Smart Devices in your Home: Do the pros outweigh the cons?

As newer technologies emerge, it seems that everyone is scrambling to install the latest and greatest in-home smart devices that money can buy. From “smart” thermostats, to voice assistants to outlet timers to baby monitors, technology is both invading and aiding our daily lives in ways we could have scarcely imagined even five years ago. But, with these new powers to automate the lamps in our living rooms and adjust the temperature without getting off the couch, there might be some dangers lurking behind those pensive white dots. Hackers can infiltrate even the “dumbest” of the smart devices, and use that as a means to gain access to your higher-security ones, like your actual security system.

So, do these devices do more harm than good? Or is the likelihood of getting hacked a one in a million possibility? Here are the basic pros and cons you should consider before, or even after, outfitting your home in the latest devices.

Let’s start with the pros:

  1. In-home cameras can aid in preventing a tragedy, like an elderly relative falling in their home when alone.
  2. Smart thermostats and outlets can help you save money on your electric bills by turning electronics off when not in use or adjusting the temperature.
  3. Home hubs and voice assistants can help you keep track of daily tasks and even connect with loved ones across the country.
  4. Robot vacuums and mops can help keep your home environment cleaner, thereby helping you to stay healthy.
  5. Smart locks and exterior smart cameras and lights can help prevent a crime, such as a burglary, arson or violence.

These pros, however, should not overshadow the growing safety concerns that have arisen lately.
Consider these cons, as well:

  1. Smart devices, especially those that are connected to other devices can be a hazard to your home’s security. If a hacker gains access to a more basic device, he can potentially gain access to your higher-security ones.
  2. In-home cleaning robots, especially the more basic models, can cause mayhem when the home is not properly picked-up beforehand or a pet has an accident.
  3. In order to meet the wild amount of consumer demand, companies release devices without proper testing, which could lead to cyber and malfunction threats.
  4. Properly installing a well-thought out and secure system takes forethought, planning, time and patience. Many do not do this, which results in potential security breaches.
  5. Since your smartphone houses all of these apps, if that is hacked or stolen, someone can potentially have access to all of your devices and passwords.

No article, long nor short, is going to prevent the general populace from buying and installing smart devices for their homes. So, what can you do to make sure yours work for you and not against you? If you gain nothing else from this article, know that your biggest asset is research. Research these devices thoroughly and make sure you install them correctly. This alone can protect your home from hacking. And, as always, it never hurts to talk to a professional. Whether it is a local computer guru or your homeowner’s insurance agent, discuss your options with someone who can assess your personal situation and come up with solutions tailored to you and your family.

Resources:

Dietrich, Tamara. “Smart Home Product Security Risks Can Be Alarming.” Insurance Journal. The Daily Press, January 3, 2019. https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2019/01/03/513394.htm.

Morrissey, Janet. “In the Rush to Join the Smart Home Crowd, Buyers Should Beware.” The New York Times. The New York Times, January 22, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/business/smart-home-buyers-security-risks.html.

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