The Age of the Smart Home

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General Moving

New technology has always carried a fear factor with it. That is especially true when it comes to new technology inside the home. The idea of a “smart home” has been around for ages in literature, film, and television. Famous examples include The Jetsons and the Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House.  In this fiction, there has always been a fear of a house becoming more intelligent than its occupants. While it may have seemed entirely futuristic in the early 2000s, smart home technology has already begun to creep into homes across the world. If you’re moving today, utilizing smart home technology certainly has to come into consideration. In fact, if smart home technology is already installed in a home it can have an impact on its value. As it becomes more pervasive, smart home technology will not only have a dramatic impact on the real estate and moving industries, but also our daily lives.

With its use rising each year, questions continue to be raised about the benefits and drawbacks of smart home technology. Will it truly make life easier? Is it worth the initial cost in order to save on energy efficiency in the future? Does it really make our homes more secure, or put them at greater risk? Like any new technology, it will take time for smart home gadgets to work out the kinks. However, it’s not unrealistic to imagine that this type of technology will be in every home in America in the next 30 years.

Before discussing the positives and negatives associated with home automation, it is vital to understand the technology behind it. You may be thinking as you read this, much of my home is already automated with a dishwasher, remote control television, washing machine, or a garage door opener. While each of those pieces of technology is automated in some way, the newest technology is different because it’s connected to the Internet. The aptly named Internet of Things (IoT) is the newest form of automation. Your computer and cell phone will no longer be the only household items with the capability of internet connection. There are already televisions, refrigerators, thermostats, doorbells, garage doors, security systems, washers & dryers, and plenty of other household appliances that can now connect to the Internet.

With a functionality as simple as keeping food cold, you may wonder why would a refrigerator need to be connected to the Internet? The answer is simple. It gives you the ability to control every device through a smartphone, tablet, computer, or a personal assistant such as the Amazon Echo. This would give you the power to constantly adjust the temperature even while you’re away, or place the fridge on a more efficient setting. Instead of having to figure out how to control each appliance in your home, everything can be controlled by touching one screen.

In 2017, the technology for a fully functional smart home is already here, but the question remains, is there a demand for it? According to HIS Markit, in 2016 80 million smart home devices were delivered which was a 64% increase from 2015.1 Further research conducted by Statista estimates that by 2020 the global smart home market will hit $43 billion, nearly triple its value in 2014.2 Clearly, there is already substantial demand for smart home technology. While prices remain high, the increase in supply and demand will eventually serve to lower the cost of smart home technology.

Advantages to Smart Home Technology

Convenience

With smart home technology on the rise in the U.S. and around the world, let’s analyze some of the advantages of using IoT devices. The most obvious advantage of IoT devices is the convenience they provide. Instead of having to tinker with every appliance individually, you can change settings through a smartphone or even voice commands. In the past, you may have had to walk into three different rooms and up and down staircases to adjust settings, but now you can update multiple devices in under a minute. Smart homes don’t just provide convenience at home, but also give you more control when you’re away from home. Andrew Meola of Business Insider gives the example of being able to turn your air conditioner on before you drive home, instead of waiting for your house to cool when you get there.3 Owning a fully connected smart home could shave hours off of managing your appliances each year.

 

Ease of Use

Not only is using smart home devices convenient, but it will also be simpler once everything is set up. As we all know, home appliances can often be difficult to control, or you could be unsure of how to change settings. With IoT devices, you will have apps that grant you easy access to every IoT device in your home. Instead of trying to figure out which switch controls a particular light or speaker, the directions will be more clearly laid out for you. A good example of the ease through which appliances can be controlled is the Sonos app. Sonos allows you to control speakers in multiple rooms of your home through the simplicity of one app. Instead of having to deal with pairing multiple speakers to your devices, everything becomes centralized and easier.

