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The caveats of owning connected smart home devices

Smart home devices represent a family of products that are expected to reach a total market capitalization of $107 billion by 2023, with projections increasing year on year, a sign of a growing market – at least for the moment – ​​in a very healthy way. . The unprecedented convenience of devices like Alexa and Google Home, smart washing machines, smart toasters, Nest thermostats and other doohickies around the house that can be controlled via the cloud has had a predictable allure that has transformed this family of devices into a force to be reckoned with. with. Despite the world of convenience offered by smart home equipment, there are still many caveats to discuss.

This makes everything in your house potentially hackable

Many of these smart home devices are connected to a network in the cloud. Some of them rely so heavily on their own cloud systems that most functionality would be rendered void during the most minor outage. If your Internet goes down, it's the same story.

On May 17, 2018, the Nest network experienced such an outage, prompting engineers to scramble to fix the issue that has prevented millions of devices from receiving their data.

The exception to this would be devices that rely on the cloud only for synchronization (much like some smartphone email apps and most desktop email clients), keeping most data in storage and querying the network only to see if there is more data to sync.

Nest sort of does that, meaning most devices were still physically usable after the outage. Yet people couldn't access features remotely through their smartphones despite having internet access on both endpoints. At best, it could be a nuisance. At worst, it could be very frustrating.

A good way to make sure you minimize the effect of outages is to check the device's whitepaper, manual, or other reference material and research what it needs to sync.

There's suddenly a ton of data about you in the cloud

It may seem like a simple detractor's argument, but having smart devices objectively compromises your privacy, even if security isn't an issue. Using a normal "dumb" device doesn't reveal much about you, as it doesn't send data about its usage to a central server.

On the one hand, this data is very useful for companies because they can find new and interesting ways to improve their products. They are able to improve your experience by analyzing it. For example, if most smart toaster users set the dial to 5 by default, the manufacturer may interpret this as a signal that they should make their toaster a little more powerful. In the next model, the "3" on the dial can toast like the "5", providing more flexibility for those who want their toast extra hot.

On the other hand, if this data is leaked, everyone now knows how you like your toast. Of course, you might not mind that the whole world knows how you like your toast; you could even post this kind of information publicly on Facebook. But imagine if it was something more intimate, like keywords in a private conversation you were having with your spouse in front of a smart home device with a microphone. Things get a little spookier there.

That's not to say smart home devices will cause the apocalypse. Many people have said this about social media, smartphones, etc. But if you want to buy them, you have to know what to expect, the positives as well as the negatives.

Are you planning to buy a smart home device? How would you handle privacy issues? Tell us everything in the comments!