Whether you’re considering a smart home solution or you’re already enjoying the lifestyle advantages on offer from smart devices in your home, understanding the privacy options and risks of smart homes is a major consideration.
Smart homes can offer many benefits that help you stay connected. Similar to how we access our email, social media profiles or bank accounts every day, the advantages of this extra functionality and connectivity should be balanced with the risks it can introduce.
Assessing the risks
A good starting point is to look at what potential risks are presented with the introduction of smart home technology. This will help with your due diligence, knowing what questions to ask experts and what details to seek out.
Ultimately the safety and security conversation comes down to two things: data and control.
In our connected world, it’s an unfortunate matter of fact that there are hackers and cybercriminals out there who could seek to take advantage of vulnerabilities in any system. This can potentially put your personal data, habits and movements at risk.
Connectivity is a major factor. The devices in your smart home will need to talk to each other and communicate with your method of control – be it smartphone, tablet, control panel or in-device programming.
Being connected to the outside world via the internet can present a window of access to your data. Choosing the right mix of quality devices, security facilities, unique passwords and communications methods for your unique situation can help to shut that window.
1. Get the basics right
The key to the window is your personal credentials. Your username/email address and the password you provide.
Going through the basics of not sharing your password, using something that is not easily guessable, not using the same password for everything and periodically changing your password can seem a hassle, but are pivotal steps to help.
Though the password management process can be burdensome, there are some excellent password managers and apps available offering all manner of encryption and convenience. We also recommend taking advantage of two-factor authentication where possible.
The bottom line is to be serious about the administration of your home network. Carefully choose how many layers of authentication you require, who needs to be able to access certain things, and under what circumstances.
2. Choose devices wisely
The global smart home market is growing and is estimated to continue. This means technology is more affordable and accessible with new capabilities and options on offer.
We are spoilt with smart home options, but we also need to consider the security options on offer with each system.
Hackers don’t particularly want or need to hack your doorbell or smart fridge, it’s the domino effect that they are after. One vulnerability can cause a cascade effect that could enable access to your personal passwords, data or bank account details.
This is why we recommend choosing a reputable supplier, that has a track record of treating security as a vital factor in the development of its products, for your whole smart-home solution.
By talking to experts, you’ll get a feel for whether safety and security is a major factor in their design and development approach. We highly recommend getting familiar with privacy policies (what they can and can’t do with your data).
Schneider Electric, for instance, has a safety committee that helps them lead the way in minimum acceptable standards. This practice has been in place for the company for decades, recognising that connectivity confidence will be a pivotal part of our connected world. Add to that the Ethisphere® Institute recently recognised Schneider Electric as one of the world’s most ethical companies.
There are many varied ways of connecting and controlling smart devices. This is important in being able to tailor our smart home to our lifestyle.
Some important tips to take into consideration:
Avoid connecting your smart devices to a public network or make them visible beyond your own private network.
Avoid accessing your smart home network from public Wi-Fi – i.e. don’t check your smart home while you’re sitting in a café and connected to its Wi-Fi.
Remember that Wi-Fi isn’t the be-all and end-all. Though it offers remote control and will be essential for some functions, Bluetooth technology is device-to-device which means it is limited by range access. If you are worried about cybersecurity then Bluetooth might be a more comfortable option for you.
- Install updates frequently. This is an easy one and usually involves either checking for automatic updates or scheduling them for times that will cause little disruption to your lifestyle.
When you get to this stage, there is no better way to assess all the various methods of control than to see them in action and talk through your individual requirements with an expert.
Visiting a hands-on experience, such as the PDL by Schneider Electric smart home showrooms, will provide you with both. You’ll also be able to learn what ongoing customer service is on offer and how flexible the system will be to accommodate for changes in your lifestyle.
4. Choose experts
Working with professionals goes for both the manufacturer of your smart devices and the people you choose to install and commission them.
There are countless electricians and specialist smart home installers available in New Zealand, all with varying levels of experience with this technology and associations or preferences for various solutions.
An important factor is whether your chosen installer has received any official training from the product manufacturer, on installing and commissioning the solution they are recommending.
The right installer will be an expert in the smart home solution you’ve selected and will be able to answer your questions and make recommendations specific to the unique needs of you and your family.
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The more you know
Ultimately the installation and administration of your new smart home should be a rewarding experience if you take the right steps and work with the right people.
Yes there are risks, but this can be said for many of the things we do today online like using banking apps, email, social media and messaging.
PDL by Schneider Electric has been helping to create smart homes in New Zealand for over 20 years, and continues to research and develop new exciting and innovative smart home solutions.
If you like to hear and learn from other people's experiences, then take a look through our New Zealand smart home case studies. There are a number of Kiwi smart home examples to help give you more insights into living with a smart home, from simple to high-end homes.