You have probably heard the words “home automation” or “IoT (internet of things)” in the last few years, probably as some mythical concept where you home basically does everything for you and you just have to be there. In reality it is not quite so and a lot of home automation products range from useless to borderline dangerous. Although a lot of these gadgets can be fun and even in some cases helpful, there can be some very severe tradeoff’s that you might not consider.
The biggest one of these is the voice feature, some of you might already use Siri, Google Home Assistant or Alexa, without even using other home automation gadgets. A very important thing to keep in mind though, is that these features are always on and always record everything to send back to the provider for speech recognition. The big issues here is that all of the above have several times proved through incidents that have been in the news, that they put in little to no effort to safeguard your potentially sensitive information.
By this I don’t say you shouldn’t use the feature, just maybe not have it running on your phone and limit voice enabled gadgets to common area’s where sensitive information is less likely to be discussed in the first place. The reason for this is that home automation or smart gadgets can be a real helper around the home, from lighting your path to the bathroom at night, to turning off your stove, tv and lights when you leave your home. This coupled with voice recognition can also help you do these things hands free, so you can pull up recipes, boil some water for a baby bottle or turning on the lights, all while having your hands full.
If you consider investing in such products, there are a lot of good ones on the market, but I would strongly recommend going with larger more reputable brands like Phillips or Google. This is to avoid devices that either ends up getting discontinued and shut down (as most home automation requires some sort of service to connect to) and to avoid bad quality devices that catch fire or explode.
Another route to go, that is a bit more privacy minded, are products like home assistant. Although not a home automation in itself and sporting a bit larger learning curve, it enables you to mix and match a lot of different devices that doesn’t normally work together into one functional home automation set. It will be a fun experience to tinker with though and all of the information remains in your own home, on the device you set up with home assistant. They have even added a voice service, that enables you to do voice commands that are processed in your own home. So go forth and tinker away, learning new things is always a hoot.