Technology has made life so much easier, but has this convenience put us in danger?
When I was very young, I remember watching the Disney Channel Original Movie, Smart House (ask your children, perhaps they’ve seen it). In short, a teenage boy enters a contest to win a computerized home. With luck, the boy wins the sweepstakes and he, his widowed father, and his little sister all move in. The home takes care of all their needs and living is easy – until the home builds a mind of its own.
While the movie debuted in 1999, some of the technology portrayed is ambitious even for today’s standards. However, the children’s film alluded to the ups and downs of a computerized, connected world.
The Internet of Things, or IoT, has become ubiquitous in today’s world. Referring to electronic devices that are connected to the Internet in some way, it’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t have a device that falls under this umbrella category.
About a year ago, I took an introductory course in Information Sciences and Technology. During one lecture, the instructor discussed the Internet of Things. Showing us examples of the various IoT devices she owned, she had nothing but praise for the innovations. I was shocked at the vast amount of technology that existed for the sole purpose of making life easier. Controlling your home’s temperature from an app on your phone, locking your doors with a click of a button, and watching security footage from thousands of miles away, it made me realize how accessible our lives are.
But, despite all of the advancements, there are consequences of living in a highly connected world. The hit netflix show Black Mirror explores a dark, twisted world created by the abuse of such inventions. Privacy issues and security risks are valid concerns that come with IoT territory.
As a Wolf Pup who is considering investing in some of these inventions in the near future, I am here to show you how to live better through this technology, and how to be safe while doing so.
Amazon, Microsoft, Google – three household names – all debuted virtual assistants, including Alexa, Cortana, and Google Home, respectively over the past few years. These devices are made to help make life handsfree. Want to know the weather for the day? Just use your voice and ask the device. Want to listen to some Bruce Springsteen? Ask the device and hear the music play instantly.
Virtual Assistants are innovative, trendy, and very popular. However, be aware that everything you ask is inadvertently stored in a virtual que. These devices collect your information in order to build a social profile. Ever wonder why that flight you considered booking appears as an ad on a website you’re browsing? It’s not a coincidence, it’s social listening.
Unfortunately, virtual assistants have not become smart enough to keep your information private, so don’t be surprised if you see some creepily custom advertisements displayed on your computer after you have a conversation with your new device.
Security cameras are a great way to give you some peace of mind while you’re away from your home.
The Information Sciences and Technology instructor shared some of her surveillance footage with our class. She and her husband purchased a Nest camera so they could monitor their home when they travel. She praised the features of Nest, which include familiar face recognition, alerts when a person is detected, and the ability to project your voice through the camera to scare off intruders.
While the Nest, as well as other cameras, add valuable security measures to your home, there is no guarantee that the camera won’t be hacked. Be sure to think about how much security you feel like your home needs before you invest in such a pricey product.
Smart locks don’t possess any more safety features than your typical deadbolt does, but they eliminate the need for a key. Unlock and lock your home’s doors with a simple phone click from a foot away or a mile away.
Like all devices in the IoT, smart locks add another level of convenience to your life. No longer will you need to turn your car around to ensure that you locked your front door. Say goodbye to the days of misplacing your key or forgetting it inside your home.
But, of course, convenience comes at a price. Smart locks can be susceptible to hacking. Hackers do need to have a certain level of expertise, so a break in isn’t very likely, but still possible.
Also, malfunctions are nearly inevitable whenever you’re dealing with technology, so I recommend formulating a back-up plan to get into your home in the event that the smart lock is disabled.
For those who remain skeptical about IoT devices, I encourage you to give them a chance. Once you think of any inconveniences in your home, chances are an IoT device exists to help ease the problem. You’re smart for being guarded, but don’t let your skepticism keep you from exploring all of your options.
If you stumble upon a device but are not sure if it’s right for you, Ask A Pup for some guidance!
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