Additional Security

Along with making life easier, a smart home can give you increased security. While home security systems have been around for decades, recent advancements have drastically increased home security capabilities. In a review of the most effective smart home security systems John Delaney and Alex Colon of PC Mag state, “Most apps will also allow you to do things like view live and recorded video, lock and unlock doors, change thermostat settings, and silence alarms.”4 The multiple functionalities of IoT security systems will give you a peace of mind you could never have in the past. You will no longer have to worry about forgetting to arm your system before you leave for a trip. Some systems will even automatically arm based on your location services settings on your smartphone.5 IoT security gives you the ability to always know what’s going on in your home, even if you’re thousands of miles away.

 

Energy Efficiency

While it may seem counterintuitive, smart home technology can actually save you money in the long run. How you may ask? Energy efficiency. With motion detecting lights, thermostats that you can adjust from anywhere, and energy saving refrigerators, the cost you save on your energy bills could be substantial. According to a study done by the EPA, users of smart home technology on just thermostat control saved between 10-30% on average on their energy bills.Considering that statistic only applies to thermostats, if you have a house full of IoT devices you could be piling up savings on energy. While the up-front costs of smart home technology are substantial, after a few years you can begin saving.

Negative Aspects

Certainly, there are plenty of positive aspects to the adoption of smart home technology. A home that is fully connected with IoT devices will be easy to use, save time, add security to your home, help the environment, and eventually reduce costs. However, just like any newer technology, there are some drawbacks to a smart home.

Demographic Concerns

Although smart home technology can be easy to set up for those who are tech savvy, it could be difficult for those who are not technologically inclined. In particular, older citizens may be less likely to purchase and use smart home technology. According to a survey asking respondents age 65 and over to rate smart devices on a 10-point scale from less bothersome to more bothersome, the average rating was 7.9.7 Not only do the elderly often have trouble adjusting to new technology, but they also often have privacy concerns. However, according to The Economist, “Technology holds great promise to make life better for the elderly, enabling them to retain their independence and live full lives for longer.”8 While IoT devices could certainly help the elderly to gain more independence, it could be difficult for older citizens to learn to use and trust this technology.

 

Affordability

Another negative aspect of smart home technology is its upfront cost. Although the energy efficiency of IoT devices can save money in the long run, a number of these devices are simply too expensive for many Americans. For example, currently, connected LED bulbs cost $15 on average compared to $8 for those that are not connected.9 If you wanted to fill your entire home with smart LED bulbs, it could cost you hundreds of dollars more than regular LED bulbs. Among the top rated smart home security systems by PC Mag the average upfront cost was $210 along with an average monthly cost of $25.10 Also, it should be considered that in order to operate a smart home, a user would need to buy a smartphone, tablet, or computer. While the price of smart home technology will go down over the years, for the time being the upfront cost is just too steep for many Americans.

 

Hacking Threats

When most of us hear about someone being hacked, we think of government agencies or social media accounts. However, the reality is that anything connected to the Internet can be hacked, and that most definitely includes smart home technology. In 2013, Forbes columnist Kashmir Hill tested the security of IoT devices by attempting to hack into them. Over the course of the article, Hill was able to turn home owner’s lights on and off, turn their thermostats up and down, and turn their T.V. on and off.11 If that is the type of damage a journalist can do, it’s much more frightening to think of what a thief or terrorist could do if they hack into your home. If a hacker were to infiltrate your system, they could study your habits to find out exactly when you won’t be home. Although tech companies are doing their best to keep homes secured, hackers always seem to be one step ahead of the game.

Privacy Concerns

Along with the threat of hacking, IoT devices can create privacy concerns. A number of smart home devices keep track of your behavior and could report this to device manufacturers or government agencies.12 Reports on your behavior could even include offline activity.13 Do you really want a manufacturer or government agency to know everything about your daily routine? Even if most of us have nothing to hide, the surveillance capabilities of smart home devices should not be ignored. Living in a smart home denies you the ability to go off the grid from the connected world.

Conclusions

The Internet age has brought about endless possibilities for humanity. Tasks can be completed in a simpler and faster manner than ever before. A fully connected smart house will give us more control than we’ve ever had over our own homes. Additionally, smart home technology can make life easier and provide a sense of security that hasn’t existed in the past. Increased energy efficiency and lower energy costs are other benefits to using IoT devices.

