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How Smart is a Smart Home? Reprinted from Life Happens 365

Smart Homes are all the rage these days, but are the all they are cracked up to be? Can you actually do all the things the commercials say without things going haywire or worse?? Are they easily hacked? Can you protect your Smart House like a regular home? Our client Diane Tait from  A & B Insurance wrote this great article posted on her blog called Life Happens 365. We loved this article so much that we decided to reprint it in its entirety here on our blog and share it with all of our regular readers. So enjoy this article and then share it with your friends. Make sure you heed her warnings as well. At the end of the article we will supply some additional links to help with cyber security as well. So without any further Adu, read "How Smart is a Smart Home?".

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy Public Domain Pictures
You may have noticed that technology is invading everything these days. Late model automobiles aren’t so much cars anymore as they are computers with four tires and a steering wheel.  Smartphones are 10% telephone and 90 % computer.  The computer that took man to the Moon had about as much computing power as that in your car’s digital key fob. The bottom line is  almost everything these days is Internet enabled.  That includes many of the devices in your home. 





While much of the technology involved in creating a smart home is recent, the term “Smart House” has been around since 1984.  Coined by the American Association of House Builders, the designation coincided with the period when the first personal computers made their way into our homes.  Of course, back then the term was used more as means of predicting and popularizing the ways in which automation would soon make our houses smarter.  It took another 20 years before any of the promises made on many TV programs would actually find their way into our homes. 

Look Out, George Jetson

Image courtesy flickr
One of the first automated home appliances was the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner developed by iRobot.  While the Roomba made keeping your carpet dirt-free, it didn’t exactly give Rosie the robot a run for her money.  It wasn’t until the advent of affordable high-speed Internet connections and advances in computer miniaturization that the Internet of Things (IoT) introduced some of the first web-enabled appliances.  That was the same year that Nest, the mobile phone enabled home thermostat was introduced.   To date, there have been a myriad of IoT home appliances making their way into the marketplace including:

      1.      Smart Locks – If you’ve ever misplaced your keys or accidentally locked yourself out of your home, you’ll appreciate smart locks.  The devices work with your existing deadbolt locks, so you won’t need to hire a locksmith to install them.  The lock connects via Bluetooth to your phone and not only allows you to get in and out of your home quickly, it also allows you to issue temporary access to house guests.  How cool is that?    

      2.      Smart Sprinklers let you monitor and control your yards irrigation system from a smartphone.  It’s programming even takes into consideration the seasons, so you won’t have to reprogram it or worry about it wasting a lot of water needlessly during the winter.  You’ll also never have to worry about it starting up your sprinklers when it rains, since it keeps track of the local weather.  Best of all, customizing your irrigation system’s schedule is as easy as point and click with one of these babies, even when you’re away from home, since the system is smartphone-enabled. 

      3.      Smart Lights allow you to control all your home’s lighting from your smartphone. This means you’ll never have to come into a dark house or leave your pets alone in the dark.  Even better, it allows you to set your lights on timers that not only turns them on and off automatically, it also keeps track of the power your lights consume. 

      4.      Smart Vents allow you to precisely control airflow in every room.  This way you won’t waste energy in rooms that are seldom used and you won’t have hot and cold spots all over your home.  (When you consider the fact that heating and cooling your home accounts for about half your monthly energy consumption, this is one smart device that could quickly pay for itself. 

      5.      Smart Refrigerators don’t actually prepare your meals, but many of them can lookup and display recipes, keep track of food expiration dates, Alert you when the water filter needs to be replaced, plus show you what’s in the fridge without having to open the door.

      6.      Smart appliances galore are popping up in stores and online faster than I can list them.  In the near future, having a home without some degree of automation will be as alien to most of us as doing without the electric light bulb was after the turn of the 20th Century.

The Dark Side of Smart Homes

Image courtesy Pixabay
While offering scads of convenience and cost savings, smart appliances do have a dark side.  Since they are web-enabled it means they can be hacked.  Even worse, some of the most popular smart appliances have little or no cybersecurity to protect them.  A recent blog by Naked Security by Sophos pointed out that:

“A security researcher discovered severe flaws in an IOT feature called iLnkP2P, which renders millions of consumer devices that use it vulnerable to being hijacked.  iLnkP2P was identified in at least two million devices made by a variety of consumer electronics companies.  The software’s purpose is to allow IoT devices such as webcams, baby monitors and smart doorbells to be configured quickly by allowing consumers to connect devices instantly by using an app. While easy to use, it turns out it’s not good architecture from a security standpoint.”

Far from being a rare occurrence, IoT security vulnerabilities are all too common, as are those of the devices that allow them to communicate wirelessly, such as internet routers.  Until these vulnerabilities are addressed and corrected, while smart devices may offer convenience, what they lack in security could make their acquisition anything but smart for consumers.

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