The thing about Luddites, is they were right. Mill houses offered far worse conditions for workers moving from the countryside, undermining pay, cities helped disease spread and the increased population density increased crime.
Having said that… there’s no denying how radical the underlying technological advances were, it’s more the way it was implemented that caused the chronic societal issues. But hey, poor sanitation and high crime led to formation of the police force and Victorian’s sorting out sewage, reservoirs, fresh water, transportation, an infrastructure we’re apparently still reliant on today.
What’s the smart home moral here? It’s not like we’re all going to start contracting virulent diseases, but perhaps the next worst thing is that your devices catch a 21st century digital nasty. It can and does happen.
So, I Never Meant to Buy a Nest Thermostat…
I’m not sure I like the idea that an external company could be spying on my heating requirements, peddling ads based on my usage, or indeed be required for me to control my boiler.
But in terms of ease of access? My new home had a boiler with a dumb 24-hour analogue timer and a basic on/off thermostat; I work irregular hours, commute a lot, have children on the weekend, it’s complicated, you get the idea. So anything that offered more flexible control was going to be welcome.
The ease of install and ease of use of the Nest does push it ahead of standard “dumb” digital thermostats, but being backed by Google and having wide industry support were more important.
I think when looking at smart-home devices you consider a couple of important points:
- What happens if there’s no internet connection? You don’t want your devices to just die if your wireless goes off or your broadband goes offline. The Nest offers basic functionality including its learning and pre-heat features even without these
- What happens if the support company dies? In the case of Nest, it’s now owned by Google, so all’s good, right? Well Google killed off the Nest Resolv hub back in 2016 and has a general track record of killing projects. So can you trust them?
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Smart Home Speed Bumps
Even with Google you can have smart-home speed bumps. After Google purchased Nest, it killed the Nest Revolv smart hub (so not an original Google product) that came with a lifetime subscription.
More recently Google killed the “Works with Nest” programme, a move that now blocks other smart-home systems accessing certain Nest device data you’d allowed them access to. This is part of the process of Nest being absorbed into Google and restricting access to user data, which Google would say strengthens your privacy and security. It just might kill some part of your existing smart-home system.
Where Does This Leave You?
It should leave you being cautious. See that sci-fi looking WiFi-controlled light from some Chinese outfit you’ve never heard of, might want to skip it for now.
As an open source advocate what works in the software world, also applies to the smart home world and that’s open standards. Just as Bluetooth and WiFi enables devices from any manufacturer to talk to and even control any other compatible device, so should smart home devices.
And there are some standards, Zigbee is one solid example. Like WiFi and Bluetooth it’s an international IEEE standard, IEEE802.15.4 for those lovers of, erm, electrical and electronics engineers. Philips Hue, IKEA, Amazon Echo and honeywell support it and it enables devices to discover and control each other within a home. So your IKEA and Philips lights will work and be controlled by each other, yay, but it feels more like the exception than the rule.
So here I am with my Nest and my Smart Home anxiety that one day my ability to remotely turn on the heating while hurtling through the many, many tunnels Brunel thought we so necessary between Bath and Bristol, could be taken away at any moment and I’ll have to get back to a chilly living room. What is this, the 1980s?
National Smart Home Month will run throughout October to raise awareness about the life-enhancing benefits of smart home technology. Find out all you need to know about adding smart tech into your home with product and project advice from Real Homes, Homebuilding & Renovating, T3 and TechRadar.