Every new technology hits the market with plenty of fanfare. People go out and buy it just because they love technology. And yet, things are rarely as they seem. That’s why it pays to be circumspect about smart home automation. There is more to the technology than meets the eye.
For the record, we now have proof that the smart home has gone mainstream. On the Fox sitcom Last Man Standing, the 12th episode of season 8 showed one of the main characters talking to a smart speaker. And this is just one example. Smart home devices are showing up in pop culture with greater frequency.
The interesting thing is that smart homes in pop culture are almost always associated with millennials and Gen Z. That makes sense, given that younger people are more likely to embrace the smart home concept. Yet one must wonder if they really know what they are embracing.
Point of this post is not to trash smart homes or home automation. It is not to suggest that people avoid the smart home concept. Rather, the point is to encourage readers to be circumspect. There is a lot to consider, beginning with cloud connectivity.
To make devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa work, you need the power of cloud computing. According to Vivint, nearly every component in a modern smart home is cloud connected. That might not be a big deal to young people who have grown up with digital technology. But to older people who understand the ramifications of being so interconnected, there are legitimate reasons to be wary.
Security Is Always a Risk
One of the first things that comes to mind is security. In fact, security was such a concern in the early days of the cloud that companies were not willing to invest in it. They were too afraid of having their data floating around in cyberspace. Security concerns are less pronounced these days, but they still exist.
Your Privacy Is at Risk
Connecting smart home devices in the cloud requires giving up a measure of privacy. Perhaps you’ve heard stories of Google and Amazon recording conversations via their smart speakers. They do so for the purposes of improving the technology. Perhaps that’s innocuous. But if they can listen to your conversations for tech reasons, what else can they do with them?
It is important to understand that every piece of connected technology further erodes privacy. There is a reason the EU implemented one of the strictest data privacy laws in the world in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Smart Homes As Marketing Tools
Smart home providers using customer data for marketing purposes is an extension of the privacy issue. Every device connected to the internet of things (IoT) compiles more data that can be used to market. That data now largely determines the ads we see on our smartphones. It determines search results when we dig around Google.
In essence, smart homes have become digital marketing gold mines. That is the whole reason Google and Amazon got into the smart home business to begin with. The only way Google makes money is through advertising. Amazon makes money other ways, but advertising is a big part of their business model too.
Smart home technology absolutely has its merits. As time goes on, more and more homes will be made smart. There is nothing wrong with that. But consumers should be circumspect when making smart home decisions. There is more to it than meets the eye. Every bit of smart home technology comes with hidden costs.