It’s Not A Smarthome
Day 13 of the #100DaysToOffload Series:
Jackie Craven defined a “smart house” for an article she wrote for ThoughtCo. as “a home that has highly advanced, automated systems to control and monitor any function of a house; lighting, temperature control, multi-media, security, window and door operations, air quality, or any other task of necessity or comfort performed by a home’s resident.”
This definition seems to be pretty widely accepted, but I’m going to say that if this is what a smart house is, very few actually exist.
If you Google “smart house”, you’re wasting your time. You’re going to get a bunch of links to some old Disney show. Don’t do that.
If you Google “smart home”, you’re probably going to get better results.
What you’re going to get is a lot of links to products to help you automate your home. Thermostats, security systems, speakers, voice assistants, light bulbs, plugs, stuff. All these things are supposed to make your home a “smart home” by helping you automate tasks. Turn your lights on and off, configure temperatures to know when you’re home and get used to your habits to “save you money”.
But here’s the deal. Almost all of these products come with a cloud service. Your data is being stored on someone’s server somewhere and they know when you’re home, when you’re not. They know when you go to bed and when you leave for work. They know how often you drink coffee or vacuum your floor.
When I was in college not everybody owned a computer. Most people didn’t in fact. To give students access to their campus email, there were dumb terminals all over campus, and labs of them in the engineering buildings. They were called dumb terminals because they were basically just a screen and a keyboard. All the hard work was done on a server these terminals were connected to.
That’s what these “smart home” devices are too. They’re not doing the hard work. They’re connecting to a service on the Internet that’s doing all the hard work. That means that besides being a #privacy nightmare, they’re useless without Internet. That means, if you’re using these products, your home is a “dumb home”, not a smart one.
If you want a true Smart Home, all your services need to be self contained. They need to work just as well with or without Internet access. As long as the network in the house is working, your automation should too.
I’m not sure this kind of home exists for the lay person.
I’ve looked around at bulbs that don’t require Internet. Even tried LIFX, which worked some of the time and then would randomly lose connection to the network, meaning I would need to turn things on and off the old fashioned way. Not that smart.
I haven’t seen a single thermostat that would operate without cloud services while still allowing “smart” features.
The only voice assistant I know that can pull that off is Mycroft with it’s Selene, but I haven’t even tried that one yet.
I don’t know of any plugs that work without the cloud, but I haven’t looked much either.
There’s just no motivation for today’s “smart home” appliance makers to build devices that don’t require their cloud services. They’re getting information about you while selling you a product, so they get to double dip with minimal expense.
The fact of the matter is, if we want a “smart home” instead of a “dumb home”, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and the current cadre of hardware manufacturers are unlikely to give us any aid.
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