Smart technology is integrated into nearly every part of our lives, including our homes. From smart thermostats to smart appliances, security systems, and even light fixtures, artificial intelligence and machine learning can help to make our lives easier and increase our home’s value at the same time. However, not all smart technology is created equal. Here’s what you need to know about smart technology for the home, plus the six not-so-smart home upgrades you might want to avoid.
Meet the Expert
- Jacob Hinson is the Founder of eLocker, a company specializing in smart locker systems.
- Keely Smith is Lead Designer at JD Elite Interiors, an interior design firm based in Vancouver, Canada.
- Alex Capozzolo is the Co-Founder of SD House Guys, a San Diego-based home cash buyer with extensive expertise in buying and selling real estate.
What to Consider When Choosing “Smart” Upgrades for Your Home
The ability to remotely control devices inside your home using just your phone may seem like a cool and novel idea, but before you spend thousands on outfitting your home with the latest smart tech, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, ask yourself if the investment is worth the value—both literally and figuratively. Will this technology really save you time and bring you added convenience? Will it add value to your home in the long term when it comes time to resell? Keep in mind that not everyone is technologically savvy, so a fully “smart” home may actually be a deterrent for some buyers since they may view the technology as too difficult to operate.
In addition, don’t forget that each smart home upgrade is an additional device added to your home’s network. Your devices will only work as well as your internet does, so you may need to upgrade your home internet service or install internet hubs or bridges throughout your home to increase your wifi range and speed—all adding to the overall cost of installation and upkeep. Also, don’t forget that any disturbance to your home’s internet service means that the connected devices will no longer work properly, which could be a major inconvenience.
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to smart home upgrades is that there are lots of different brands and systems on the market and not all of them are easily compatible with one another. Sometimes, trying to get different systems to work together seamlessly just isn’t worth the trouble.
Lastly, any device that is connected to the internet is vulnerable to hackers, posing potential security risks. Keep this in mind when choosing the types of smart upgrades that you add to your home.
Voice Activated Assistants
Voice-activated assistants are everywhere these days. They are capable of performing a range of functions from answering questions to turning on music, placing a grocery order, or controlling other smart connected devices. However, experts agree that they can open up your home to potential security risks.
“This is because these devices are always “listening” for keywords to execute commands,” says Jacob Hinson, founder of eLocker. “Their lack of privacy settings makes it easy for anyone on the same network as you to access conversations and audio recordings stored in the cloud by the assistant."
Smart Door Locks
Nearly every expert we spoke to agreed: steer clear of smart door locks.
“While smart locks can be a convenient way to control access to your home, they can also be a security risk,” says Keely Smith, Lead Interior Designer at JD Elite Interiors. “They can be vulnerable to hacking, and some models have been shown to be easily bypassed,” she adds.
Experts agree that in their experience, smart appliances aren’t usually worth the investment. Once the novelty wears off, homeowners tend to find that the smart functionality doesn’t provide that much extra value in comparison to the high price tag. Plus, smart appliances are one of those things that likely won’t add to your home’s resale value. Not everyone wants a refrigerator that can talk back to them.
Smart Baby Monitors
While the idea of being able to keep an eye on your baby directly from your phone may seem like a novel idea, the last thing any parent wants is a stranger hacking into the feed and watching along with you. Like all wifi-connected devices, smart baby monitors are vulnerable to hackers which makes these devices not worth the risk, advises Alex Capozzolo, co-founder of San Diego-based SD House Guys. Instead, choose radio-style baby monitors or baby monitors that function on a private network.
Smart lightbulbs and fixtures have some cool features, including the ability to control the brightness and color of the light from your phone, but they tend to be difficult to set up. Plus, if your wifi goes down, you lose the ability to turn the lights on. Let’s be realistic: how inconvenient is turning a light switch on and off, really? Add this one to the list of “smart” home upgrades that just aren’t worth the investment and likely won’t help your resale value.
Smart Security Cameras with Facial Recognition
Smart security cameras, particularly the ones with facial recognition technology, may seem like a great way to increase your home’s security. However, smart security cameras and systems aren’t innately safe to use.
“Serious privacy concerns are associated with collecting and storing facial data,” says Hinson. "The accuracy of facial recognition technology can be easily affected by external factors such as lighting, angle, and even the age of the person being scanned,” he says. Also, like any wifi-connected device smart security cameras and systems are vulnerable to hackers.