Internet of Things Handbook Issue: How Mr. Robot hacked the IoT + more

In this issue:

02 Will connected homes catch on? Reality doesn’t match the marketing.
16 Who is after big data?
23 The new face of machinery
35 Thwarting hackers on the IoT

 


Will connected homes catch on? Reality doesn’t match the marketing.

Many of the applications envisioned as part of the internet of things revolve around connecting everyday home appliances to the cloud. As more of this kind of connected gadgetry has come onto the market, we are getting a better idea of what an IoTconnected home looks like. Indications are the reality doesn’t match up with the marketing.

According to surveys and focus groups conducted by the research firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), much of the motivation for installing connected devices is to get a home security system. The idea of smart thermostats and other home automation gear only resonates with consumers as a means of saving money on utility bills. The convenience aspect of such devices sounds appealing, but few consumers are willing to pay anything extra for more convenience, according to PWC’s data. That may be one reason why only about 26% of all internet users in the U.S. currently own a smart home device. Moreover, recent market projections anticipate the use of smart home devices slowly creeping up rather than growing exponentially, as optimists once believed.

It is easy to understand the reasons behind the slow growth: Working with smart home devices is a hassle. At our offices here, we have done teardowns of smart home devices such as smart LED bulbs. Our experience with them is that the commissioning process is not one most consumers would put up with.

For example, consider what’s required to get the thirdgeneration Nest Thermostat going. Because of well-chronicled security problems, Nest added two-factor authentication to its smart phone app. Now, Nest thermostat users must open the app, go to an account security setting, activate ‘two-step verification,’ then sign in, enter a password, get a text with the verification code, tap in the code, and finally get into the app. To make matters slightly more complicated, everyone in a household can have their own separate Nest account and, of course, must be separately authenticated. All this just to set the temperature for your home.

Perhaps the complicated nature of smart home apps explains the attraction some people have toward voice control – telling an Amazon Echo to turn the heat up sounds a lot simpler than punching in arduous key sequences on a smart phone. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that there are now 8.2 million Amazon Echoes in use. That would mean about 6.5% of all U.S. households have one. Research shows that the most popular use for voice controllers today is to change TV channels. Time will tell whether other uses will catch on.

It is interesting to note, however, that surveys of households already using voice controllers find that people don’t really worry about the privacy concerns. Cynics might say most conversations in their homes are boring anyway, so no one cares if an Amazon Echo overhears them.

But we suspect there might be a reason for the popularity of voice controllers that surveys don’t catch: Home owners accustomed to having their kids and their spouse ignore what they say might see a voice control unit as a godsend. With a voice controller, finally there is something in the house that listens to them.

Comments

  1. William K. says:

    It iis far more convenient to press one button to tell my thermostat what temperature I want then to have it guessing based on what I wanted yesterday. And doing it from a phone with security of any kind would be much less convenient yet.
    The whole home automation fad is a frantic solution seeking a problem. What small demand does exist is the very rich wanting toys to demonstrate their riches. There is no consumer demand,nor will there ever be one, unless the cost drops a lot and the alleged benefits actually materialize.

  2. Jay Taylor says:

    The remaining issue that was not really discussed in your article is the physical (infrastructure) required in your house to make the serious gadgets work. Want remote control of your drapes? You need motors, power wiring, control wiring, controller and cat5/6 cable to be secure. Want a video feed from your fridge? You need the $1500 fridge first. Want to reliably lock your front door with your phone? You have to install the lock, and power wiring if you don’t feel like putting batteries in the lock on a regular schedule. Want a groovy remote-controlled gas fireplace? Dig the valve out of the bricks where it’s installed first, etc, etc.

    William’s right, the real equipment is expensive to install, hard to maintain, and mostly not worth it to the typical consumer.

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