Pamela McArdle's Blog
Science fiction has long reveled in the concept of autonomous homes and transportation. But it wasn’t until very recently that these dreams started to edge their way into reality. With semi-autonomous vehicles on the manufacturing line and “home assistants” like Google Home flying off the shelves, today’s average homeowner now has options.
The growing number of home automation technologies is encouraging even more innovation in a burgeoning market. But, the newness of these devices and the confusion around what they actually do can make it difficult to decide which one to bring into your home.
In today’s post, I’m going to introduce you to some of today’s most handy smart home devices to burden the workload of homeownership and give you some tips on which of the best technologies are yet to come.
One of the first smart home devices to hit the shelves was arguably the home assistant. They look like small Bluetooth speakers but have the ability to respond to your voice commands. So far, the front runners are the Google Home and Amazon Echo, but there are a number of other brands in the running as well.
Many of the tasks you use a smartphone for can also be easily accomplished with a home assistant. Tell it to set or turn off your alarms, look up things on Google, ask about the weather, play music, and so on. The Amazon Echo functions similarly but also integrates with other smart home systems so you can control things like your lights and coffee maker just by asking.
Many home automation manufacturers have taken to selling kits that enable you to automate your home one outlet or device at a time. You can then control these devices with your smartphone, whether you’re at home or at the office. (Ever get worried you left the iron on? No more!)
The best part of these devices is how customizable they are and the fact that many integrate with assistants like Amazon Echo. However, some systems, like Samsung’s SmartThings, has its own central “hub” that connects your devices.
Smart home security
Security companies were one of the earliest adopters of automation. Today, many of the biggest home security companies (think ADT and Vivint) aren’t just making your home safer, they’re also making your life easier.
Common among these smart home security systems are things like cameras you can control with your smartphone from work, alerts from smoke and CO detectors, and door and window sensors to alert you if someone enters, or attempts to enter, your home.
These technologies are still evolving. That means each year newer, better devices will hit the market. However, this process of innovation will also drive down prices, which is good news for you as a homeowner and consumer. So, think about what your specific needs are and choose the products that fit them. And, if you’re not sure about any of the products on the market, don’t be afraid to hold off--the next best thing is right around the corner.
There are many state-of-the-art smart home devices at your disposal. At the same time, there is no shortage of vendors that sell smart home devices in cities and towns nationwide.
Ultimately, it is a good idea to shop around for a smart home device. If you evaluate a variety of smart home device vendors, you can boost the likelihood of finding gadgets that fall in line with your budget. Plus, you could lay the foundation for a partnership with a vendor that can fulfill your smart home device needs for years to come.
When it comes to choosing a smart home device vendor, challenges may arise. Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to differentiate an exceptional smart house gadget vendor from an average one, such as:
1. Check Out Customer Reviews
Googling a vendor enables you to learn all about this business and its brand reputation. Perhaps best of all, it may allow you to assess customer reviews to help you understand what it is like to buy smart home devices from a particular vendor.
You should try to avoid developing your opinion of a vendor based on a single customer review. Instead, read multiple customer reviews, and you could gain the insights you need to determine if a vendor can help you acquire the best smart home gadgets at the lowest prices.
2. Browse a Vendor's Inventory Closely
New smart home devices are becoming available every day. Meanwhile, a vendor that fails to update its smart house gadget inventory accordingly may struggle to satisfy customer requests for the latest and greatest devices.
As you conduct a search for smart light bulbs, smart robot vacuums or other smart home devices, assess a vendor's inventory. This allows you to see if a vendor offers best-in-class smart home devices, basic models or a combination of the two. Furthermore, once you review a vendor's smart home device selection, you can find out if this business offers the right gadgets based on your individual needs.
3. Test a Vendor's Expertise
Let's face it – shopping for smart home devices may prove to be a long, arduous process. Differentiating one smart house gadget from another may be difficult. Also, if you fail to weigh the pros and cons of myriad smart house devices, you risk making a poor smart house gadget selection.
Generally, it helps to work with a vendor that employs smart home device experts. If you visit a vendor's brick-and-mortar location or shop online, you should be able to reach out to smart house device experts at your convenience.
If you find a vendor fails to offer sufficient client support, you may want to look elsewhere for smart home devices. Or, if a vendor employs first-rate smart house device experts, you may want to purchase a broad array of smart house gadgets from this business.
Conduct an in-depth search for smart home gadgets. That way, you can shop with a vendor that can help you acquire terrific smart home devices that may serve you well both now and in the future.
Home automation or smart-home technology is just one piece of the bigger picture that is known as the “Internet of Things.” What this term basically means is that as technologies evolve they are becoming more ingrained into everyday objects.
What was once designated just for personal computers and cell phones is now the domain of any number of everyday objects--from our cars to our refrigerators. This means we can control things remotely, monitor our houses and our belongings, and even see if our babies are sleeping soundly from work via the latest baby monitors.
One of the most recent implementations of these technologies is in our home security systems. Home automation and security are natural companions, give us an ever-increasing number of ways to guarantee our safety within our homes.
In today’s article, we’re going to talk about the objects in our home that can be connected to the internet and how you can improve security at home.
Security or security risk?
Critics of the internet of things often bring up one chief concern--data security. The more objects we connect to the internet the more ways we open our data up to being compromised. To make matters worse, many electronics manufacturers aren’t concerned with the security of the devices they make, giving them no safeguards or encryption against being hacked.
In fact, these objects have already been commandeered by hackers, but not in the way you might think.
A common way to attack a website or service is to simply flood it with more traffic than it can handle. Since WiFi enabled refrigerators, webcams, and baby monitors tend to provide little protection, hackers have found ways to install malware on them that allow them to send all of these devices to a given site in an orchestrated incident known as a DDoS attack (Distributed Denial of Service). All the while your refrigerator seems to be working normally, but behind the scenes it’s part of a “zombie” army of devices.
What items can connect to the internet?
The number of objects that come equipped with WiFi capability grows every day. Some are extremely useful. They can let you know when you’re out of paper towels or laundry detergent, they can tell you if you forgot to lock the doors or turn out the lights, or you can ask them to play your favorite playlist.
However, just because an item can connect to your WiFi doesn’t mean you should let it by default. You’ll need to consider the pros and cons.
Which items can I trust?
Unfortunately for consumers, there is no “safe to use” list when it comes to the gadgets you might have around your home. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t do your research on the items yourself to look for basic security measures.
First, check to see if the items are password-protected or use some form of authentication. You can often find this information on the manufacturer’s website or in the user guide.
Next, think about who makes the product. Reputable companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon all have a lot invested in the security of their customers. As a result, Google Home, and Apple’s HomePod are likely to have stronger security measures in place.
Finally, you’ll have to take a look at your own security habits. Changing passwords frequently, creating complicated passwords, and being careful with your information online are all ways you can help prevent your data or identity from being compromised.