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Is a Smart Home a Smart Upgrade?

December 5, 2019

Technology continues its disruption and has now found a way to be part of our domestic environment. According to a survey from S&P the number of smart home devices is forecast to increase to 28% by 2021. It shows that consumers are increasingly willing to make their house more connected than ever. But before considering a potential tech upgrade for your residence, it would be wise to see if it is really a smart one.

For a home to be considered as “smart” it needs to integrate at least one connected device that will enhance home performance. For these devices to connect, they rely on the Internet of Things, a cloud computing that will synchronise devices with each other.  

Indubitably, there are several benefits to switch to a more connected house. One of the most significant advantages of upgrading to a smart home is the commodity. Alexa, the voice-assistant developed by Amazon, is a reflection of the importance consumers gives to a little extra help at home. The global voice assistant market is forecast to grow to USD 7.8bn by 2023. These devices simplify the everyday tasks like turning lights on /off or play any music or program by automation or voice interaction  

Another major smart home advantage is security reinforcement. Thanks to automated home door locks, it is possible to remotely close or open them. You will never have to worry again if you closed the door when you left the house, as you will be able to lock it with a click from your app.  

An essential benefit of home automation is that it can be energy efficient and economical in the long-term. With the use of smart thermostats and smart lights that can be controlled from an app or can automatically be self-regulated, you save up energy. A study conducted by Nest shows that “the thermostat saved about 15% on cooling and 10% – 12% on heating. For the average home, Nest found that its $250 thermostat would pay for itself in about two years.”  

However, increased connectivity in the residential space is also a synonym of bigger risks to be hacked. If a hacker breaks through your router’s wall, he can have access to your cameras, have the necessary data of your schedule to attempt burglary or blackmail you with sensitive information.  

It is, therefore, necessary to add extra layers of security by creating, for example, another virtual network within your router (VLAN) where you can set up safely all your connected devices.

Another issue regarding higher connectivity at home is the risk of reduced privacy. More devices mean more data collection from tech giants who can now legally sell your information after the vote by the Congress on the Internet Service Providers.  

It is crucial to raise awareness about the usage and default settings of some smart home devices. The last incident with Alexa always listening even when not in use and Amazon confessing; they employ 3000 people to listen to what Alexa has continuously recorded is alarming.  

Hopefully, these technological integrations in the private space will push consumers to be more aware of the data they generate and will fight for their virtual privacy that is now slowly but surely infringing upon their physical one.

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