Smart Home Technology: An Update
Technology sure has changed our lives. Most homes now have at least one smart home device to automate routine tasks and make things easier. Some homes come fully equipped with a suite of smart home technology built in.
Designed to improve our living experience, smart home devices are becoming the norm — not the exception. From washing machines to coffee makers, just about everything in our home now have intelligence built into it. Equipped with little sensors, these devices can communicate with other technology in your home.
Technology for the home is not a new idea but certainly is a booming business these days. Google, Amazon and other big retail giants cannot produce the devices fast enough before a hungry public scoops them up.
What Is the Internet of Things?
The term “internet of things” is toss around, but not everyone knows what it means. It refers to any device that is connect to the internet and has an on/off switch. These things can communicate with each other or users through the web.
Some good examples of IoT devices are smart home cameras, thermostats, and doorbells. There are currently about 6.4 billion of these “things” connected to the internet. Most, if not all, are controllable by your mobile phone using an app.
Most of the smart devices in your home work autonomously, automatically adjusting the heat, closing the shades, or locking the door. To be consider “intelligent,” the item must be able to work independently based on the criteria you set for it. For instance, the Nest thermostat turns off the heat if no one is home.
The Evolution of IoT Technology
Initially, smart devices used proprietary communication protocols such as Z-Wave and Zigbee and not Wi-Fi, making them less attractive to consumers. Before 2004, products were available that toggled lights and locked the door. These earlier devices also used dedicated remotes — one more thing to lose. In addition, you needed to be home to use them and you could not access them remotely.
These early prototypes did not offer as much convenience as those available now. Such tools did not make a splash until the iPhone came on the scene, offering a way to control them with your cell phone. Now every device connects wirelessly through your home Wi-Fi network.
Organizing Your Life the Smart Way
As technology creeps into all areas of our lives, soon you will not have to decide what to wear; your smart closet will do it for you. Based on weather reports that are from the internet, what is clean, and what day of the week it is, your closet will serve up the perfect outfit each day.
Refrigerators already have innovative storage modules that monitor usage levels and can automatically reorder products for you or put them on your digital grocery list. Smart trash cans in the kitchen let you know when it’s time to empty them.
Even the bathroom can walk you through your daily routine, alerting you to products that are low and reminding you of tasks left undone. The idea of self-cleaning showers and toilets is not just a fantasy — it is in the works now. No one likes cleaning the bathroom. Well, now you do not have to.
Save Time and Money with IoT Storage
Modern kitchens outfitted with smart cabinets are not a thing of the future; they are available now. Dozens of products are already on the market, such as canisters that monitor food levels and alert you when something gets low. Cabinets with voice-activated controls open and close when you ask them to. This feature is great when your hands are full.
There are even egg trays that count and evaluate each egg for freshness. Never again will you make an omelet with a rotten egg. Smart forks also tell you to slow down to enjoy each bite.
Smart appliances are one of the home remodel additions that can save you time and money by monitoring when it is most efficient to run. Some even alert you if they have been left on unintentionally or they need maintenance. You can cut down on a lot of waste with your whole house monitoring environmental conditions that you were not even aware of and then making the proper adjustment automatically.
How Secure Are Smart Home Devices?
With all this connectivity comes a price to pay security. Some devices are more secure than others, but because they gather so much personal data, and that data is stored in the cloud, all your personal habits, preferences and information may be vulnerable.
The best defense is good security and a robust network protected by a firewall, strong passwords and automated monitoring. Be sure to update your router with the most advanced protocols and firmware. Change your network password often and use strong passwords that are difficult to guess.
No device guaranteed to be secure. Therefore, you must make sure your home network and computers protected. Keep your virus and malware software updated and change computer passwords frequently. You can also purchase network-monitoring software to watch for intruders.
What is all about Privacy?
With so much of our lives automated and connected, the question of privacy also comes up. Security cameras set up in our homes become a hacker’s dream if the network they are on is vulnerable. The more smart home devices you have, the more options hackers have for digital invasion.
When it comes to privacy, you cannot be too careful. Before you implement more smart home devices, think about how best to keep them private. Secure your home network and store all access codes and passwords in a vault.
Another thing to consider is when you share your access codes with friends, people who work on your home or an ex, be sure to change them right after. Anyone with access to even one device could potentially get into other parts of your entire network. You do not want to be visible to stalking or harassment by someone who has taken control of your smart home.
Smart home devices are still in infancy, and over the next 10 years, we will experience significant growth in this industry. More than half of all Americans believe we will all be living in smart homes by 2024. I hope that these innovations will improve life even more so we can enjoy time with family and friends.