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Ever since the 1950’s, advertisers and inventors alike have dreamed of the perfect “smart home” solution, where a family can walk in the door, kick off their shoes, and let their house do the rest of the heavy lifting.
Even though we might still be a few years away from a kitchen that cooks your food or a washing machine that does your laundry for you, Internet of Things devices are taking the hassle out of everyday tasks like setting the thermostat, turning on your oven, or letting you know when you’re running low on milk.
But what is the Internet of Things, and why should you care? Read on to find out?
First up, we’re going to start with smart thermostats like Google’s Nest.
Introduced a few years ago, the Nest was the first device to really introduce the average consumer to the idea of the Internet of Things. By linking your thermostat to your smartphone, the Nest works to carefully control the climate of your home by monitoring when you’re home, when you’re away, and even who’s in each individual room.
This sort of customization adds up to a unique experience, wherein each room in the house can be set to the personal preferences of whoever the Nest sees in that room at any given moment. You like things a bit warmer, but your daughter runs cold? No problem, crank the heat in your bedroom, and take that extra energy out of hers.
Nest coordinates with dozens of other IoT devices as well, including smart locks, smart lights, and smart fire alarms like the Nest Protect, which can alert you if smoke is detected even when you’re miles away from base camp.
Next are smart bulbs, which are pretty much exactly what their name implies. Lightbulb manufacturers like Phillips and LG have both dipped their hats into the ring of smart bulbs, introducing the Hue smart light system that like the Nest, can be controlled through an app on your iOS or Android device.
Smart bulbs are great if you find yourself falling asleep while reading with the lights still on (Hue will detect when you’re no longer active and turn off the lights accordingly), or just want a way to tell your 10 year old it’s bed time without her being able to sneak in an extra 10 minutes that night.
Of all the devices we’ve mentioned here, smart locks are the one that consumers are still the most (understandably) cautious of running off to install in their home.
The locks work via a Bluetooth signal sent from your phone to their deadbolt, and will unlock anytime they detect your phone is near. The current problem with this system is that Bluetooth isn’t impossible to hack like WPA2 wireless connections, which means that if a burglar really wanted to break in, they wouldn’t even need a lockpicking kit. With laptops at the ready, all it would take is a little bit of creative code for the robbers to walk right in the front door of your home like they owned the place and clean it out dry.
As it stands, the biggest player in the space is August Smart Locks, who say they still don’t have any plans on the horizon to release a biometrically-linked lock that can take advantage of fingerprint scanners on smartphones anytime in the near future.
Last up, we have smart appliances. These are the various fridges, dishwashers, washing machines and clothes dryers that have been slowly creeping onto the IoT scene as of late, and only making a splash with the most IoT obsessed consumers out there.
Due to their limited functionality and difficult setup, most buyers are still cautious of technology that does things like scan your groceries to alert you when you’re running low on something, or keep your wet clothes on tumble dry if it detects you aren’t home.
These are highly personal details that not many people are comfortable sharing with the internet just yet. Both router security and the security of the devices themselves will need to be proven over the next few years if people are going to be expected to buy the next smart toaster that’s released in the next half decade.
So, is it only a few years before the dream of the 1950’s housewife and the automated home come true?
Well, kind of. Yes, many of the devices that our grandmothers wished they had in their time are available, but the market is still cautious to accept it unequivocally until we as the general public can be 100% assured of its security measures. The kind of data these devices rely on to function could be very dangerous in the wrong hands, which is why the industry will need to step up its protective game before you see the Average Joe rushing out to pick one up for his place.
While we keep many of our secrets online, people are still cautious of IoT devices because of the deeply personal data they can reveal if a hacker happened to get their hands on it. Everything from what you eat to when you fall asleep could become a part of the information docket that puts you at risk for having your privacy violated in all new and inventive ways, which means that if we want to take the Internet of Things seriously in the next few years, the security will have to past muster before everyone starts jumping on board.