SarahBeenySpringIssue2017 - 206
'Not one of my
been a waste of
time or money'
The most futuristic incarnation of
a smart home is a house that can
obey voice commands - and this is
getting very close to reality.
Connecting various systems into
one is already possible with artificial
intelligence-type personal assistants.
Created by Google, Samsung, Amazon
and Apple, they respond to your voice.
Analyst Adam Simon, from market
research company Context, says
voice recognition has 'really galvanised
the smart home market - at last we've
got something bringing it together'.
All these systems tend to control
your music - Amazon's Echo device is
mainly a big speaker. The associated
app, Alexa, is the voice-activated
component that can also control
your lighting and temperature.
Google Home follows this
pattern, and although Apple's Siri
'intelligent assistant' doesn't have a
speaker version yet, the software has
been controlling iPhones for years and
can now interact with other devices.
The security benefits of having home
surveillance are pretty obvious: should
your property be targeted by vandals
or burglars, you have evidence of the
culprit. Also, conspicuous cameras can
be a deterrent in themselves.
If you are away from home often,
the ability to check your property from
afar can give you peace of mind and
help you to keep on top of essential
But there are less obvious uses for
CCTV - perhaps you want to check who
is at the door before you answer it.
Smart cameras connect to a Wi-Fi
network and only start recording when
triggered by movement. Depending
206 | MAY 2017
on the system you choose, it may
have night vision, speakers to record
and transmit sound, and even the
capability to live stream to your phone.
A subtler option is a tiny camera
on the door, such as the Ring Video
Doorbell, which uses Wi-Fi to allow
you to see and talk to visitors using a
smartphone, whether you are home
or away - or even abroad.
Before installing anything, it's
worth brushing up on the law: home
CCTV systems are legal, but cameras
cannot be pointed at neighbouring
properties and the footage must not
be shared with anyone apart from the
police. You should also display a notice
warning people that you are using
CCTV and recording the footage.
A window sticker is often included
with the recorder for this purpose.
A HOUSE THAT OBEYS VOICE
COMMANDS IS GETTING
VERY CLOSE TO REALITY
Of course, the IoT's greatest strength
can be its weakness: if someone hacks
your home network, they may have
access to all your connected devices.
Ondrej Vlcek, the chief technology
officer of antivirus software firm Avast,
says: 'With the growth of the connected
home, everything from cars to routers,
video monitors to thermostats are
more vulnerable to attack than ever.'
With this in mind, setting different
passwords for different services, and
changing them regularly, can make
your personal IoT harder to hack.
'Over the years, I have installed
a smart intruder alarm, lighting
control switches and energy
monitoring by LightwaveRF, air
conditioning by Mitsubishi, indoor
and outdoor weather stations by
Netatmo, indoor CCTV by Foscam
and outdoor CCTV by Swann. I also
own a fitness tracker and weight
scales by Fitbit and an Apple Watch
to link up my personal data.
'The best thing they give me is
peace of mind. I like having the ability
to react to things as they happen,
rather than waiting until I get home.
'Being able to see and change
devices in the house when I'm not
there is very convenient. One day,
before I had the smart heating app,
the temperature dropped and a pipe
froze and spilt - I had no idea until
I got home. Now I have the app, I
receive a notification whenever the
temperature drops and can adjust the
heating - no more frozen pipes.
'From a practical point of view,
the ability to silence and reset the
intruder alarm when it goes off is
the most useful. It's usually a false
alarm, but I can check the house
is safe and then stop it ringing
unnecessarily, wherever I am.
'I find personal data helpful for
keeping fit and goal-setting. If, for
example, my goal is to take 70,000
steps per week and by Friday I've
only done 45,000, then I know
I need to do 24,000 steps over
the weekend, instead of 10,000.
'Occasionally, using my gadgets
can be frustrating, but I can
honestly say not one of them has
been a waste of time or money.'
WORDS: NATALIE BOWEN, IMAGES: GETTY IMAGES
THE ALEXA APP
BOWEN, 55, AN
HAS FILLED HIS
WITH SMART GIZMOS