We all have one: it wakes up and goes to sleep with us. We ask it questions and talk to it; it answers with certainty (sometimes) and responds intimately. It learns and adjusts to us. It does just about everything we need it to do — except to be human. Our smart devices or smart device-controlled homes allow us to live a life of connected convenience and simplicity. At the same time, this connected silent surveillance can become uncomfortable and almost intrusive in its pervasion in our lives and daily routines. So, just how much tech in the home is too much? Well, that depends on your perspective.
According to Market Watch, in 2016, the global smart home market was valued at around $55.6 billion.¹ By 2027, that number is projected to reach some $520 billion.² That’s about a $47 billion a year market value increase, which means consumers are filling their homes at a staggering rate with smart lights, smart speakers, TVs, cameras, and other Internet of Things (devices that communicate with one another via Bluetooth, internet, or wired connections)³.
Does all this connectivity simplify and improve our lives? Yes, and yes. Could it also complicate or even compromise our privacy? Also, yes, and yes. Consumers love the convenience of asking a smart speaker 10 feet away to set a timer while dough-covered hands can keep rolling out pasta. But that very same device overhears our personal conversations and maybe even records us. Have you ever just thought about couches and suddenly you are seeing ads on Facebook about furniture stores near you with the best couches? In 2017, congress voted to allow internet service providers to collect and sell consumer information and what that collection of information holds is unknown. Once sold, our information can end up in the hands of hackers potentially leading to fraud, identity theft, or worse and can pose a risk that many are not willing to take. We need to consider the fact that data is boundless and information like addresses, financial data, or even relative geographic information that may be just enough to cause digital harm.
By choosing to be connected, we essentially sign a virtual contract, inadvertently putting ourselves at risk and sharing our personal data with potentially anyone in the world in a key stroke. There are, however, many positives that come with using technology in the home, saving us time, money, and sometimes our sanity! There are smart thermostats that can be set on a schedule help to save energy costs, voice-controlled assistants who predict traffic on our commute so we can be on time, and smart speakers that find just the right guided meditation to ease the stress of our day. The key to ensuring that the tech you allow in your home is “just right” is to balance convenience with caution.
So how can we better protect ourselves? Your home network is always a good place to start. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Make sure your Wi-Fi password is strong
- Create a guest network to prevent others from accessing your devices
- If your devices have security settings that protect you, turn them on
- Monitor and review your list of connected devices regularly
Taking these steps may not be the end all be all, but they certainly put you on the right track to securing your digital space at home.
- ¹ https://www.marketwatch.com
- ² https://www.theperspective.com/debates/businessandtechnology/smart-homes-smart-idea/
- ³ https://www.micrium.com/iot/devices/