• Ernest Valencia

Are you ready for the smart home?

Updated: Jul 6

If you clicked on this article, you probably are already considering upgrading to a smart home OR wondering what in the world a smart home is.

If it’s the latter, here’s a definition from Smart Home USA (https://www.smarthomeusa.com/smarthome/): “‘Smart Home’ is the term commonly used to define a residence that has appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio & video systems, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely by a time schedule, from any room in the home, as well as remotely from any location in the world by phone or internet.”

It requires the addition of certain appliances, gadgets, and systems for a home to be considered a smart home. Most are of course compatible with your existing home internet and mobile phone.

It’s no longer something new and novel. For the past couple of years at least, you’ve already heard of or seen security cameras and baby monitors connected to one’s phone, smart locks and alarm systems, smart thermostat to control the air-con before you get home, a TV you can turn on to your favourite show while you’re still away, windows you can control remotely, and other devices that rely on apps and web portals. More and more Asian appliance and gadget brands are already partnering with telcos to offer smart home features.

Smart home gadgets are becoming more in demand primarily for the convenience they offer. Safety and security devices, as well as those with health monitoring features are also making the case ever stronger for smart homes.

A report called “The Battle for the Smart Home: Open to All,” published by Telecom Asia (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/asiatoday/smart-home-market-is-emer_b_14629234.html), a press medium that specializes in Asian telecom industry, forecasted that “the smart home growth will be driven mainly by China and Japan, as well as highly-connected countries such as Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.”

According to Digital News Asia (https://www.digitalnewsasia.com/business/asia-smart-home-market-reach-us115bil), which also wrote about the report, “intelligent home is becoming a reality in Asia due to four major shifts that are accelerating market expansion.”These are:

Connectedness and Intelligence: The advancements in technology and processing power of smartphones has seen homes become much more connected… Interoperability: There has been marked improvement in the interoperability among products from different manufacturers, making home applications more broadly useful to consumers… Product availability and cost: Nearly every aspect of home living is already covered by automated products, 80% of which are now commercially available in ‘smart’ form… [And] new monetizsation models: Smart home applications are opening up to wider networks—i.e. electricity grid, internet, real world service ecosystem, creating new monetisation models for companies throughout the entire ecosystem….”

Having a smart home boasts of a lot of benefits—convenience and saving time, money, energy, and other natural resources are but the most basic ones—but as with anything, it comes with a lot of caveats, too. Budget is one of the top reasons, as most of the products that turn your home, well, smart come at a hefty price. Accessibility is another, as a lot of these products have yet to be widely available in Asia (but they will soon be, don’t worry). And as with new technology, a lot of the devices and systems can be too complicated for just anyone to understand and adapt. In the first place, how do you even know which one to get? There are just too many!

Smart homes are definitely garnering a lot of buzz, but a lot of people are still skeptical about it—especially the potential security risk. A big downside is the risk of your smart home getting hacked. An American TV show, Mr Robot, demonstrated how a smart home can possibly go wrong, where a hacker group wreaked havoc on someone’s smart home in one episode, causing lights to flicker on and off, multimedia systems to go haywire, and the thermostat to make her freeze in her own home.

And since a lot of these tech are still fairly new and produced at an alarmingly fast rate, don’t be surprised if they still come with a lot of flaws that have yet to be discovered and tested further to resolve. It would be virtually impossible for these to be fool-proof just yet. And just as hackers can get into banks’ heavily guarded systems and even high-security government databases, don’t you think it would be so easy for criminals to hack into an ordinary smart home controlled by just your home and mobile internet?

Security cameras pose another nightmare, too—it probably crossed your mind at least once: What if someone else is watching what’s going on inside my home without me knowing?

Now, if you’re intent on adapting a smart home, risks aside, don’t fret: There are ways to prevent hacking. Tom’s Guide (https://www.tomsguide.com/us/smart-home-security-tips,review-4372.html) lists ways to tighten security measures on your smart home tech: “Partner with a trusted home-security company that offers reliable technology, and add your own layer of security—by using network firewalls, strong passwords, and reliable installations—to protect yourself from home cyber attacks.” Only buy devices from reputable brands with tried-and-tested products. And as much as possible, make it a habit to check who has logged into your device.

Technology will always come with its benefits and risks, and as the smarter humans, it’s up to us to learn everything we can about smart home devices before we even welcome them into our abodes. It’s only a matter of time before they become as commonplace as mobile phones.

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