The Internet of Things. It’s a term you’ve probably heard kicked around a hundred times since this year’s CES, and manufacturers from every end of the industry are eager to ramp up production on everything from smart thermostats to smart toasters as soon as they’re able to get them off the factory line.
But what is the “Internet of Things”, and what does it mean for home automation? Read on in our guide to find out.
At its most basic, the Internet of Things can be described as any home-based devices that come with an internal component which can be connected to the internet. The best example of this would also be one of the first products to hit the market in the category: the Nest thermostat.
The Nest works by arming your home with an array of sensors, which can track who’s home or how many people are in any given room, and adjust the temperature on the fly accordingly. It can also connect to hundreds of other devices, including your phone, your car, and your front door if they have “Works With Nest” compatibility installed in their own devices.
This is the same principle that all the newer IoT devices share. They connect to one another, and many of the services that home owners used to have to do themselves is now automated by an invisible web of communication that stretches to every device in their home. But how practical is that vision in the real world today?
Some of the more popular devices out on shelves right now that have proven to be a hit in the IoT market include smart thermostats, smart locks, and smart lights.
The more popular brands you might immediately recognize include Nest, the August Smart Lock, and the Phillips Hue brand of LED lighting. These are all devices that can connect to one another, thereby taking the guess work out of problems like whether you forgot to turn the heater off when you left the house, or whether the door was locked when you turned off the light.
In theory, home automation is meant to take the hassle and worry out of your home, all while saving you money along the way. Set it up once, and from then on your entire house will be controlled by a set of computers that can predict when you need something before you even realize you need it yourself. Think of it like this: your smart fridge detects that you’re running low on milk, while your Nest sees that you’ve just left the house. Working in tandem, the two devices create a notification that’s pushed to your phone, reminding you to grab another carton before you get home.
Sounds convenient, right? Well, hold your horses, because it’s not all roses just yet.
The Future of Home Automation
Unfortunately for the time being, there’s still going to be a few hiccups along the way before we’ve reached a platform of true automation across the board.
Although the idea of a home that does everything for you sounds great on the surface, there are many different security concerns that experts in the industry have had about how safe these devices are, especially considering the type of data they’re collecting on us on a daily basis.
Consider the idea that a Nest knows when you’re home, it knows when you’re sleeping, and it knows when you’re away. If a hacker or a burglar happened to get their hands on this information, that would make it easier than ever to simply check the patterns of you usage, and then break into your home when the Nest tells them you’re not home.
This goes double for devices like the August Smart Lock, which uses Bluetooth technology to unlock your door when it detects your “key” is nearby. If the source code were ever leaked online or a hacker figured out how to duplicate the key authentication, this would amount to “picking” the lock, and again giving them entry into your home without even having to break a window.
Until the security of these devices can be assured by the top-level analysts in the industry, it could be years before the general public feels safe enough to wire up every aspect of their lives to their home network and the greater web as a whole.
Of course, these are just a few select examples out of hundreds that are likely to pop up over the next few years as more devices are added to the shelves, and more data is collected on you and your family en masse.
Home automation through the Internet of Things is poised to revolutionize the way we go about our daily routine in the next few decades, but there are still significant security hurdles that will need to be surmounted before they’re accepted as just another member of the household.