If commanding the lights and heating in your home remotely by voice sounds very convenient, there are a lot of things that could go wrong with such a system.
You probably noticed that everyday items are suddenly turning ‘smart’ – watches, TV sets and even clothes now come with built-in microprocessors that enable them to connect to the internet. With the technology we have now, it isn’t too hard to imagine the concept of a ‘smart home’, highly responsive and automated living space where every item is a part of the network that can be customized to fit owner’s needs perfectly.
While this idea looks like a logical progression of our obsession with technology, there are numerous aspects of it that deserve second thought. Practical implementation is never as smooth as the theoretical model and the downsides of the fully digitalized living space could be significant, even if they are not so obvious. The following issues should be taken into account when judging the merits of technologically enhanced homes:
Convenience comes at a price
Even with all the advances in hardware manufacturing, processors and other equipment needed to control home appliances remotely raises their price to a certain extent. When you account for maintenance, software updates and optional services, the final bill could get quite large. The difference is well justified if you consider the additional functionalities you get, but the real question is whether those functionalities are actually needed as much as advertised. Underneath the shiny surface, the entire concept of ultra-connected home could be seen as a marketing ploy to sell premium models of home utensils to consumers who would be just as happy with cheaper alternatives.
Software failures can be a problem
If your refrigerator or heater stops working, you can simply call someone to take care of it. However, failure of a smart appliance could be due to a number of different reasons, and it makes no sense to call the hardware guy if the issue is on the software side. Apart from total failures, it is likely that at least in the first phase the system would have occasional hiccups and these could easily result in serious discomfort for the occupants. A simple glitch could lock the owner outside of the house in his pajamas or cause a flood in the living room while everyone’s on vacation. That might be too steep price to pay for voice-controlled microwave operation.
Privacy concerns are scary
Every piece of electronic equipment with the capacity to connect to a network can potentially be hacked, and in case of your home the implications are immense. High tech robberies would be possible without the need to physically break into the premises, necessitating massive security measures to counteract this threat. In addition to criminals, marketers could also greedily covet information from your home – for example picking up the times of the day when you are preparing food so they could serve you food-related ads. Literally every detail of our lives would be accessible to intruders, with consequences that are difficult to predict.