While there are plenty of obvious advantages to using smart home technology, there are a number of reasons it hasn’t taken hold yet. Similarly to other newer forms of tech, IoT devices can be difficult to set up for those who aren’t technologically inclined. The upfront cost of smart home technology will also preclude a large segment of the population from buying it. Furthermore, having your home entirely connected to the internet leads to security and privacy concerns.

Clearly, there are both positive and negative aspects to smart home technology. However, with demand and profits continuing to rise, it is evident that a connected home is becoming more mainstream. As time goes on, prices will continue to drop and the use of smart home technology will become more pervasive. While there are privacy and security concerns, those same concerns have not damaged the popularity of smartphones and tablets. Whether you’re ready for it or not, the smart home has arrived and it will change our lives dramatically for years to come.

Sources

1. Olick, Diana. “Why 2017 Will Finally Be the Year of the Smart Home: Consumers Figure It out.” CNBC. CNBC, 04 Jan. 2017. Web. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/04/why-2017-will-finally-be-the-year-of-the-smart-home-consumers-figure-it-out.html 

2. Weinswig, Deborah. “Why Smart Homes Will Be A Million Times Better Than ‘The Jetsons’.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 19 Apr. 2016. Web. https://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahweinswig/2016/04/19/why-smart-homes-will-be-a-million-times-better-than-the-jetsons/#36821d6f75e7

3. Meola, Andrew. “How IoT & Smart Home Automation Will Change the Way We Live.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 19 Dec. 2016. Web. http://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-smart-home-automation-2016-8

4. Delaney, John R., and Alex Colon. “The Best Smart Home Security Systems of 2017.” PCMAG. N.p., 25 Aug. 2017. Web. https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2498510,00.asp

5. Delaney, John R., and Alex Colon. “The Best Smart Home Security Systems of 2017.” PCMAG. N.p., 25 Aug. 2017. Web. https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2498510,00.asp

6. Direct Energy. “Learn the Advantages of a Smart Home.” Direct Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. https://www.directenergy.com/learning-center/modern-home/advantages-smart-home

7. Greene, Tristan. “Smart Devices Scare Old People.” The Next Web. N.p., 21 June 2017. Web. https://thenextweb.com/tech/2017/06/21/smart-devices-scare-old-people/#.tnw_AwYu4V6o

8. The Economist. “New Technology for Old Age.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 08 July 2017. Web. https://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21724747-latest-technology-even-more-beneficial-old-young-new

9. Meola, Andrew. “How IoT & Smart Home Automation Will Change the Way We Live.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 19 Dec. 2016. Web. http://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-smart-home-automation-2016-8

10. Delaney, John R., and Alex Colon. “The Best Smart Home Security Systems of 2017.” PCMAG. N.p., 25 Aug. 2017. Web. https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2498510,00.asp

11. Hill, Kashmir. “When ‘Smart Homes’ Get Hacked: I Haunted A Complete Stranger’s House Via The Internet.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 26 July 2013. Web. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/07/26/smart-homes-hack/#2b865df9e426

12. Apthorpe, Noah, Dillon Reisman, Srikanth Sundaresan, Arvind Narayanan, and Nick Feamster. “Spying on the Smart Home: Privacy Attacks and Defenses on Encrypted IoT Traffic.” (2017): n. pag. Abstract. (n.d.): n. pag. Cornell University. Print. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1708.05044.pdf

13. Apthorpe, Noah, Dillon Reisman, Srikanth Sundaresan, Arvind Narayanan, and Nick Feamster. “Spying on the Smart Home: Privacy Attacks and Defenses on Encrypted IoT Traffic.” (2017): n. pag. Abstract. (n.d.): n. pag. Cornell University. Printing on the Smart Home: Privacy Attacks and Defenses on Encrypted IoT Traffic.” (2017): n. pag. Abstract. (n.d.): n. pag. Cornell University. Print. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1708.05044.pdf

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