Consumers favor home security over efficiency in smart home technology

January 22, 2015 by Ravi Srinivasan, The Conversation
Monitoring energy is first step to saving energy. Credit: Shutterstock

The message from the yearly CES consumer electronics extravaganza was clear: the list of gadgets that can be connected to the "internet of things" is growing rapidly. These smart-home technologies have the potential to save homeowners energy – but that may not be the primary feature attracting consumers.

Smart home gadgets include gadgets connected to the , such as thermostats and . By connecting with the , smart meters act upon real-time pricing to change home energy usage patterns, such as adjusting the during times of high prices. By knowing and managing when electricity is being consumed, grid operators can maintain stability and lower energy usage during peak periods.

There is some data to back up the notion that smart-grid technology makes buildings more energy-efficient when used effectively. A US Department of Energy study showed smart-grid consumers were able to save up to 10% on energy bills.

A home with a comprehensive, centralized automation system has the potential to energy between 17% – 40% of its , according to a 2011 study by the Frauhofer Institute of Building Physics that used a RWE SmartHome. There are also smart refrigerators (LG ThinQ) and washing machines (LG Twin Wash).

BI Intelligence projects the worldwide market for connected-home devices will grow faster than smartphones or tablets and will reach up to US$490 billion in 2019.

Samsung is among the companies developing a suite of home automation goods, including network-connected appliances. Credit: Samsung, CC BY
Is it all about energy?

The concept extends further to include aspects of occupant behavior, which can directly contribute to a higher standard of health and safety. For example, sophisticated security systems with networked cameras allow owners to peer into their homes from anywhere, including for elderly care.

Indeed, energy savings isn't actually the prime reason for owning smart homes, according to 62% of the 2,000 adults surveyed in 2014 by Lowe's. The main reasons were increased security and the ability to remotely monitor homes, according to the survey. So, a true smart home goes beyond controlling energy to controlling home security.

In the future, a building can be equipped with multitudes of sensors and devices that can work in concert. This system is analogous to a healthy human body in that microprocessors embedded in these devices work like nodes in the brain to operate autonomously in pursuit of maximum efficiency.

What's next?

The whole point of these smart home systems is to have the devices talk to each other. But with big players like Google (Nest Thermostats; Smoke + CO Monitoring), Samsung (SmartThings) and Apple (Homekit) joining the party on their own proprietary terms, interoperability among gadgets is a clear barrier to broader adoption. But the big elephant in the room is cybersecurity.

If you missed seeing The Interview last fall, don't blame the N. Korean regime – the fault lies with the vulnerable ARPANET system, a precursor to the Internet and, of course, Sony's own lacking protocols governing increased cybersecurity.

If Sony Corp. with US$24 billion market capitalization could not thwart a cyberattack on its servers that leaked mudslinging emails and more-than-you-want-to-hear news, how can a typical smart home owner prevent his or her home being attacked? Theoretically, hackers can disarm, unlock and graciously invite patrons via Craigslist or Twitter to break into homes, unbeknown to homeowners vacationing in a neighboring state or country.

So if a person is looking for ways to save , smart-grid technology, such as wireless thermostats, will help them. But a full-on home-automation system—at least for now—may not be the smartest way to go.

Explore further: Online homes becoming mindful members of the family

Related Stories

'Smart grid' would save energy, cut costs for US consumers

January 5, 2011

Momentum is building for a new energy "smart grid" that would overhaul the U.S.'s 100-year-old electrical power network. The impact would be huge –– from installation of a new web of electrical transmission lines ...

Review: Smarten up your home with Apple HomeKit

January 14, 2015

Apple didn't attend last week's gadget show but its presence was felt. Many companies have designed "smart" home products that integrate with Apple's HomeKit, an emerging technology for controlling lights and appliances through ...

Samsung unveils new TV platform to cut Google reliance

January 1, 2015

South Korean electronics giant Samsung Electronics said Thursday it will release smart televisions equipped with its new platform built around the Tizen operating system this year, as it seeks to lower its reliance on Google.

Google's Nest welcomes still more product partners

October 26, 2014

In the Internet scheme of things, home-automation products face a problem that vendors will need to overcome. Without common standards and partnerships, how will the gadgets talk to one another? One bit of good news is that ...

Recommended for you

Team breaks world record for fast, accurate AI training

November 7, 2018

Researchers at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) have partnered with a team from Tencent Machine Learning to create a new technique for training artificial intelligence (AI) machines faster than ever before while maintaining ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.