March 10, 2022 - The term "smart home" — now a catch-all name for a "connected residence" — is itself something of a myth. The smart homes that work — that provide an automated experience to the user bringing comfort, security, wellness, entertainment, and more — are networked ecosystems with intuitive interfaces that are easy to understand and control. As the popularity of home automation has expanded, there remain some common misconceptions about these integrated tech solutions.
Some of the most common of these myths we've heard from consumers include the following:
I'll never be able to figure out how to set it up or maintain it. It's just too complicated. Well, yes and no. It's pretty unfortunate that a lot — a LOT — of consumers had their first introduction to smart home technology via less-than-intuitive DIY (do-it-yourself) devices. A lot of the early interfaces were clunky, with exceptions — most notably the biggie: The "connected" thermostat. This was many consumers' intro to "machine learning" (it's not, technically, "artificial intelligence" — AI is technically deep, neural learning that can solve problems). The thermostat took note of what temps were preferred when, and after "observing" the residents of a home, acted accordingly.
The thing to remember here is that vast numbers of these thermostats were installed by HVAC professionals, NOT end users. Yes, some people are completely comfortable handling their own plumbing or electrical systems. Most folks aren't, and tech has evolved to the point where a professional installer (and, moreover, a system designer) is terrifically helpful. Bottom line? Left to a pro, the results can be absolutely life-altering.
It's just gimmicky nonsense. There's a kernel of truth in this myth, too: There was a period of time when the word "smart" was hung on literally everything: A favorite example is the "smart water bottle" introduced at a consumer electronics show some years back which told your phone when it was empty. The bottle was made out of transparent plastic — which meant the bottle's app on your phone served the same purpose as simply looking at the thing.
Now the good news: The tech's evolving to a point where voice control software can do a lot more than give you the weather and tell bad-Dad jokes. If you've ever heard of the "Gartner Hype Cycle," it's a great illustration of where we are with smart home technology: moving into the "plateau of productivity." [ILLUSTRATION BELOW]
When the tech can actually provide concrete benefits, from adding the right security, HVAC, and lighting solutions to making entertainment options more readily available, then it's doing what it should — and that's precisely what happens with the right system in place. An example: Chase Bouchard, one of Crestron's solutions engineers, has the Crestron Home™ platform in his residence. "It's made my life easier," he says. "I used to get glare from another building's windows at my desk, and now my shades close at the time of day that would occur. My girlfriend used to be upset when I forget to turn the lights off at night, but now I don't have to worry about that. The lights turn off by themselves at a specific time."
This stuff is all fragile junk. No, not all. Not by a long shot. And, dear reader, if you'll allow us to brag for a moment, Crestron puts all of its devices through the most rigorous quality-assurance testing processes in the technology industry.
None of this stuff works when I need it to, or how it's supposed to. None of this stuff works with the other stuff. There are companies (and Crestron's a leader in this department) creating "ecosystems" such as Crestron Home that are incredibly reliable — and work with specific third-party devices and applications. That latter part is called "interoperability," and it's key to creating the right smart-home experience.
Think about the automation in your car: It's all branded Lexus or BMW or what-have-you, even if some parts and devices are made by other firms. Yet the light comes on when you open the door, the locks recognize your fob when you approach, the backup camera clicks on when you put it into reverse. Your vehicle is an ecosystem of automotive automation. Everything works together. Your home can be just as intuitive — and just as dependable.
It'll go haywire every time there's an update. Yes, systems are becoming more complex — but they're also maturing. That prevents a lot of hiccups when software and firmware is updated. Back to the car analogy: The vehicle needs service sometimes. So does your home technology system. The best technology designers and installers (also referred to as "integrators") offer regular service contracts (akin to what you may have with your HVAC service company), and they know how to fix many issues remotely. "The software and firmware we develop is tested just as rigorously as the hardware," adds Bouchard.
Wi-Fi® connectivity can handle everything I add to this system. The reliance on wireless connectivity is a true double-edged sword: Yes, it's extraordinarily convenient, more and more wireless devices are introduced every day, and "mesh network" plug-in hubs have proven their worth. But the backbone of the best systems, the ones that will ensure the fewest number of problems, is hardwired cabling. For a deeper dive on this topic, see this article from the industry association known as CEDIA — there's quite a bit of mythbusting that's been done on Wi-Fi® alone.
This stuff is spying on me and collecting data about me. Additionally, this stuff just gives hackers more ways to get into my house. Security has layers — and as devices become ever more guarded against intrusion, it turns out the weak link in most networks is often the human using the stuff. Most breaches are actually the result of phishing attacks, often via email. As for privacy, yes, it's a huge concern — but once again, having a pro design your smart-home project will help both protect your data and firm up your defenses. That's especially important as the lines between work and home become ever more blurry — remote workers have a unique responsibility when it comes to data protection and privacy. As for Crestron, there's a commitment to keeping the gear safe from intruders — and it's in writing. Bouchard further notes, "From a Crestron perspective, we've implemented protocols for our products so that they can go into the Pentagon. They're that secure."