The Internet of Things (IoT) has made the idea of “smart” homes a reality, but we still have a long way to go before they’re efficient and secure. From your front door to light bulbs to thermostats, everything can be connected to work a little smoother via an internet connection.

There is a lot of interest in this space, so the industry has started to pour loads of money into it. But the technology isn’t perfect (just yet). At the moment, there isn’t an industry standard, some home automation manufacturers are going out of business, and the technology is vulnerable to hackers.

It’s hard to get different types of technology to work together and when things don’t go as planned, you can end up feeling very uncomfortable at home.

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of optimism when Google’s smart home automation company Nest purchased the smart thermostat developer Revolv for $3.2 billion. But it wasn’t a smooth ride, there were instances where there was a glitch in the software that left customers cold, but that was just a tip of the iceberg. By April this year, the company had stopped selling or working on the hub, leaving customers with a $300 paperweight.

Competing Platforms Make Things More Complex

IoT is a shared experience, so every device you bring into the house should be able to easily connect to a central hub and start sharing data. As a result, there’s a need for one or more software protocols for developers to easily build into software and devices.

If you can understand what the device can and can’t do on the network easily, software developers from various companies will be able to write software to take advantage of it. We’re just not there yet as if one application doesn’t work as expected, then it could end up in making the whole system chaotic where smart alarms go off for no reason, lights turn on in the middle of the night, and so on.

The best way to resolve this issue is to isolate the applications so that the whole smart hub doesn’t get affected. However, this hasn’t happened so far as it’s been a story of software glitches and patches (and sometimes even that hasn’t helped).

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Requires a Context for Development

For smart homes to work as intended, you’ll need artificial intelligence (AI). To build great automation, AI will need a context to build on and homes don’t offer that just yet.

Homes are shared spaces, so the systems need to be able to differentiate between each individual and their competing interests. For example, just imagine if your toddler started controlling your smart home. Will the system be smart enough to differentiate between an adult and a minor? Which command should it follow? Which command should it ignore?

We already have machine learning that has worked successfully in the smart home where it has figured out the ideal temperature that people like. But we’re still far from AI understanding when we like certain things to happen and when we don’t.

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Further, homes also change as families grow and kids get older. As a result, AI would need to be trained again which can take time. When the routine of a family member changes, AI may not comprehend the change fast enough.

If you’ve ever used voice assistants like Apple’s SIRI or Amazon’s Echo, you will understand that the system’s not perfect. The smart home won’t be any different until the AI evolves significantly to overcome these hurdles.

Smart Homes Are Currently Insecure

Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Michigan tested and demonstrated that the leading automation system, Samsung’s SmartThings, has significant design flaws. It’s a popular platform with apps that support a wide range of devices. But the researchers found that over 55% of the apps on SmartThings were extremely vulnerable to hacking.

They were able to seize control, disable vacation notes, set off a fire alarm, and even gain access to door lock codes. As a result, you can say that companies have only been focused more on marketing the convenience than concentrating on security protocols. This has to change for smart homes to be embraced across the board.

But there’s hope as third-party IoT developers have realized that they won’t survive without robust security protocols. Further, NAHB has taken an important step and developed an assessment guide to help builders understand the specifications to ascertain the level of confidence of the product.

Further, there’s still a functionality gap between what consumer expects from their smart home devices and apps and what they can actually do. As a result, there are some that take a DIY approach to filling the space.

But again, smart homes are built with multiple devices and apps to make your life easier. So if Samsung with over 300,000 employees around the world can’t get it to be secure, it may not be a good idea to take the DIY route as you might end up compromising your home even more.

If you want an enhanced experience that’s built just for you, it’s a good idea to hire IoT professionals to develop software that will be robust and secure while meeting your smart home expectation.

Do you have a smart home? What problems have you had to overcome to maintain it?

 

Andrew Zola is a freelance writer, designer, and artist working in branding and marketing for over ten years. He is a contributor to various publications with a focus on new technology and marketing.

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