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Four things to consider before you buy into home automation

By George Kiongo | May 2nd 2018 at 11:34:12 GMT +0300

A smart home

It’s no secret that artificial intelligence (AI) is creeping into our homes fast. With home broadband connections taking root and becoming the norm in most middle-class estates, the allure of bringing AI to the house is understandable.

Imagine the convenience of having a smart assistant – whether it’s Google Assistant, Amazon Echo, Microsoft’s Cortana or even Apple’s Siri – with the ability to answer almost any question instantly, as well as control your home appliances, like your TV, security cameras, smart bulbs or curtains, with nothing more than a voice command.

But as with all new developments, there’s the good and the bad, so here are a few caveats you need to look at before you get your feet wet in the pond that’s home automation.

1. Cost

Smart homes can cost anything from a few thousand shillings to millions, depending on whether you’re willing to give up some privacy to ‘freemium’ services like Google Home or Amazon. These firms offer cheap hardware – for instance, a Google Home mini device will set you back about Sh8,000 – for a chance to monetise the content they get from your interactions. Niche smart home offerings from companies like Lutron Electronics, on the other hand, don’t come cheap, but they offer excellent reliability and first-class security, so in this regard, you get what you pay for.

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2. Security

Almost all smart home implementations require a fast wi-fi connection to work. They often need to pick up your commands send them back to their home base servers for the AI to interpret the words into meaningful actions that the home assistant can then implement. This process, if not safeguarded, can easily leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks. Imagine yourself as a Password Santa, so spread the cheer by putting in passwords on as many smart home devices as possible.

3. Fragmentation

In this new, exciting foray, every manufacturer is trying to control the space and become the dominant player. This has led to a good number of them attempting to lock you into their ecosystem by making sure their products don’t play nice with other manufacturers’ products. So as you choose your smart bulbs and hubs, look for a firm that has a good repertoire of product offerings, or look for systems that are open, so when you decide to add more things later, you’re sure they will work with what you currently have installed.

4. Ease of use

As much as we geeks can appreciate having a multitude of features we can tinker with on smart home devices, most people tend to get overwhelmed by the sheer number and complexity of offerings. Some manufacturers know and appreciate that the majority just want something that works, so look out for these sorts of devices.

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