Smart Home Technology. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

I’ve been in the process of buying my first flat for some time and it’s an incredibly confusing process. When I discovered Barclays Mortgages Smart Homes Survey 2017, I had a personal interest in this subject matter for the first time in my life.

But hold up one minute, what the heck is Smart Home Technology? We’re talking about Solar panels, Smart ovens, fridges, security systems, thermostats and even doorbells, yes doorbells. I don’t have any of these in my home right now but these clever little things can help us save money, energy and be more secure.

Smart technology is infiltrating our homes whether we’re skeptics or evangelists; Alexa is telling us the weather and route to work, whilst Hive is heating our homes from iPhone apps and switching the iron off when we forget to. Even Yale locks are in on the game (something I was considering buying recently) with their code door locks with remote resetting functions – perfect for Airbnbers who want to allow guests into the apartment without a key.

smart home technology

Are homes beginning to resemble that of the Back to the Future home with keyless doors, intelligent lighting, and visual telephones? The answer is simply yes, we are moving forward with 13% of the UK population already using smart technology in their home.

Awareness rises, purchasing slows

69% of men and 55% of women surveyed explained that they understood what the term ‘smart home technology’ meant.

What’s stopping us? Well, 63% of us believe that there are serious cyber security risks associated with a connected home. That’s an incredibly high number of people skeptical about the benefits of Smart Home tech.

“Any device that is connected to the Internet is at risk of being hijacked,” said Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission in a speech in 2015. “Moreover, the risks that unauthorized access create intensify as we adopt more and more devices linked to our physical safety, such as our cars, medical care and homes.”

I must own up, I’m what those industry folk call an ‘early adopter’ – I love trying new things. I don’t care if they don’t work properly yet, it’s the excitement of embracing new ideas and learning ways to make life better with this technology.

But these security risks are very real and a concern for us all connecting up our homes. Chris Babel, chief executive of the data privacy management company TrustE, noted, we are still in the very early stages of the Internet of Things. “Everything is still very siloed and it’s not very connected,” he said. “But there’s massive amounts of value when it gets connected — both from the users’ perspective and from the hackers’ perspective.”

My opinion on security issues with these is to look at whether they are a greater risk or reduced risk overall than how I currently live.  Does having a key that I can lose keep me safer than a door lock that I can reset easily? Or does storing my PIN code on a Caffè Nero card in my wallet keep my cards safer (by the way thieves, I don’t do this anymore). No. These are not secure ways to live, but they are how we adapt to life, and smart technology is much the same…we need to trust these and keep our wits about us where possible to make sure that we’re as secure as we can be, but we’ll never be able to secure ourselves 100% of the time.

Alexa, Canary and Nest

When Amazon released the Dash button, eyes boggled at the very concept that you could press a button to order more instantly. Sceptics said to me “but what if my child just keeps pressing the button over and over and orders hundreds of packs?” Fear not, my child, you can cancel any transaction with a tap of a button on your phone.

Then along came Alexa to make the Dash button redundant by allowing you to order anything from Amazon as simply as we used to ask someone else in the house to “remember we need loo roll”. Sure, I don’t (yet) have Alexa to talk to but I see the benefit of this, along with keyless doors and smart thermostats. These all make our life easier.

 

Canary launched an all-in-one security solution with HD camera, siren, and air monitor a couple of years ago. It’s built to learn and sends intelligent alerts with HD video and audio directly to your phone. Clever stuff. But it’s nothing new to the world of technology; what Canary have done is to make the CCTV camera look a lot better, add features to make it work for us in our homes and feel part of our life.

Nest became a household name when they launched their thermostat; this futuristic device which could control the heat in our home. Instantly we saw the benefits of this, from cost-savings to just ease of living with it.  They have since broadened the offer to products from CCTV cameras and smoke alarms, connecting our homes even more. As Nest says “all you need is a Nest Thermostat, Nest Protect or Nest Cam. Add another product, like a light bulb, and they’ll start to notice each other, learn from one another, and help you out – all on their own.”

That’s some futuristic stuff right there. Could we ever imagine these products in our homes 10 years ago? Probably not, but in 10 years time, they will be standard.

For those of you reading this and wondering where to start? Take a look at some products and think about how they can improve your home, make your life easier and safer. These are here to stay, and the sooner you join the club, the sooner you can start enjoying the benefits.

Barclays Mortgages Smart Homes Survey

Barclays said “We all know that buying a home, possibly for the first time, is a pivotal moment in people’s lives, and we are particularly interested in how Smart Home technology can and will impact on this key moment. Our current research piece aims to find out the UK’s attitude towards Smart Home technology, and how this will affect their home buying decision.” (Read the Barclays Mortgages Smart Homes Survey 2017)

smart home technology

*statistics are taken from the Barclays Mortgages Smart Homes Survey 2017

iCrossing and YouGov conducted a national survey that builds on Barclays Mortgages 2015 Smart Homes Report. The aim of the research was to identify shifts in attitudes towards smart home technology across the UK, looking specifically at regional variations.

Daniel

Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started ateliertally.com as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.