Why do I need another piece of hardware in my home?
By our own count we reckon there are more than 250 manufacturers of Smart Home devices and therefore several thousand products which gives a great choice to the homeowner. But a series of problems are apparent:
- Will the product work with everything (or even anything) else I’ve got already?
- Will My Smart Home work efficiently?
- How much of my lifestyle information does the manufacturer learn about me and do I have a way to control that?
- What are the security risks?
- Will it work offline for those days my internet connection fails?
In this article I will list explore these 4 possible issues you may encounter while getting your first smart home tech up and working.
You treat your home as single place to manage – you get a whole home electricity bill, not per room; you have an insurance package for your whole home; your electrical appliances all use the mains electrical supply not separate supplies. But smart home products come in all sorts of flavours – some want a LAN connection (do you have a spare port still?), some will use your wifi, you probably know of Bluetooth but usually in the context of mobile phones and car connections not the home, then there’s Z-Wave, Zigbee and even more to come.
When buying smart home products you want to know if, in the way ALL electrical items just plug-in, will it work with what you’ve already got – can you reap the benefits of energy saving, security, safety all through a single app for your home. This is the first of the nCube points of expertise.
2) Long latency
So you’ve confirmed the smart products are compatible. But some products are connected locally (i.e. within your home) whilst others connect through the manufacturers servers. There are app-only solutions that rely on their servers talking to the smart home product manufacturer’s servers which means servers talking to servers talking to servers - and that adds delays and increases the likelihood of issues when servers are congested or have failed.
However, there are devices such as nCube Home hub that act as the bridge between the different smart devices from many brands and allow them to speak to each other. With this hub, long latency will be avoided since you will be running things without the cloud services of each device but through the hub.
So you’ve got the smart home products to talk to each other and you’re thinking of using an app-only service and will ignore the issues of latency likelihood of server failures causing issues. But privacy needs to be thought about. Devices that connect through their own cloud server are, subject to privacy policies and you may not have any privacy control over what those products are learning about you and your family.
We think our homes are a more private place - to use a British term, our homes are our castles - and therefore our solution is designed to keep as much user data in the home. With nCube, any data known in the nCube system is your data and will not be sent to the cloud without your agreement. It will be stored inside the nCube and will not be shared with anyone which gives you total privacy while enjoying your smart home.
See also: Where in the world is my data and how secure is it?
Security of smart home technology also featured highly in our research. Over a third thought that just username & password access is not secure enough. Over 70% agreed our design of first having to use smart home technology when connected to the home network before being able to use it remotely was a worthwhile solution. And two-thirds also thought being able to restrict which features are accessible remotely (e.g. if their mobile was stolen) made a lot of sense too.
There are a few things we have done already and more to come. Firstly, the user must first use their mobile/tablet/laptop whilst connected to the home network before being able to remotely control their devices - this is a 2-factor-authentication design so more secure than just username/password. Secondly, remote access goes through our servers securely meaning we can log and identify any issues with remote access (the alternative would be to use direct access by exposing a port from the home network but that’s not a wise solution and we don’t advocate that method at all). Thirdly we allow the user to decide which features of their smart home they actually wish to be able to access remotely - e.g. do you really need to be able to change/delete devices and users remotely; probably not.
Security of smart home products needs to focus on the consumer and innovative solutions rather than blandly saying the cloud side has the latest firewalls, encrypted data and other protection.
5) Bad Internet connection
When we researched consumer expectations, over 70% said they experience internet connection issues multiple times a year and therefore over 80% vociferously required smart home products to work offline. A fact demonstrated by regular outages affecting most of the smart thermostats.
Thus imagine having all your automation running smoothly until one day when you really need it, your internet connection fails and all your automation scenes stops running. That would look more like a dumb house than a smart one.
The good news is that with nCube Home, you only need your Internet connection to set up the hub the first time and then you will be able to control and manage everything offline. Which means that even if your internet is down, your smart home will still be up.
Therefore, when you start connecting your home, you must also think about how to make it private, secure and efficient. What you need is nCube hub in your home that will rule them all!