Welcome to 2018. Perhaps you’ve decided this is the year where you’re going to turn your boring old dumb house into the envy of your neighborhood. Yes, 2018 is the year in which you will finally get your dream smart home.
But before hitting the shops and spending all your money on every smart gadget under the sun, you first need to spend a bit of time doing some research. Not all smart home gadgets are worthwhile. Some are overpriced, some are unnecessary, and some are a security nightmare.
In this article, we’re going to look at five popular gadgets you shouldn’t invest in. For each one, we’ll explain why you should give it a wide berth.
1. Philips Hue
Why should you avoid it? It’s overpriced.
The Philips Hue brand was responsible for bringing the world of smart lights into the public conscience.
The company’s vast marketing budget, along with its long-standing history in the lightbulb sector, allowed Hue bulbs to gain a level of recognition that would have been unreachable for start-ups.
However, times have changed. Today, there are lots of smaller smart light manufacturers in the market, many of whom offer excellent products at significantly lower prices. We’ve looked at several of them in detail in an article elsewhere on the site.
We also worked out it would take you nearly a decade to break even if you used Hue. If you buy a product with less upfront cost, the period will be much shorter.
2. Fibaro Flood Sensor
Why should you avoid it? It’s useless in a flood.
Water sensors do have their place in the smart home world. They can alert you to a slowly leaking tap in the basement or an overflowing bath upstairs.
But the Fibaro product ambitiously calls itself a “flood sensor.” Firstly, we’re not sure we need a piece of tech to tell us that our house is under three feet of water.
Secondly, what happens if you lose power during a severe storm? It’s the time you most need the sensor to work, but unless you’ve had the foresight to charge the emergency battery, it’ll be out-of-action.
Away from the practicalities of using a flood sensor, many users have also complained about a poor experience while setting the device up.
Keep your wallet in your pocket.
3. Smart Home Hub
Why should you avoid it? Hubs are reaching the end of their lifespan.
Admit it, you thought a hub was an essential part of any smart home set up, didn’t you? To fully understand why smart home hubs could be reaching their natural end-of-life, we need to look back in history.
In 2012, just as home automation was becoming a widespread consumer “thing,” a small Kickstarter campaign launched. Twelve months later, it had raised over $1 million and SmartThings was born. It solved the Achilles tendon of smart homes: power.
By allowing devices to communicate using low-energy protocols like Z-Wave and ZigBee, batteries on standalone smart devices were able to last for years rather than days.
Soon, several competitors were springing up. But as the market started to gain traction in the foreground, in the background, a threat was lurking.
Bluetooth LE launched in 2011. By 2015, it was common in smart home devices. Simultaneously, Wi-Fi devices were improving. Improved energy efficiency meant devices could connect directly to a phone over a Wi-Fi network. Hubs were becoming unnecessary.
Sure, they don’t communicate using low-energy protocols, but accessible APIs mean companies’ new products can immediately plug into the ecosystem.
Bottom line? Save your money and buy a voice-controlled speaker rather than a hub.
4. Smart Security System
Why should you avoid it? A traditional alarm is safer.
Look, we’re not turning our nose up at home security. A reliable alarm system is a crucial part of any residence. And therein lies the problem with smart security systems — reliance.
Reliance can be broken down into two aspects: physical security and virtual security. Smart alarms are not as efficient as traditional alarms on either point.
From a physical security viewpoint, smart alarms depend on a Wi-Fi connection to get security alerts to their owners. So, what happens if your Wi-Fi is offline? When it comes to staying abreast of security issues in your home when you’re away, you’re putting your trust in your ISP. It’s probably not wise.
On the other hand, traditional alarms are hooked up to the phone line. If you pay for a monitoring service, the alarm company can notify the police and yourself as soon as there’s an incident.
And from a virtual security viewpoint, you’re vulnerable to hackers. Think how many smart devices have been hacked in recent years: smart TVs, baby monitors, even children’s toys. In a famous case in 2014, a man started screaming at a sleeping child after hacking the monitoring system.
It’s not long until a smart alarm system gets hacked. And when it happens, you don’t want to be the unlucky recipient.
Stay safe and install a traditional alarm with a private monitoring service. You’ll never miss a notification, and it cannot be hacked.
5. Griffin Smart Toaster
Why should you avoid it? Because it’s a smart toaster.
It’s always fun to end these lists with something a bit daft, and the smart home has an almost limitless supply of contenders. We’ve covered many smart home products you don’t need elsewhere on the site.
Today’s entrant is the Griffin Smart Toaster. Its main feature is that it can send you a notification when your bread is burned to the exact level of crispiness you desire.
Look, we can see why it’s attractive. In a twisted way, it sounds almost cool. But the price tag is $100. My toaster cost less than $10, and it makes bread exactly the way I like it.
A smart toaster, like so many other “smart appliances,” is pointless. It’s not going to improve your life. Don’t bother.
Which Gadgets Will You Avoid?
We’ve introduced you to five gadgets that you don’t need to include in a smart home for it work efficiently. Either the tech is out of date, there are cheaper alternatives available, or it could be a security risk. Trust us, there are tons of gadgets out there that are a much better chocie for building your smart home.
If your friend was building a smart home tomorrow, which devices would you tell them to avoid? Which gadgets have you owned which proved to be a disappointment?