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The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things

Smart devices are more accessible than ever. Learn what connecting your home can do for your lifestyle

If you’re still paying a housesitter to lock your doors or manually adjusting your thermostat, you’re out of the loop. You could be completing the same tasks using your smartphone and without stepping foot inside your home. Thanks to recent advances in Internet-connected devices, the so-called Internet of Things is helping people effortlessly manage their home lives. Here’s what you need to know about the concept that’s taking off:

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things has broad scientific connotations, but its simple definition refers to the capacity for objects to connect to the Internet, creating more advanced devices. It’s becoming increasingly popular among average homeowners looking to streamline their day-to-day tasks around the house. With the push of a button, a garage door can be closed or a room’s temperature can be monitored remotely.

“Years ago, that type of technology was limited to the luxury segment or a very hardcore early enthusiast technology adopter,” says Mike Harris, CEO of the comprehensive software platform Zonoff. But now that this technology is accessible via widespread devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops, consumers no longer have to be wealthy or even particularly tech savvy to take part.

What Can the Internet of Things Do for You?

Connecting home devices to the Internet can provide homeowners with a number of possibilities for running their lives more smoothly.

“Whether a business traveler wants to monitor his or her home while away, or parents want to ensure that their kids make it home from school safely while they’re at work, there are increasing needs in our everyday lives for remote home control and monitoring,” says Lindsay Kirchhausen, marketing manager at home automation company Nexia Home Intelligence.

Devices involving temperature, lighting or water control can even conserve energy, and in turn, save homeowners money by shutting off at the homeowner’s will.

But product engineers and entrepreneurs most proudly tout the peace of mind aspect of their products. Take the home weather station Netatmo, which allows users to monitor air temperature, air quality and humidity from afar.

Consumers have come to demand this kind of reassurance from their devices, says Pierre Kil, head of business development and sales at OpenRemote, a software integration platform for building automation. “They understand and even expect that smartphones allow them to control their environments whether they’re physically present or not.”

Play It Safe

As exciting as these innovations are for consumers, the race for the newest Internet-connected home products could have a serious downside in favoring a rush to the market over quality.

“As more and more devices in the home are connected to the Internet in some way, there are all sorts of new risks that consumers are opening themselves up to,” says Chris Eng, vice president of research at application security company Veracode.

That’s why it’s important to choose complex passwords and network names for your devices and ensure that your products are connected to a secure router or wireless network; never directly expose your devices to the Internet.

Eng also recommends checking the National Vulnerability Database to stay up to date on products that have been cited for security issues. “People need to weigh the value of what they’re getting against the possible risks,” Eng says.

If you’re hesitant about installing the latest Internet-connected devices in your home, stick to products that already have historically loyal consumer base, or at least wait until the technology gains enough recognition.

Wait for a purchase that will really impact your life. You’ll know what that is, Harris says, because “once you have it you never want to get rid of it.”

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