As the definition of “smart home” evolves, the importance of security increases, becoming top of mind for consumers. In fact, privacy and security concerns are among the top purchase barriers for those who don’t own smart devices, revealed Tech Journalist Andrea Smith at a CES 2021 roundtable. Participating in the discussion were Ohad Amir, CTO, Essence; Michelle Guss, director, Residential Business Development, Crestron; and Michael Mahan, VP, Home & Distribution Business, North America, Schneider Electric. 

Rise of the Intelligent Home

All participants agreed that the actual definition of the smart home has changed. While a few years ago, it was enough for the lights to dim or brighten or the temperature to adjust based on our commands; today, the call is for the home to be more intelligent—to just “know” when to perform these actions. 

“To truly make the home intelligent, it needs to do things automatically based on what the client likes to do during the day,” said Guss.  

Guss and Mahan agreed that the market drivers now also have shifted. It is no longer just about lighting and temperature control, but air quality, energy usage and water management.  

Certainly, integrators are poised to provide a connected product for all of those needs, but Mahan asserted: “Expectations will continue to grow, and we as an industry need to figure out how to make those things work together in a way that makes sense for the homeowner.” It is up to the integrator on the front and back ends to ease the homeowners’ concerns. 

Clearing the ‘Fog’

Because devices run on various platforms like Zigbee, ZWave and WiFi, at the start, Amir recommends that various chips be installed in the control unit to connect to what certain devices require. Having a layer in the cloud is also an option.      

“At Essence, we do both, connect devices through [the control unit] and cloud-based integration with digital assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant to make it seem like all of it comes from the same system,” Amir explained. 

To minimize interaction between devices and the cloud, Amir explained that Essence uses fog computing between edge devices and the cloud.      

“All private items like videos are down at the edge, and the cloud only receives what it needs to and does more heavy lifting, “ Amir further explained. 

Crestron Home automation systems are tailored to blend seamlessly into the fabric of your life. Crestron’s technology allows you to enjoy your passions effortlessly and live the ultimate luxury lifestyle. Photo/Courtesy Crestron Electronics
Transparency Is Key 

The products that are providing convenience are exposing our privacy. Trading a bit of privacy for this convenience means integrators need to gain consumers’ trust.      

“Consumer trust is essential for the development of the smart home industry,” Mahan noted. His advice is to be completely transparent with the consumer, explaining risks versus benefits, which also means ensuring them that if there is a problem, you will be there to correct it. 

“Consumers need to make sure they do business with reputable companies and understand where their data is going,” Guss added. “Convenience will always trump privacy concerns if they understand what the data is doing and trust in it.”