Automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) has had a major impact on home security in the last 10 years. Technologies like smart lights, smart locks and video surveillance have become more common in homes, providing users with increased security and more convenient lifestyles.
According to a 2015 report from Coldwell Banker, more than one in four adults (28 percent) have smart products in their homes. Of those users, 72 percent say these devices provide them with “peace of mind when it comes to security.”
But, it’s not just about security. Convenience is also a major factor in the widespread adoption of smart home technology. In fact, 87 percent of people who own these devices say it makes life easier, while 57 percent say having these products in their houses saves them about 30 minutes per day—that's 182.5 hours a year.
While the benefits of home automation are clear, a connected home isn’t truly a smart home without an integrated ecosystem. This page overviews all aspects of a smart home and the ecosystem behind it.
Click on the links below to easily navigate this guide.
Before we dive into the smart home ecosystem, we need to understand the basics of home automation and what makes a device “smart.”
- Connect to a network.
- Have the ability to wirelessly communicate with other connected devices.
- Be configured to autonomously perform tasks (e.g. locking and unlocking doors).
Some common examples of smart home devices include:
A smart home integrates all Internet-connected devices under a single network, allowing them to communicate with each other.
Smart homes use automation technology to manage household functions through a connected device, eliminating the need to perform manual controls like turning the lights on or off, arming your security system or locking your door. Tasks like this are performed in real time based on sensory data, preset schedules or a prompt from your device.
In addition to complete control over how your home operates, smart homes have several other advantages compared to conventional homes.
The ability to centrally manage all your home devices is a major convenience. By using one app on a smartphone or tablet, users can perform countless functions through smart home devices. This allows for easy, trouble-free home management.
A burglary occurred every 22.6 seconds in the U.S. in 2017. With smart home equipment, such as smart locks or remote access to alarms, you can gain increased visibility into and notifications for who is coming and going at your home.
Peace of Mind
Many consumers invest in home automation technology for peace of mind. Thanks to smart cameras and other technologies, homeowners can check in on their properties while they’re away. A new mom or dad can check on their little one while they’re out, or a family can monitor their home while they are on vacation.
Controlling your home’s functions from a distance is a major benefit of a smart home system. Remote control lets you manage all functions of your smart home using a mobile phone, tablet or computer. This means you can lock/open doors, receive sensor activity alerts, stream video surveillance and so much more from anywhere.
Depending on how you use your smart home technology, it’s possible to make your space more energy efficient, and therefore, to save money on your utility bills. For example, a smart thermostat gives you complete control over the heating and cooling in your home. Some even suggest the best energy efficient settings based on your temperature preferences and schedule. You can also program your lights to turn on and off automatically whenever you enter or leave the room.
Although there are many smart home benefits, there are a few challenges when it comes to building a system of your own. Here’s how to tackle the most common issues head on!
1. Challenge: Your Smart Home Devices Don’t Play Well Together.
With so many smart home gadgets to choose from, a common issue is your devices don’t automatically work together. Although many smart home devices connect to their own smartphone app, the best experience is being able to open a single app or use a single service to manage and control all of your smart gadgets at once.
Achieving this connectivity can be hard. Many times, devices from different manufacturers require complex integrations through tools like If This Then That (IFTTT) to achieve control through a single source.
Solution: Instead of piecemealing smart devices from different manufacturers, research device compatibility from the onset or connect with a smart home provider that owns its own infrastructure and offers a single platform for control.
2. Challenge: Your Smart Home Devices Aren’t Secure
Smart devices make great targets for hackers due to their sheer volume and overall lack of built-in security. There aren’t universally accepted IoT security standards, meaning manufacturers are not required to build devices to meet minimum security thresholds.
In addition to lack of industry standards, many owners don’t update factory passwords. In this case, hackers can scan the Internet for connected devices, attempt to log in via a list of commonly used default passwords and install malware to compromise the device.
Solution: To start, homeowners should create unique logins and passwords for all devices connected to the Internet. Beyond that, other best security practices include:
- Ask about security features before purchasing a smart device. As consumers start to demand more from their products, manufacturers will be forced to respond.
- Don’t plug it in and forget it. Install firmware updates as they roll out (note: they are often publicized on the manufacturer’s website), and schedule regular maintenance checks to ensure you’re protected.
- Disable unnecessary features. Review the list of default features, and opt out of any that you don’t need (e.g. remote access to your printer).
- Ensure a secure Internet connection. Set your Wi-Fi router to WPA2 (preferred) or WPA, and make sure it too is password protected.
