Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, May 19, 2017

Similar concepts power smart homes

You live in the Gig City with its smart grid and internet speed of up to 10 gigs. 

Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board’s smart grid, “allows all of the emerging smart grid technologies to function together,’’ the EPB says.

So, what’s next? Do you need a smart home, too? It may be smart but is it safe?

To some people it may seem unnatural to talk to your house, or your phone or your car. But smart homes, smart cars and smart phones are part of a new wave of automation.

Smart homes are closely related to the smart grid. The use of smart meters, smart appliances and a smart home energy management system will help a homeowner partner with an electric power provider to save energy and reduce costs.

What can a smart home do?

Smart Homes Chattanooga is an award-winning electronic systems contractor.  The company serves both residential and commercial markets to bring technology to your home or business. Home services such as lighting, surveillance, remote control, temperature, home theater and networking are all possible.

Matt Emmi, co-founder of smart home integrator One Button, says, “There’s a whole lot of neat things that you can do out there, but not necessarily a lot of compelling use cases yet.”

Not so.

One use case that is fairly compelling is the control of electrical power. While restless inventors figure out ways to automatically flip light switches, pop up toast or brew coffee, innovators in the electric industry already have a whole array of uses for electric devices that can communicate with the smart grid.

“The smart home represents the convergence of energy-efficient, controllable appliances and real-time access to energy usage data,” according to the consulting and technology firm Capgemini. Owners can access information about their home’s energy usage through the internet from anywhere in the world.

Automated appliance controls can be configured by users. Data from energy analytics helps the customer conserve energy and save money. Electricity providers can communicate with customers through management portals. Your smart home becomes linked to the smart grid.

The smart meter is a key element of the smart home. By communicating remotely with your smart meter, utility companies no longer need to dispatch a technician to read your meter. This reduction in “truck rolls” creates greater savings for providers and, ultimately, its customers.

But is all this intelligence really necessary? Is it too intrusive? Are there risks?

Some critics see the digital smart meter as an Orwellian tool that invades privacy. The smart meter monitors your personal habits. It knows when you’ve used your electric tooth brush. (Really?) It sees you when you’re sleeping. It knows when you’re awake. It knows when you’re at home or on vacation. Big Brother is watching.

The internet seems full of naysayers who question the security of smart meters. White hat hackers complain that smart meters can be broken into. Presenters at the 28th Chaos Communications Congress in 2011 explained how the meters could be hacked and monitored through internet surveillance software.

That was a few years back. Are these devices still so insecure?

An article appearing in The Guardian in late 2016, suggests that they are: “Smart Electricity Meters Can Be Dangerously Insecure, Warns Expert.” Writer Alex Hern highlights security issues with some devices, including simplified code, inadequate encryption and lack of authentication.

According to the Open Web Application Security Project, “Advanced Metering Infrastructure is the most exposed part of the Smart Grid.” OWASP is one of the organizations that is working on security issues related to smart meters and other devices.

Security risks are not unusual in the Internet of Things. Embedded devices are everywhere these days. They are not safely ensconced in data centers like the switches and routers of enterprise networks. A few years ago white hat hackers demonstrated how they could remotely take control of a Jeep Cherokee by rewriting the firmware of a chip. Any connected device in a smart home should be evaluated in terms of security.

The 2016 thriller film I.T. starring Pierce Brosnan offered a dramatized example of a smart home gone amuck. The main character is an aviation tycoon who hires an I.T. consultant to make some minor repairs in his automated house. Things go from bad to worse when the young man remotely takes control of the executive’s house and car.

Don’t worry. It’s only a movie.

While it can be fun and exciting watching movies where everything goes wrong in a computer-controlled home, and many of us may let our cyber fears get the best of us, most people who take advantage of smart home technology appreciate what they’re getting.

Whether it’s getting automatic information about your power usage or being able to tell your house to play music for you, the benefits and rewards of a smart home likely outweigh any risks or other concerns. It’s also likely that eventually we’ll all have one.

Get ready. The future is upon us.