Ever since I moved out of my apartment and into my first house last summer, I've accumulated a lot of smart home tech. There's a Nest Learning Thermostat in my foyer, an August Smart Lock on my back door (we park out back), a Ring Video Doorbell 2 at each entrance, and smart lights from both Philips Hue and LIFX in almost every room.
It all feels superfluous at times, and just about every time I buy a new smart product I whisper to myself "this is a silly purchase." Smart home tech just seems to have that unnecessary, lazy connotation to it — glorified toys for adults with too much disposable income, and while there may be some truth to that, I've come to really appreciate a side of smart home tech that I didn't see before: it makes me feel safer.
Between press events for work, out-of-state concerts, and various other trips, I go out of town a lot, which means home security is a big deal to me. Outdoor security cameras are a big help, of course, but to my surprise, they're far from the only smart home tech keeping would-be criminals away. My smart lights all have various methods of making it look like someone's home by turning on and off at random times when I'm away.
I don't even have to tell them when to start doing that — they integrate with my Nest thermostat to know when I leave the house. My smart lock also automatically locks behind me when I shut the door, which means I can't forget to do it myself, something I'm guilty of doing more often than I'd care to admit in my last home. The lock also lets me add temporary digital "keys" for any friends or family I might have check up on the house while I'm gone, and keeps track of exactly who's unlocking my door and when.
Sometimes I feel like all of this security-focused tech is a little unnecessary. Just being able to see my front and back yards from my phone and getting notified of any suspicious motion on either side is already plenty, and even then, there's not much I can do if someone is actively trying to break into my home, aside from call the cops or tell the burglars that they're on camera. Then again, maybe it's just the control freak in me, but I feel at ease just being able to check in from time and time, even while I'm out, and make sure that everything's looking okay.
It's also been great for the holiday season, when porch package theft is at its highest point. My neighborhood has had a ton of problems with package theft lately, and it's great to be able to see exactly when things are dropped off at my door so I can get home as quickly as possible and take them inside.
Of course, there's a flip side to all of this. While smart home tech can be a great way to keep unwanted intruders out of your home, it may also be inviting others in. It just came to light that Ring employees have been able to view customers' camera feeds using just their email address. This is allegedly for employees to improve the company's facial and object recognition software, but no matter the reason, it's an enormous invasion of privacy, and it makes me immediately averse to recommending Ring to my friends.
When you buy a piece of smart home tech, you're giving up a level of privacy and entrusting the manufacturer to not take advantage of its new presence within your home. It's no stretch to say that we're probably giving away that trust too freely; along with cameras, just about every gadget with an internet connection has a microphone these days, which can be just as invasive. The sad truth is that there's just no way to guarantee absolute privacy in a smart home.
Still, I'm willing to live with that fact in exchange for the convenience, safety, and peace of mind all of this technology has brought me. Not everybody will feel that way, and that's perfectly valid — I'm probably too lax about my personal privacy, to be completely honest. But in the grand scheme of things, I like to think that outfitting my home with smart tech has done more good than harm for me, and I'm happy to have it all.
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Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.