- Have a professional install your device. This way, you can ensure proper protection from the start.
3. Challenge: Your Smart Home Integrations Stop Working.
As noted previously, when you piecemeal smart devices from different manufacturers, you often become reliant on web-based cloud service providers like If This Then That (IFTTT) to integrate devices. However, acquisitions, changing service plans and abandoned integrations are all possibilities with DIY security devices. Consumers must be cautious when piecemealing solutions together because one vendor change could disrupt their entire system.
For example, Internet of Things (IoT) startup Stringify was a home automation app that let users connect and control their smart home devices using advanced automated “Flows.” However, two years after it’s 2017 acquisition, it was removed from all app stores, shutting down service and support for all existing users, many of whom relied on it to power their smart home integrations.
Solution: Consider a smart home services provider that owns its own infrastructure. That way, you’re protected against uncontrollable service shutdowns.
A connected device that can’t participate as part of the smart home ecosystem isn’t smart; it’s simply linked to the Internet.
A smart home ecosystem is critical for a true smart home experience because it provides an easy and efficient way to manage all your connected devices from a central platform. It’s what unifies all your smart devices and allows them to communicate with one another. Without a smart home ecosystem, users have to manage all devices through separate apps, which inhibits one of the main purposes of a smart home: convenience.
A smart home ecosystem is an interconnected system where every device works together in harmony. Achieving a fully optimized and automated system on your own is no small task. There are three main components to a smart home ecosystem:
- Controller: The controller is the command center of your smart home ecosystem. It’s the piece that connects your individual devices and helps them communicate with one another. Controllers are typically tablets, control panels, smart speakers and wearable devices like smart watches.
Cloud service: The cloud platform is what analyzes your command and tells your smart devices what to do. This is either a web-based platform, like IFTTT, or an app, like the Vector Security App.
- Smart home devices: These are your connected gadgets like lights, locks and cameras.
There are countless smart home options, which can make the selection process overwhelming without the right guidance and support. Use the below tips when getting started with your smart home ecosystem.
1. Start with Research
To better navigate available offerings, familiarize yourself with words commonly used in the home automation industry. Knowing the language will help you understand available programs and select the right technologies and providers for your home.
In addition, research potential home automation devices to verify security and compatibility with other devices in your smart home ecosystem. As mentioned above, the best experience is being able to open a single app or use a single service to manage and control all of your smart gadgets at once.
2. Choose a Secure Home Automation Provider
Choose a provider that offers multiple smart home devices that can connect to your smart home ecosystem. Your provider can install the smart home and home security equipment that best suits your lifestyle, and be your consultant the next time you see new technology you want to introduce to the system. With the wide array of retailers offering similar solutions, a provider can help you find one that works in concert with your existing smart home ecosystem.
3. Secure Your Network Prior to Installation
- Create strong passwords. Change default passwords on all devices prior to use. Pick one that’s eight or more characters long and contains a mix of letters, numbers, symbols and capitalization types to make yours harder to crack.
- Secure your router. Give your router a unique name and password protect it. Set your router settings to WPA2 (preferred) or WPA for stronger security. Do not connect your devices to unfamiliar networks.
- Limit authorized devices. Select which devices (smartphones, computers, etc.) can access your smart home functionality, and then restrict others to prevent unauthorized usage.
- Use firewalls and antivirus software. Any computer that connects to your smart home devices should be equipped with these precautions to guard against hackers, malicious code, viruses and malware. Access to your computers could allow someone to retrieve your smart home device passwords.
4. Professionally Install Your Smart Home Ecosystem
5. Prioritize Security
As you search the Internet or consult with trusted friends and family, don’t compromise security for a cheap smart home fix. Prioritize quality safety standards first—even the most sophisticated or popular smart home ecosystems have been subject to hacking. The best way to avoid security issues is to work with a reputable provider that can install, monitor and update your system.
6. Remember Proper Maintenance and Upkeep
Once your smart home ecosystem is installed, conduct regular maintenance and proper upkeep. If you had your system professionally installed, have an expert check your smart home devices annually. In between checks, watch for red flags that devices are not working properly or are dated, such as:
- Compatibility issues with other devices.
- Devices that reboot or restart frequently on their own.
- Equipment that does not support the latest software.
- Rapid battery/power failure.
There are numerous smart home devices, hubs and accessories on the market today.
To purchase a new system, upgrade your current system or get help navigating the smart home ecosystem landscape, contact us today.