The challenges of smart home devices

Smart home devices such as Amazon Alexa, Google Nest or Sonos are transforming the way homes operate. Whether using a speaker, for lighting control, for security purposes, or something else, many homes are now reliant on this technology. Smart homes or ‘home automation’ will monitor and control the house’s attributes. This can include lighting, climate, entertainment systems, appliances and can also involve home security systems such as alarms.

Smart homes work by connecting all smart devices and appliances in your home, so they can talk to each other and are controlled simply by the touch of a button, through a remote control or mobile phone. Although these devices have various benefits including ease of use and empowering the user to control spending on bills, there are yet some major challenges which could outweigh the benefits. To identify whether a smart home device would be right for you, Porrima have explored some of these challenges.

The challenges of smart home devices

The biggest challenge to firstly address is the security of smart home devices. In order to use a smart home device you need to grant permissions to Amazon, Google etc. And, most of the time, we click on ‘agree’ without realising what this entails. In reality, we are granting full permission for big companies to have access to our voice recordings, access to phones, pictures, security cameras and more! Now, in most cases, this information is transported to the ‘cloud’. However, the cloud is often used as a euphemism for sensitive information that is stored on accessible systems and therefore, disguises the risks involved when agreeing to these permissions. This means that gadgets like smart home devices that are ‘cloud-based’ are vulnerable to cyberattacks, due to transmitting data over the internet. For example, even the new American President, Joe Biden, wasn’t allowed his smart device (a Peloton bike) in the White House due to concerns that it might be a target for hackers.

Additionally, these devices feed into concerns that we may develop a reliance on technology, particularly when it comes to basic tasks. Wireless technology is becoming a permanent home companion for many people and there is a vast array of tasks which can be completed using the gadgets in our homes. It is feared that this is exacerbating the decline in social skills prevalent in society today. For example, you can order your weekly food shop online, directly from your fridge, just by looking inside from your phone. Various devices allow for less communication between individuals – you can see who’s at the door without opening it, monitor other rooms through security cameras without walking into one, and watch TV from any point of the home without an actual television. Furthermore, with an Amazon Echo device, you can do everything you need to do socially through this one device. This limits interactions and daily tasks, which, therefore, can reduce stimulation of the brain and can increase reliance on modern technology. 

Relying on smart home devices can also create havoc, especially when you expect them to work together in sync. Interoperability is one of the biggest problems with smart home devices, as installing multiple devices can lead to the realisation that some branded gadgets won’t communicate with each other. For example, the leading global brand, Amazon, likes to design smart devices that can only be used on their platform (Echo or Alexa). This means that brands like Google, Apple, Sonos or any other smart technology brand, will not work coherently with Amazon. Usually, you will have to have all smart home devices as one brand to be able to communicate with each other.

Lastly, with regards to children using smart devices, you want to ensure that they do not access inappropriate or age-restricted materials. Therefore, you will have to set up parental protections for each device so that your children do not, for example, order products without their parents’ knowledge. This can be a mundane task, especially if you want the smart home devices’ full capabilities without parental restrictions.

To summarise, there are lots of challenges to consider when installing smart home devices and many of the consequences have not been fully considered by society. But, do the benefits outweigh the challenges? In a fast moving, modern world a smart home device is a must-have for many homes. Do you have one? Let us know on social media!

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