Today, “Smart Home” technologies – connected devices and sensors in the home – lure consumers with the promise to improve everyday life through automation, remote access to the home and more detailed information about the family’s life. But where there is light, there is also darkness, as a group of German researchers found when they interviewed interested users about their expectations and concerns regarding Smart Home technologies.
By Verena Zimmermann & Paul Gerber
Smart Home technologies are connected devices and sensors that have the potential to increase the user’s quality of life by tightening home security, facilitating the care of the elderly, and providing other support. To do this, they often require access to a plethora of information about the home itself and the private lives of every inhabitant. This necessity is one of the main concerns users have and stems from the knowledge that information does not always stay within the device itself, but is often transmitted to the internet (the so called “cloud”) and the service providers’ servers.
In a recently published article in the journal i-com, German researchers talked with 42 potential and new Smart Home users about their concerns with the aim of enabling more user-centered development of actual and future Smart Home technologies.
Besides privacy and security concerns, users expressed concerns about a potential loss of control when using Smart Home devices. They feared a dependency on the automated functionality and the missing opportunity for manual control in the case of a malfunction. “Technological redundancy, i.e. the mix of new and old technology, is a frequently observed property of highly reliable systems and should be included in Smart Home technology to address such concerns”, Verena Zimmermann, a member of the research team, stated.
Users and researchers also talked about the possibility of attacks (for example, from hackers) on Smart Home devices and their associated stored data, and how to better deal with this threat in the future. Other concerns centered around the often necessary compromise between security and functionality. Whereas an offline and local data processing approach was viewed as more secure from the users’ perspective than the cloud-based approach, the latter provides more functionalities that were popular with the users.
Based on their findings, the researchers discuss measures to address the different themes of users’ concerns from an interdisciplinary perspective and provide recommendations for addressing these concerns, as well as for supporting developers in designing future user-centered Smart Home technologies. Overall, the researchers conclude that technical security seems to be a necessary but insufficient condition for addressing users’ concerns. It seems equally important to transparently communicate privacy and security features and Smart Home processes to the users in order to provide them with a sense of control and the ability to assess the Smart Home’s security status.
To find out more, read the original article here: