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A smart product is any gadget or device that has built-in internet connectivity. When you amass a number of these to improve your day-to-day living conditions, you can then claim to have a smart home (some prefer to call it home automation).

Yet even though the trend in smart homes is growing, is it a trend that you should join? A lot of these products seem cool and nifty at first glance 7 Smart Home Products You Should Probably Avoid 7 Smart Home Products You Should Probably Avoid Security concerns, compatibility, and the often high cost of entry, continue to hurt a market looking to add adopters. Here are some smart home product categories worth avoiding, at least for now. Read More , but there are issues and downsides that you should be aware of — problems that might turn you off from the whole concept altogether.

1. Smart Products Aren’t Always Convenient…

The ultimate goal of the smart home revolution, and technology as a whole, is to make your life easier. Ideally, smart homes will eventually allow you to live at home without having to worry about cooking, making coffee, doing laundry, or wasting energy. Everything will be automated.

But we’re far from that picturesque future.

Take lighting, for example. You can install a smart lighting set that automatically turns on when you enter a room and turns off when you leave — but there’s a lot of initial setup that needs to be done to get it working. Is it worth the trouble when you can just flick a light switch instead?

Image Credit: a-image via Shutterstock
Image Credit: a-image via Shutterstock

Indeed, learning curves are a big problem for smart products, mainly because each product is uniquely different. Learning how to operate your Nest thermostat (UK) doesn’t ease the learning process of setting up a smart door lock or a smart garden sprinkler.

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Not to mention all of the clutter. Every smart home devices usually comes with its own special app that you need to use to control said devices. If you buy 10 different gadgets, that’s 10 apps you need to juggle around. And what about physical clutter? Do you really need an Amazon Echo Dot in every room?

And to add salt to the wound, most smart devices have horrible user interfaces. It’s one of the reasons why smart TVs crashed and burned 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a Smart TV in 2016 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a Smart TV in 2016 It's undeniable that smart TVs are now obsolete, and at this time, the choice to buy a smart TV would not be a smart thing to do. Here's why. Read More — if the product doesn’t feel good to use, or if it isn’t easy to operate, then you’re probably not going to use it and it’s just going to end up collecting dust.

2. …And the Convenience Isn’t Always Worth It

Now, to be fair, some smart products actually do deliver on their promises of usefulness. The Nest thermostat is one such example, which not only simplifies the operation of your home climate control, but also helps you save money in the process.

That being said, many smart products are barely any better than their “dumb” equivalents. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that smart devices are just gimmicks or anything like that, but I will say that most smart products are priced too expensively for what they offer.

smart-home-robot-vacuum

Robot vacuums are a good example: a modern Roomba model currently costs anywhere from $300 to $1,000, whereas you can grab a traditional vacuum cleaner for $30 to $100. Is the automation worth a 10x increase in price? We don’t think so Robotic Vacuums Are a Waste of Money and Here's Why Robotic Vacuums Are a Waste of Money and Here's Why The appeal of smart vacuums is undeniable. But they’re not for everyone. You should think long and hard before buying one. Here’s why. Read More .

Truth is, many smart products try to “do it all” and end up being subpar at all of it. Why pay hundreds more for a “smart” refrigerator that can browse the web when you already have a phone, tablet, and computer that can do it more efficiently? Do you need a “smart” smoke detector when a “dumb” one is just as effective?

Overall, if you’re smart about what you purchase, then a smart home absolutely won’t kill your wallet How Much Does a Smart Home Really Cost? How Much Does a Smart Home Really Cost? A smart home could change your life – freeing up time in your day and regulating your routine so you don't have to remember what needs to be done. But how expensive is it, really? Read More . But you really have to be careful when weighing the value proposition of a smartened device. Sometimes the extra benefits aren’t worth it.

3. Smart Products Are Prone to Abandonment

Every so often, I’ll turn on my smart TV and get a message that “App X will be discontinued on…”, indicating that some company no longer cares enough to support their smart TV app. When I first got my smart TV years ago, it had hundreds of apps. Now it only has dozens.

The smart home industry is still in its infancy, which means things are still rapidly changing — and as the landscape changes, some apps and devices will inevitably be left behind.

We’ve seen dozens of smart product ideas come and go on Kickstarter, most of which never saw the light of day. And of the smart devices that did see release, plenty end up being discontinued. (The Staples Connect Hub and the Amazon Echo Dot [UK] both come to mind.)

Image Credit: Black Jack via Shutterstock
Image Credit: Black Jack via Shutterstock

Obsolescence is a notable problem in the tech industry, but noticeably worse in the smart home sphere. Not that these companies are practicing planned obsolescence — at least not yet — but you never know when a company may shut down its servers, and that’s always a big risk.

For example, one of the benefits of getting a smart security camera is that the footage is automatically uploaded to manufacturer-provided cloud storage. If that service is discontinued, you lose out on one of its biggest features — and you might even lose all of the footage you’ve kept stored.

