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Privacy vs Security: Is Getting a Smart Home Worth It?

by Guylaine Cadorette | Dec 28, 2020
A woman thinks about ways to use her smart speaker, which sits atop a wooden table

The Internet of Things (IoT) and technologically advanced security systems are moving into homes around the world. IoT refers to the many devices connected by the internet, such as voice-enabled speakers, security cameras, and smart thermostats.

Many homeowners are beginning to understand the benefits of opening their doors to IoT to take advantage of advanced home security and convenience. In 2019, 3.9 million doorbell cameras were sold in the U.S. and that number is expected to reach 5.6 million in 2023.

If you're wondering whether a smart home is right for you, review the security benefits and privacy concerns discussed below.

What Makes a Smart Home so Smart?

When you install IoT devices, your home is considered a "smart home" since several features are automated and communicate with each other. Homeowners install these devices to enhance their home security, make it easier to control features in their home, and keep an eye on things while they're away.

These upgrades may also increase your home's value. Some of the most popular devices installed in smart homes include the following:

  • Doorbell cameras: A doorbell camera connects to an app on your smartphone. When motion is detected, you can see what's happening at your front door directly through the app. In some cases, you can sound an alarm or speak to the person at your door right from your phone.
  • Smart thermostats: You can program a smart thermostat to automatically raise or lower the temperature at different times, saving you money on your utility bill. Download an app to your phone to adjust your thermostat and review temperature patterns in your home.
  • Water sensors: When you have water sensors installed and connected to your home's Wi-Fi, they'll shut off your water if a leak is detected. If you're not home when a pipe bursts, this technology can protect your home and save you from an expensive insurance claim.
  • Fire and smoke sensors: There are also smart fire and smoke sensors that connect directly to your home's Wi-Fi. If smoke or fire is detected, the system activates fire sprinklers and alerts the local fire department. This technology can keep your home safe if you're traveling, and a fire starts.

What Are the Benefits of Getting Smart Home Devices?

When you install smart home devices, you have the convenience of controlling certain features of your home from anywhere. Having access to front-door cameras or the thermostat when you're away from home gives you peace of mind.

Convenience and Control

With the latest smart home devices, you can control your thermostat settings from the palm of your hand. While you're away at work, keep your indoor temperature high in the summer and low in the winter to save money. Use your smartphone app to adjust the temperature before you head home from work. The perfect temperature will be waiting when you open the front door.

With integrated smart home technology, you can sit on your couch, control your home's temperature, dictate which lights are on, and know who's at the door. This convenience and control are appealing to many homeowners who are excited to embrace technological advancements.

Security and Protection

Home security systems are a safety-savvy product that can help deter theft and protect your precious belongings. With a doorbell camera or other smart home security features, you can monitor your property, pets, and household members from anywhere.

Leak detection devices and smoke or fire sensors are attractive to homeowners and homeowner's insurance companies alike. These devices catch floods or fires as soon as they happen, whether you're home or not, and take the proper steps to mitigate the situation.

Return on Investment

Smart home technology can be expensive, and it's tough to evaluate your return on investment. Obviously, if a device stops a burglar in their tracks or catches fire before it spreads, your ROI has likely already been realized.

You may also increase your home's value and attractiveness to potential buyers when you install smart home technology. According to a survey released by Coldwell Banker in 2018, 77% of potential home buyers prefer a pre-installed smart thermostat while 75% want a smart fire detector already installed in the home they buy.

Privacy Risks in the Connected Home

Smart home technology is still relatively new, so the privacy risks associated with these devices aren't entirely familiar. However, there are some known and suspected risks that homeowners may want to consider before installing these devices.

Collection of Personal Information

With many smart home technology devices, such as voice-enabled speakers and security cameras, video and audio recordings are always on, observing and collecting data. Some experts suspect that internet companies use this data to learn more about consumer behavior.

Smart home device owners may be sharing their internet searches, interests, and movements with these companies without even knowing it. Some technology giants, like Apple, are attempting to gain consumer trust by being transparent about the data they collect and placing limitations on collection practices.

Wi-Fi and Internet Security Issues

While you may protect your home Wi-Fi network with a password, it's sometimes not enough. According to experts, home Wi-Fi systems are easily hacked through routers. Once a hacker gets in, they have access and control of any information on your computers, TV, and other connected devices.

When you add your smart home devices to your Wi-Fi network, they're also vulnerable to hacking. However, these devices carry much more extensive data, which potentially includes video and audio of you and your family at home.

Ethics and Laws

If you install a doorbell camera, you may feel better about increasing your home protection. However, you could open yourself up to blurred interpretations of ethics and laws. You may choose to register your camera with local law enforcement so they can gain access to footage whenever needed. If your camera isn't registered and it captures a crime in progress, law enforcement may request the footage anyway.

Facial recognition technology is becoming increasingly popular in public places. Doorbell camera companies are looking into adding this facial recognition technology to their cameras to help law enforcement and other agencies identify civilians.

Should Your Home Join the IoT?

Whether you're interested in a discount on your home insurance policy, you're looking for peace of mind when you're away, or you simply think voice-activated light-dimming is neat, smart home technology is tempting.

The smart home industry continues to grow, expand, and create even more advanced technologies for convenience and security. Before you decide whether your home should join the IoT, do your research, consider your feelings on privacy, and choose devices you know you'll use.

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