll actually be looking forward to a blizzard just to see what CARROT has in store for you!

The iOS app also comes with an iMessage app that lets you send weather forecasts to your friends.

Giphy World – Fill the world around you with GIFs & stickers in glorious AR powered 3D! GIPHY World is an augmented reality app that lets you communicate in AR. Just add a few GIFs around you and share. You can record a video of your creation to post on the web or even better, share a link to your scene for your friends to explore!

Sky Guide – Sky Guide is one of the coolest apps in the iTunes App Store, and is perfect for augmented reality. The Current version of the app shows an animated sky, and the direction in which the user points their phone will reveal which constellations are there. But it’s still an animated sky. With the new version, it will be the actual sky.

World Brush – is an AR experience where users can paint with brushes on the world around them. Every painting is anonymous and is saved at the approximate GPS location where it was created. Users have the ability to like, dislike and report paintings which hides the bad stuff and showcases the good. We use a scoring algorithm that combines popularity and time of creation to serve up the best content based on your location.

Euclidean Lands – is a beautiful puzzle game with unique mechanics that blends isometric architecture and turn-based movement into an exciting medieval game world. This app experience looks like what would happen if you crossed the beautiful, impossible architecture of Monument Valley with the turn-based action of Hitman Go… and then you set the game on a Rubik’s Cube. It’s a seemingly strange combination, but it works, offering an experience that’s somehow relaxing and challenging at the same time.

AirMeasure – is another measuring app loaded with features. The app helps users measure anything from small distances to far away points and heights. There are also additional tools that aid users with specialized tasks such as calculating a person’s height, previewing virtual furniture in a room, adding laser levels to a wall or drawing in 3D space.


Apple has been positioning its phones and it’s processors to accommodate the ARKit. And, most everyone agrees that Apple, and others, will eventually introduce AR glasses, but for the time being, most people’s experiences with AR will obviously be on iPad and iPhone screens. No doubt the best experience will be on the newest 10th Anniversary iPhone with it’s larger screen and baked-in processor advantage.

I guess I’ve made my decision.

Jon Speich is a licensed real estate professional with JP Willman Realty Twin Cities specializing in buying and selling residential real estate. He is married with three daughters and lives in Champlin, Minnesota. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Twitter @jonspeich.

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