You can somewhat mitigate this risk by sticking to trusted smart home brands only, but even then the risk is big enough that you can’t just ignore it.

4. Security and Privacy Concerns Are Real

For many, this may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. How would you feel if the government could listen in on your private conversations with your Amazon Echo’s microphone? Or what if they could watch you through your smart TV’s camera?

Or worse yet, what about hackers?

These fears are common when it comes to internet-connected devices, but what’s really frightening is that these fears aren’t just paranoia. They have roots in reality. Anything that is hooked up to the internet at large can potentially be eavesdropped or compromised.

Image Credit: Africa Studio via Shutterstock
Image Credit: Africa Studio via Shutterstock

Some of the risks aren’t so obvious. Setting up security cameras throughout your home may improve your sense of safety and well-being, but if hackers gain access to those cameras, they’ll know exactly when you’re home and when you aren’t, giving them the perfect opportunity to burglarize.

And if you think the NSA isn’t listening in, you may want to think again Your Smart Home Works for the NSA, and You're Being Watched Your Smart Home Works for the NSA, and You're Being Watched It seems that the worst fears about the Internet of Things and smart home technology are being realized. Now director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has declared that IoT devices are being used for surveillance. Read More . As the world moves towards an “internet of things” 7 Reasons Why The Internet of Things Should Scare You 7 Reasons Why The Internet of Things Should Scare You The potential benefits of the Internet of Things grow bright, while the dangers are cast into the quiet shadows. It's time to draw attention to these dangers with seven terrifying promises of the IoT. Read More , these kinds of privacy breaches are only going to become more common. Not to mention the other security risks associated with it How the Internet of Things Is Dangerous For Your Kids How the Internet of Things Is Dangerous For Your Kids Mixing kids and technology can be a scary thing. Do you know all of the ways the Internet of Things (IoT) could hurt your children? Read More !

How Do You Feel About Smart Homes?

Nobody can tell you what to do — the decision is yours alone to make. All we can do is provide you with as much information as possible so your decision is an informed one.

Are we excited about smart homes? You bet. Do we want to see where all of this eventually leads? Absolutely. But are we going to practice skepticism and caution? Yes, yes, yes. Weigh the scales and tell us where you land.

Are you on board the smart home hype-train? Or have you recently jumped off the bandwagon? Where do you think smart products will eventually lead us? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Image Credits: gualtiero boffi/Shutterstock

  1. Zanthexter of Gnomergan
    November 30, 2016 at 12:20 am

    The article seems to be giving the Echo Dot as an example of something that has been abandoned.

    Isn't it one of the hottest selling items this year? Far from being abandoned, Amazon seems to be putting more and more resources behind it.

    Staples Connect was a dud, true.

    • Joel Lee
      November 30, 2016 at 2:36 am

      Hey Zanthexter, at time of writing the Echo Dot was long sold out without any word of restocking. Amazon has since released the Echo Dot v2, so you're right that Amazon hasn't abandoned the Echo Dot at all. Sorry about that.

  2. Karl_S
    November 10, 2016 at 5:42 am

    There are smart home light switches and other such products available which make for a true smart home. With them you can manually turn a light on/off or even brighten or dim the light. All using a standard incandescent, florescent, or LED bulb. (With dining capabilities of using a dining switch, of course) This technology has been around for quite a while. Marketing is almost nonexistent, though, and media coverage is limited. The result, consumers are not aware and the idea of smart home becomes exactly what you warn against. As for cost, these switches are not much more than a standard decora style switch with dimming capabilities. Not cheap, but completable to the semi smart bulbs with dedicated apps out there.

    The problem is that these cannot be simply screwed in and to add intelligent rules they require a controller running some sort of software. This setup takes time for a decent interface as each house is unique. But I can get a switch and a motion sensor and quickly associate the two so motion turns switch on and a lack of motion turns it off. And yes, I can manually override the light.

    The flip side is you could end up with a single app and interface on a phone or tablet to control your entire house. I have an interface which shows me security cameras, allows me to open/close the garage door, and turn lights on or off. If I walk ou if a room, I can turn stuff off manually as well. This is a smart house! Most consumers are making not so smart houses.

  3. Joe salacki
    November 10, 2016 at 4:08 am

    I was diagnosed with Progressive multiple sclerosis in 2002. Over the course of the last 15 years, I have not only lost the use of my legs but I have also lost a lot of function from my hands and arms. I am fortunate that I will soon move into an accessible home that is fully equipped with home automation. It will give me the opportunity to once again control lights and temperature and other elements of my environment. I use technology everyday to deal with my disease. Actually, I am dictating this reply right now. I can't imagine how long it would take me to type this much one piece at a time. Thank goodness for technology! In the home and anywhere I can get it it.

    • Phil N.
      November 29, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      Sorry to hear about that. I was diagnosed with MS too but so far it's now like 10 years later and I haven't had any symptoms.

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