5 common objections to smart home products (that are totally stupid and wrong)
Smart home technology is still pretty new, and a lot of people aren’t yet sure that they like, or trust, all these newfangled doohickeys. So we take a few minutes to look at the five most common objections to smart products that we hear, over and over again.
#5. We’ve been getting along just fine for over 70 years without having our toaster/fridge/egg tray/clothes dryer connected to the internet. Why fix something that isn’t broken?
This is, by far, the one I hear the most often and do you know what you people sound like? Every grandfather in the history of humans. “Ain’t no way I want anythin’ to do with them thar horseless carriages! Horses have been fine for my family since the dawn of time. No sense changin’ that now!” Ok, maybe I can agree that not all change is a step forward, and there is some merit to the cynical view that “new and improved” is nothing more than a cash grab.
But every advancement that humans have ever made was an attempt to replace an old process or product with one that does more or works better. Since the invention of the first stone tools, invention and improvement have been what separate us from any other animal in the history of the world. It is the essential core of what makes us human. To deny us our smart fridge is to deny us our humanity.
Some inventions actually make us a little less human, though.
#4. I don’t want my coffee machine to send me text messages.
This side of the argument actually makes a lot more sense to me. Invention is great, blah blah blah, but our history is full of great people with wild imaginations inventing all kinds of dumb shit just because they can, without actually giving any thought at all to whether or not they should. Like subprime mortgages. Or New Coke. I can see how many, and maybe even most, of the IoT devices that have been released so far could fall into this category. I suppose there might be some very narrow circumstance in which getting a text message from your coffee machine that your coffee is ready could be useful, but it’s a pretty trivial feature in even the best of cases.
The fact is, like a toddler introducing a screwdriver to an electrical socket, many manufacturers are trying to jam a lot of smart products into dumb environments, with predictable results. The smartest things in most people’s homes are their smartphones and their wives (no, not in that order), and expecting your smart crock pot to revolutionize your life overnight is unrealistic. But ultimately, the true vision of the smart home doesn’t live in any one product, but in the ecosystem that is built when you have multiple smart products working together.
The real attraction of IoT devices is not in the new ways we can interact with our devices, but in the ways that they will be able to interact with each other without us. When my home knows that I am approaching the house and unlocks the front door, disarms the alarm, turns on my lights, sets the temperature how I like it and pours me a martini, all without me doing a damn thing, I can see the appeal of IoT. And all of these things are possible today with low cost solutions. Except for the martini thing. Seriously, someone needs to get on that.
I’ll agree that so far the average smart appliance isn’t a huge leap forward from a regular appliance, but this is set to change fairly rapidly as the rest of the smart environment evolves. After all, the first cars had to drive on roads designed for horses and bicycles, but that doesn’t mean that bicycles were the best long term solution.
Clearly the pinnacle of modern transportation.
#3. I’m afraid that connecting my appliances to the internet means that Chinese hackers could hack into my fridge.
Ok, so if this is the main fear that holds you back from buying a smart home product, the first thing you need to ask yourself is, “have I forgotten to take my pills today?” The second thing you should ask yourself is why, exactly, these foreign super hackers would care about hacking into your fridge to read your grocery list, or hacking your washing machine to see how long you have left in your spin cycle. Things get a bit more complicated with the rise of connected locks and connected cameras, since if these devices can be hacked then people could, in theory, gain access to your home or watch you through your cameras without your knowledge. So, surely if these breaches of home security are possible it means that no one should buy or use these devices, right?
First of all, let’s take another quick look at the traditional door lock. A cylinder, a few pins and a jagged key are what you put all of your faith in now to keep the bad guys out of your house. But this lock can be bypassed in under 60 seconds by someone with a basic set of lockpicks that they bought online, and about 2 weeks of practice following tutorials on youtube. Basically, if you install a smart lock on your front door, it would still be far easier for the common criminal to pick the lock using traditional methods than to suddenly try to learn how to hack.
As for the cameras, let me ask you this: do you have a webcam on your computer? Are you afraid that, right now, someone might have hacked your computer and is watching you through it? If you answered, “yes",” then I can’t help you. Sell all your stuff, move to Pennsylvania and join the Amish. But if you answered, “no",” then chances are it’s because a) you didn’t use “password” or your dog’s name as the password for your computer and b) you realized a long time ago that while it is always possible for bad things to happen to good people, these things don’t actually happen all that often (statistically) and we can’t spend our lives worrying about them. This is the logic which allows us to partake in other potentially deadly activities like flying in an airplane, swimming in the ocean, or eating a McRib.
I never knew that death could taste so GOOD!
Of course you don’t want someone spying on you. Neither do I. But I didn’t brick up all of the windows in my house to prevent someone from being able to look inside. That’s what blinds are for. Just think of your passwords as your window shades and you’ll be fine.
#2. No one needs a smart home. Are people so lazy that they can’t get up and walk 10 feet to the light switch?
Of course no one needs a smart home. No one needs a car, either. Are people so lazy that they can’t just walk 20 miles to their office? No one needs an oven. Are people so lazy that they can’t just build a fire to cook over? Sheesh.
Of course no one needs this stuff. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t make life a little bit easier and a little bit more fun. I don’t need most of the stuff in my life, but I’m still glad that I have it. Except for my Slap Chop. That thing sucks, for real.
#1. I don’t want my thermostat to be spying on me. There are too many privacy concerns with all of these smart products.
There isn’t an easy way to break this to you, so I’m just going to come right out and say it: unless you are living in an Afgani cave, or somewhere equally backwards and depressing like rural Arkansas, you have already signed away your digital privacy a long time ago. If you own a smartphone, if you have email, or if you browse the web from your home computer, companies are already collecting boatloads of personal information on you. And, for the most part, we don’t care. Or, if we do, it’s in a kind of passive-aggressive way where we won’t stop using the products that track us, but we love to bitch about our “privacy rights” being violated. This is the bargain that we entered into with technology companies. They provide us with amazing products like the iPhone, or Gmail or facebook, and we provide them with access to our personal information. They, in turn, use this information to develop new products that we may like, or to provide us with advertising that we are likely to find relevant.
Some people don’t use facebook for precisely this reason. They simply don’t feel that the benefit of the service outweighs the cost of giving up their personal information. That is a perfectly reasonable and defensible position. It’s not how I feel, but the universe does not revolve around my feelings and, I guess, your feelings are just as valid as mine. Or so my court appointed therapist keeps trying to tell me.
“Sometimes I feel like you’re not even listening to me.”
It’s true that smart home products will, often, collect data on your usage habits and send that data back to Google, Apple, Samsung, or some other product manufacturer. The questions then are: what is Google going to use this information for, and do I care if Samsung knows what time I like to go to bed at night? Personally, I’m happy to trade some personal information in exchange for cool tech, but I get that this might not be a deal that everyone is prepared to make.
I’m sure that there are other (incorrect and stupid) objections to smart home products that I haven’t listed above. Let me know what objections you have, in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to let you know why you are wrong.