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Smart home tech isn't just convenient — it's added security and peace of mind to my life

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 (opens in new tab) in my foyer, an August Smart Lock (opens in new tab) on my back door (we park out back), a Ring Video Doorbell 2 (opens in new tab) at each entrance, and smart lights from both Philips Hue (opens in new tab) and LIFX (opens in new tab) 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.

Even my lights have features to ward off would-be criminals.

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.

Smart home tech can feel superfluous at times, but I'm always glad to have it.

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.

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

9 Comments
  • By the same token, the very same smart home tech can be used against you (particularly in domestic abuse situations) and the internet at large (remember that botnet made up of smart devices that took down Dyn a couple of years back?). So while it may make you feel safer, it also has the very real potential to be unsafe for you at the same time.
  • As if on cue, a story about how Ring employees may have been spying on you through their doorbells and security cameras shows up here proving my point. Awkward much?
  • Very true! And yeah, today's news about Ring was definitely ... disheartening, to say the least. Smart home tech is still sort of a double-edged sword at this point, unfortunately.
  • Timely article. I've just made my first home purchase and want to add smart home security. I've been debating whether to save money and use multiple ecosystems or go with Nest products since I'm very comfortable with Google's ecosystem. Anyone have recommendations on it when it comes to security hub, sensors and outdoor cameras?
  • I have just started to set up smart home features. I love the fact that lights manufactured by l i f x are very simple to use and easy to set up. You can use Google or Alexa to control the lights as well as their applications for smartphones. I asked I also installed a smart doorbell which has turned out to be very very handy. I say get started do it slow and learn.
  • Thanks for the recommendation! Yeah going to get pieces at a time but I need a security system, doorbell and camera. Lights can wait.
  • Go with SmartThings as your hub, and when adding things if it doesn't work with Z-wave or Zigbee consider other options. You don't want to have 15 different apps to control your smart home.
  • Of you could have 15 different apps, but control everything centrally with something like OpenHab.
  • Eco mode is great if you want to lobotomise Nest and turn it into a dumb PIR triggered thermostat.
    If you've enabled "Eco Temperatures: Automatically use Eco temperatures when no one’s at home?" then it'll allow the house to cool to the eco temp when you're out and then ignore any schedule it's built up though learning, only switching on when you physically move in front of the thermostat again. In winter you come home to a cold house!