How much do you know about smart homes? The name alone inspires imaginations of a sci-fi living space chock-full of holograms and talking refrigerators. But as futuristic and absurd as the idea might seem, so-called “smart” residential designs are on the rise, especially in tech-friendly cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. But what actually constitutes a smart home, anyway? Is it enough to have an Amazon Echo in your living room – or do you need more?
Coldwell Banker recently settled the question with its own definition. According to them, a smart home is:
“A home that is equipped with network-connected products (i.e., “smart products,” connected via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or similar protocols) for controlling, automating and optimizing functions such as temperature, lighting, security, safety or entertainment, either remotely by a phone, tablet, computer or a separate system within the home itself […] The home must have a smart security feature or a smart temperature feature in addition to a reliable internet connection. It then must include at least two features from a list of smart options, including appliances, entertainment, lighting, outdoor sensors, and safety detectors.”
These features sound intriguing, and are especially so to those in luxury real estate, where forward-thinking quirks like these can put a high-end property above other competitive listings. But are they worth it for the homeowner? Here, I consider the pros and cons.
Security stands as one of the most talked-about features of smart home technology. Homeowners can reassure their concerns during long-distance trips by checking in on residential camera feeds and monitoring motion detectors. Locks and doorbells can be manipulated remotely, thereby allowing residents to let in guests and keep out intruders while off-site. Remote answering software even allows you to talk to those at your door and give the impression that homeowners are at home even when they aren’t.
With a smart home, you can change your heating settings, access the intercom, and give directions to music and multimedia devices – all while sitting in the comfort of your couch. This allows homeowners to bypass the inconvenience inherent in most common chores and tasks.
Homeowners who want to mind their environmental footprint should consider investing in smart home technology. Motion-activated lights and smart heating systems can help residents cut down on their energy waste and live sustainably.
Unfortunately, the very control that makes smart homes so appealing doubles as their greatest flaw. If intruders manage to get their hands on a homeowner’s credentials, their security can be turned against them. A recent study conducted by Saarland University found that “Non-encrypted systems provide large quantities of data to anyone determined enough to access the data, and the attacker requires no prior knowledge about the system, nor about the user being spied on.” In short, your smart home could provide intruders with your data and give them information on your daily routine. If you plan to invest in a smart home, you should have a professional inspect the property and determine the potential risk to your security.
While convenient, some “smart” customizations can be expensive. If you plan to sell, think carefully before dedicating your time and resources towards installing technology; in the end, doing so might not be a financially reasonable way to up the value of a home.