George Bailey would've choked on his eggnog if he could see how we do Christmas shopping these days.
My family and I went to a local, very popular shopping mall last weekend - the second weekend of December. Normally, we'd expect to see are herds of people, pushing and shoving on escalators, balancing their Starbucks, wallets and car keys in one hand and 17 shopping bags in the other. Instead - empty storefronts and Santa Clause reclining back on his red throne, waiting for a kid, any kid, to come and sit on his lap.
Everyone's at home now shopping online or Priming gifts on their phone while they wait for their kids at dance practice and soccer games. I'll be honest, I like the change. Sure, it's great to hear the music and see the decorations in the stores, but I'm guilty of much rather wanting to multi-task: watch Stranger Things while scrolling through Brad's Deals and Amazon Prime; however, convenience often comes with concerns. Particularly when it comes to online shopping.
Let's take a look at this week in technology, the holiday edition. See why technology has a part in why the hottest toy is nowhere to be found, why we need to watch our backs when handing out credit information online and why our smart toys are smarter than we think.
How the Bot Stole Christmas: Toys Like Fingerlings Are Snapped Up and Resold
Fingerlings have become some of the hottest holiday gifts this year, but high demand and scalper bots have made the toys nearly impossible to find.
Fingerlings, those colorful chirping monkeys (and sloths and unicorns) that wrap around your finger, have become one of the most desired toys on holiday shopping lists.
Unfortunately, the $15 creatures are sold out online almost everywhere. Toys “R” Us” Gone. Walmart? None left in stock. Target? Nope.
But check eBay or Amazon, and sellers are offering them for double, triple and quadruple their original price. There’s even one on eBay being advertised for $5,000.
Hot holiday toys have always been hard to find. The long list of heartbreakers includes Cabbage Patch Dolls, which caused parents to mob stores in the 1980, Tickle Me Elmo in 1996, and a toy version of the “Star Wars” droid BB-8, which quickly sold out in 2015.
But the proliferation of online shopping makes it even tougher to purchase coveted items because of software that snaps them up as soon as they are offered for sale.
Expert: Smart Toys Come with Cyber Security Risk
Decades ago, a sled was considered a “hot” Christmas toy. But, in today’s brave new world, almost all of our kids’ must-have items are smart toys that have wi-fi capabilities and other so-called “smart” functions. That makes for a fun and interactive gift—but it also has hidden dangers, says Karl Volkman, tech expert and CTO of SRV Network, Inc.
“Most of us would never dream of giving our young children unfettered access to the Internet,” says Volkman, “And we almost all have parental controls on the ‘bad’ channels on T.V. But then we don’t really think twice when it comes to handing over these high-tech gifts to our kids on Christmas Day.”
In fact, says Volkman, many of the smart toys on kids’ Christmas lists could be dangerous, including Hello Barbie, Furby Connect, i-Que Intelligent Robot, Cloud Pets and Toy-Fi teddy.
“Any ‘connected’ toy is going to come with a cyber security risk,” says Volkman. “Not only does this mean that a person can access the information that your child puts into the toy, but in some cases, they can even use the toy to speak to the child! For example, any person within 30 feet of the i-Que Intelligent Robot can send a mobile message to the robot. Other people have found that their child’s Cloud Pet can be hacked by anyone close enough to access the Bluetooth connection.”
Other toys like real-time quadcopters allow kids to take photo or video from their flying device. “It’s a really cool toy, and kids love them,” says Volkman. “But again, hackers are a concern. You don’t want your personal information anywhere near a toy that has a weak firewall or children at the helm.”
Online Shopping Safety Tips from a Cybersecurity Expert
This year, Cyber Monday was expected to be the largest online shopping day ever with $6.6 billion in sales, which means it's more important than ever to safeguard your online data.
While you're busy thinking about holiday deals, cyber crooks will be working overtime to get their grimy hands on your sensitive personal information so they can steal your identity.
Be wary of sites that offer too-good-to-be true offers. Don't be greedy and expect to get something for nothing or super cheap. Trusted sites give you nice discounts. They don't give you the goods for free. There is no free lunch online, but there is free shipping.
Overstock.com’s Shopping App Named Best Retail Mobile Application
Sixth consecutive year winning Web Marketing Association's Mobile Web Award
For the sixth consecutive year, the Web Marketing Association has named Overstock.com a Mobile Web Award winner, honoring the retailer's mobile app as the Best Retail Mobile Application of 2017. The leading online home retailer's iOS app was recognized for its many innovative and intuitive features, including its recently-added augmented reality (AR) feature.
The Web Marketing Association holds the Best Mobile Application awards as part of the annual Mobile Web Award Competition, which is the first and only industry-based award competition focusing solely on responsive mobile web and application development. Judging for the award focuses on outstanding achievement in mobile development while recognizing growth and creativity in the mobile application space.
"We're proud that our mobile apps are continuing to lead development within the retail space," said Amit Goyal, Overstock's senior vice president of software development. "Customers using our apps have the full assortment and convenience of shopping on Overstock at their fingertips, helping to create a personalized and stress-free shopping experience."
Overstock's shopping app also received recognition in 2017 after introducing AR to the iOS version with September's iOS 11 update. Customers can use AR within the app to view thousands of true-to-life-size 3D models in their own room, helping them to see exactly how products will fit in the space or match their existing style. This technology is changing the way consumers design their homes and purchase home goods.
Holiday shoppers can use Overstock's app to help them find the missing piece for hosting a perfect holiday event, or the perfect gift for a friend or loved one. Overstock will also help customers ensure their orders arrive in time for the holidays by providing clearly messaged shipping timeframes on product pages.