As technology is such an integral part of our daily lives, especially during the pandemic and its related restrictions and concerns, it’s no surprise that consumers are increasingly converting their homes into “smart homes.” The $78.3 billion market is set to grow to $135.5 billion by 2025. Makes sense, given that more families have been staying at home for longer periods because of the pandemic, so the comfort and convenience that smart homes provide is even more appealing – and more in demand. This entails embracing the Internet of Things, meaning connecting as many devices, home appliances and belongings as possible (even your pet’s food dish!) to the internet so they’ll synchronize with each other and be activated with just a touch of an app. When it comes to connected things, the sky’s the limit.
While the concept of smart homes undoubtedly makes life more convenient, there are downsides to surrounding yourself with – and relying on – so much digital technology. Some smart home-owners are realizing that raising one’s level of comfort may come at the expense of reduced privacy.
Here are three reasons why a smart home is not actually such a smart idea and three more why it will unarguably upgrade your living standard.
Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be
A Hefty Price Tag
It’s expensive to transform homes into smart homes. For starters, you’ll need to buy all new smart home appliances, devices, switches, and plugs to automate your lighting, climate control, security system, etc. Smart home maintenance may also put a dent in your wallet, since digitally integrated appliances and devices are often more expensive to repair than their traditional counterparts. This is because their technology is more delicate and prone to high-tech malfunctions, which can therefore need more frequent and sophisticated (i.e., costly) repairs.
Can’t we all just get along?
Besides the obvious risk of serious malfunctions in your smart home when your internet connection goes kaput (particularly worrying if one of your connected devices is a smart baby monitor), there are other frustrations. For example, there’s no guarantee that all devices will sync with smart assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant, among others; getting various devices from different companies to work together can be more time-consuming than manually operating “dumb” appliances. Plus, the more devices you acquire, the more apps you’ll have to download and create separate accounts for, which can be tedious and burdensome.
Say farewell to privacy & intimacy
As with any internet-connected device, smart homes are at risk of getting hacked. Each connected device notifies its corresponding app when it’s being used, sending a digital fingerprint to the router. Hackers monitoring your router can learn about your daily schedule and view videos/images of you or maps of your home. Such data can be beneficial to anyone wanting to break in or spy on your once intimate home life. (And what about the nightmare of hackers taking over control of your home?)
A less frightening but still worrisome element is that your internet-connected devices, which are supposed to be serving you, are actually serving the needs of manufactures and tech giants. The data these devices are gathering about your home and family will probably be shared with companies using data accumulation for financial gains. This invasion of privacy is permissible after Congress voted in 2017 to allow Internet Service Providers to collect and sell customers’ internet usage data.
As Good as It Gets
Enhances Safety & Security
Smart homes greatly enhance people’s levels of safety. By being able to easily turn off any smart appliances from your phone – within seconds – there’s no more reason to panic when you’re out of the house and suddenly realize that you’ve left the oven on. (Some smart appliances have been designed to turn themselves off when not in use.)
For greater security, you can remotely lock any home doors you forgot to lock. You can also use smart appliances to monitor your home – and your loved ones inside. So, whether you’re sitting in your office 30 minutes away or on a business trip abroad, you can view your child or pet from afar and exchange voice messages with them through a toy or device. Automated technology offers peace of mind to parents about care takers or loved ones left by themselves.
Good for the wallet & the environment
Smart home technology is more cost- and energy-efficient than traditional home appliances and electronics. Since connected appliances are designed to work with the least amount of energy needed, (and provide feedback about how best to preserve energy) this cuts down on gas, electric and water bills. In fact, a US Environmental Protection Agency study reported that owners using smart home technology solely for thermostat control saved between 10%-30% on their energy bill. Take new sensor technology in smart shower systems, which saves money by maximizing water usage and minimizing waste.
The endless apps and connected devices constantly entering the market have the potential to not only make your life easier but vastly increase accessibility to elderly or disabled family members. This can boost their quality of life. By letting them utilize voice commands to power appliances or by putting control of their daily home needs at their fingertips, they can live more independently. Like you, they can also program a smart robot vacuum to clean for them and use their phones to handle lawn maintenance or to see who’s just rung the doorbell. For their added safety, you can also remotely monitor them from afar.
The Bottom Line: While the benefits of living in a smart home can seem very tempting, its drawbacks and risks can make you long for less technological days. As this trend gets more popular, will it be one we can ignore or even harness? Do you prefer living in a smart home or keeping your inanimate objects “dumb”?