Are you curious about those devices that turn your lights off and your music on, or get you a real-time weather report, and control your other smart electronics? These “personal assistant” robots don’t serve breakfast in bed or wash the dishes (yet) — but they can make life pretty convenient. In a nutshell, personal assistant robots are a lot like the virtual assistant on your smartphone, but with special communication channels that can speak to a “smart” thermostat, security system, or even refrigerator. If you don’t have any of those, you can use the device for storing and playing music or for the convenience of doing hands-free web queries around the house.
One important factor to consider when buying “smart home” devices is that, as small and specialized as they are, they are computers, so they can be hacked and attacked. For example, the recent cyber attack that affected Netflix, Twitter, and other big sites used malicious software to mount the attack from billions of household devices like DVRs, cable set-top boxes, and security cameras. Today, smart devices are still a growing market, so individual homes may not be a target for attackers and thieves. But you still need to think about security when buying and installing these devices.
Smart home devices do talk amongst themselves, but they ultimately connect to the Internet through the same Wi-Fi connection as your computers and mobile devices, so the best protection is to have good security on your home network. Do some research before buying one to find out whether there are known security issues. And when installing a device, be sure to change the manufacturer’s default password to a strong password of your own choosing.
As smart home technology becomes more common, manufacturers are developing stronger security standards. With any luck, by the time most of us are having daily conversations with our refrigerators, security won’t be a big issue. In the meantime, if you’re giving yourself, or anyone else, the gift of a smarter home, think like a smart consumer first.