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What to Look for When Buying a Smart Home

By Amanda Curry · Oct 23, 2016 · Technology

What to Look for When Buying a Smart Home

Image courtesy of Flicrk, aesop

Did I set the security system? Did I turn off the lights? A smart home gives you the control to check on these things from your smart phone or tablet.

Technology has made it incredibly easy to stay on top of our daily tasks, keep in touch with family, and give you peace of mind.

When you're not home, nagging questions can crowd your mind. Did I set the security system? Did I turn off the lights? A smart home gives you the control to check on these things from your smart phone or tablet. You can connect these devices and appliances in your home so that they can communicate with each other and you.

As technology evolves, more home buyers are demanding smart home features. A recent survey by Coldwell Banker Real Estate showed that nearly two thirds of its agents have found that homebuyers are more interested in homes with smart features and technology than they were just two to five years ago.

We examine how smart homes work, questions to consider when buying a home with smart technology, and some of the hottest products and trends in smart home technology.

How Smart Homes Work

It may seem like smart homes is relatively new, however, home automation has a long history.

In 1978, a company in Scotland developed X10. X10 allows compatible products to talk to each other over the already existing electrical wires of a home. All the appliances and devices are receivers, while the remote controls and keypads control the system as a transmitter. If you want to turn off a lamp in another room, the transmitter will issue a message alerting the system it's issues a command, identifying a unit number for the device that should receive the command, and provides a code that contains the actual command (ex: “turn off”).

While X10 devices are still around, other technologies have emerged in the home automation industry. Plus, instead of utilizing power lines, newer technologies use radio waves to communicate. (That's how BlueTooth and WiFi work).

What to Consider When Buying Smart Home

If you are considering purchasing a smart home, or incorporating smart home devices into your humble abode, here are some questions to consider.

Does the smart device offer authentication?

One thing to consider is if the smart device requires a username or password for access. Many smart devices have no means of providing authentication. A well designed smart device will have some sort of authentication capability that will allow you to properly control it.

You may think that authentication is a standard feature of smart home products; however, this is not the case. Some manufacturers assume that your local WiFi network should be able to provide this security. Unfortunately, this leaves smart devices more susceptible to attacks, since anyone who has access to the local WiFi network can intercept, monitor, or attack devices easily.

How well does the smart device keep itself update?

Updateability is important when it comes to smart home technology as it keeps your smart devices functioning properly and securely. Ask if the product updates automatically or if you will get a notification that it's out of date. If you have to update it yourself, find out how difficult the process of updating the device is.

Does the smart device properly encrypt its firmware updates and network communications?

Although a smart device advertises the use of encryption, some may not implement encryption properly or fully. If a smart device fails to properly encrypt its network communications, homeowners could be exposed to possible intrusions. An attacker could disrupt or take control of the device by reconstructing and mimicking an update.

Does the smart device require any open ports?

Open ports will increase the attack surface of a smart device. The less open ports, the better. Check your smart home devices to see if they require any open ports.

How does the smart device handle a low or dead battery?

Will the smart device notify you of the low battery? Do you know how to change the battery? When a smart device runs out of battery, it could stop functioning and open up consumers to physical risks, especially if the device is tied into sensors on windows, smoke detectors or smart door locks.

6 Smart Home Products to Consider

Smart home features can basically be broken down into three different categories: practical and functional use, lifestyle and entertainment, and safety and security. Here are some of the trendiest smart home products on the market right now.

High Tech Appliances

South Korean tech company LG Electronics is a leader in premium smart kitchen appliances. Not only are these products going to make your home more functional, but if you are looking to sell your home soon, they are quite appealing to buyers, too.

The stainless-steel line includes refrigerators, cooktops, ranges and ovens, dishwashers and microwaves. Several of the appliances are even Energy Star approved. With these appliances you'll enjoy LED touchscreen displays, microwave sensor cooking and gourmet recipe banks.

Smart Thermostat

A high-tech thermostat can be controlled by a smartphone and programmed to learn a homeowner's daily routine and adjust the home's temperature accordingly. Sensors are used to keep track of whether the home is empty and will adjust to use less energy if no one is there. This can help homeowners save serious cash, which makes it so appealing. Check out the Nest Learning Thermostat if you are interested.

Control your Lighting

Lighting isn't just about convenience - it's very important for having a secured property.

The Caseta Wireless system will control your lighting, shades and temperature and works by use of your smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch.

Keep your Family Safe

One of the greatest reasons homeowners turn towards smart technology is to protect their family and property. The iSmart Alarm system allows you to do this by giving you the opportunity to watch your property from anywhere – without paying the monthly fees that are often attached to traditional security systems.

The iSmart Alarm system comes with window sensors, door sensors, motion detectors and camera that are all connected wirelessly. Users can control the system via an app from their smartphone or tablet.

Best Hub

If you have a variety of smart home gadgets, having a central system will integrate and control them all. The Samsung SmartThings hub works with a wide range of device and has a battery backup. You can monitor your home from anywhere and control it from the palm of your hand. At less than $100, the SmartThings hub is an effective smart product that won't break the bank.

Smart Lock

A smart lock will allow you to punch in random codes to open your door and alerts you if someone tries to break in. Kwikset's Smartcode 916 is a touchscreen electronic deadbolt that connects with most smart home hubs, giving you the peace of mind that your family is protected.

The Bottom Line

It's no surprise that smart home technology is here to stay. If you are looking for a home that has smart technology already integrated, or looking to include new technology in your home, it's important to do your research and ask questions. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier – not harder. The last thing you want to do is have all of this technology at your fingertips and not be able to use.

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