Since the launch of the vacuum cleaner in 1901, smart home technology has come a long way. From home security systems to thermostats to smart ovens, you can now connect your phone to practically anything.
These connections, however, come with some serious challenges that impact smart home companies and consumers alike.
In 2020, the smart homes market is estimated to reach $40 billion and by 2023, it's expected to penetrate almost 54% of households.
Companies like Nest, SimpliSafe, and Logitech are leading the way in making these estimates into reality. The massive success of these companies is attributed to their ability to empower us with control over typically chaotic aspects of our lives.
However, as with any technology, smart homes are wholly dependent on their users. Here are 3 of the most pressing issues facing the industry:
Approximately 62% of Americans adopt smart home technology for security reasons.
Within every smart home device pamphlet, you can guarantee that the phrase: “we take your privacy very seriously” is noted somewhere. However, upholding privacy rights is difficult to employ ethically, especially when home devices are voice-controlled.
Creating lingual boundaries, or control settings has not been a sought-after feature that companies want to develop, despite the deep distrust it creates for consumers.
Recently, a smart device recorded a private conversation and sent it to one of the individuals' employees without consent. On the other hand, some companies have admitted to listening or recording users conversations for marketing purposes.
As a response to consumer frustrations and concerns over intrusions of privacy, some IoT companies do not take ownership of these occurrences. A common response is that users are ‘triggering’ the listening command which indirectly blurs the line of responsibility.
The disconnect between users and their experience with technology complicates smart home privacy issues.
For example, on some home devices, there is the ability to turn off the microphone or location settings but users are unaware of the feature. Educating and empowering users should be at the forefront of any smart home product strategy.
Similarly, to keep up with innovation, smart home companies often add or enhance product features a couple of times a year. However, they fail to fully research and understand the technical competence of their consumer base. This often leads to user frustration, device abandonment, and creates a backlog of technical support tickets for smart home companies.
Did you know that approximately 70% of IoT devices are susceptible to hacking?
Connected home users are prone to being victims of arson, theft, extortion, and can lose complete control over parts of their home.
Earlence Fernandes, Ph.D. student of Systems and Security at the University of Michigan points out that, “Little research has focused on what happens when these devices are integrated into a coordinated system.” To understand the depths of this issue, his team conducted a study on the SmartThings platform which hosts 132 smart home applications. Fernandes uncovered that one of the major security vulnerabilities was excessive privileges.
Excessive privileges refers to a devices ability to turn appliances off and on or lock and unlock a door with a dual permission level. An example Fernandes points out is, “Imagine an app that can automatically lock a specific door after 9 p.m. The SmartThings system would also grant that app the ability to unlock the door. An app’s developer cannot ask only for permission to lock the door.” This lack of proper permission coding and settings leaves holes of opportunity for hackers.
With over 80% of home buyers preferring to buy homes with smart technology already installed, this industry is booming despite the serious challenges it faces.
The development of smart home technology is no longer just in the hands of tech giants like Amazon and Google. Home builders are setting new foundations for homes that are built with smart home technology pre-installed.
From preheating the oven to laundry duties, convenience will come with the digital keys to these smartly-architected homes.
The ability to be connected to our homes is perhaps one of the most impactful reaches of technology in the past 10 years.
The 24/7 ability to monitor, track, and control what happens on the inside and outside of our homes is an invaluable convenience.
However, before we hand over total control of our homes to an app or device, the smart homes industry should slow down to speed up in order to create a safer (and smarter) landscape for its users.