The pros and cons of smart home tech

home tech

Decades of futurists dreamed about and designed their vision of a “smart home” intended to make living easier and more comfortable.  The 1933 World’s Fair envisioned that all homes would have helicopter pads; the 1962 World’s Fair highlights an electronic central brain in the home; the 1964 World’s Fair was about computerizing the home with time saving appliances.  And of course, who can forget Disney’s “House of Tomorrow?”

Retro-futurism seems almost cartoonish today, much like watching an episode of the Jetson’s.  However, like the retro-futuristic home, today’s smart home is meant to make life easier.  Filled with devices and appliances that are connected to the internet, remote access to your home’s systems and appliances is becoming increasingly commonplace.  There is an increasing ability for you to control your home, even when you are not there.  You can remotely monitor cameras in your home, change thermostat settings, and even program the DVR.

Realtor Magazine (Homes Are Getting Smarter, More Connected; January 09, 2014) reported that smart home tech is a growing sector showcased at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.  Besides the growing number of devices that can be remotely controlled, there is also a trend for appliances to send text messages and email.  Although smart home technology today is about producing individual gadgets that are programmable and controlled by smart phone apps, it appears that there is a trend toward integrating devices as well.  As smart home technology advances, home appliances and systems will be integrated with each other allowing them to communicate with each other; which expected to make the home function more efficiently.

All this technology is great, but there appears to be a downside as well.  Although there have been warnings about hacking smart home devices for a number of years, the recent report of hacked smart refrigerators that sent spam has attracted and focused attention on the hackers’ ability to take control of a smart home (  A Forbes article published July 2013 (When ‘Smart Homes’ Get Hacked: I Haunted A Complete Stranger’s House Via The Internet) discussed the ease of identifying and gaining access to smart home devices via the internet. Security specialist indicated that they were able to access and control smart devices (such as lighting, thermostats, garage doors, and security systems); more importantly, they were able to access personal data (including names) and device IP addresses from these devices as well.  The consensus among security specialists about protection from such intrusions is to basically stay “unplugged.”

While we wait for the perfect smart home, we can continue dreaming of the home of the future.  “1999 A.D.” (A 1967 Ford-Philco production; the video featuring Wink Martindale is posted above) is one of the best retro-future depictions of a home that incorporates technology considered to be state-of-the-art by today’s standards, as well as technology that we have yet to perfect.  Central to the home is a computer that collects and maintains information from all home devices, including biometric data that is sent to the medical center for analysis.  3D television, a “home post office” (email), push button meals, and shopping from a home computer is standard in this home.  As technology advances, there seems to be a post-modern sentiment exclaimed in the video that may ring true, “…if the computerized life extracts a pound of flesh, it has some interesting rewards…”

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2014

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