Smart Home

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mart Homes
refer to homes in which amenities such as electricity, computers, security systems, and entertainment systems can all interface with each other through an online application or device. Within the artificial intelligence category, Smart Homes include some of the latest technologies such as Nest Labs, SmartThings, Hive, and Hubs. Smart Homes have gained a lot of traction in the news and media for the convenience and efficiency they provide. New technologies are added to the Smart Home realm each year. Smart Homes have been praised for their efficiency and various other benefits; however, there has been significant backlash their privacy.
A representation of smart home technology.


Emerging Devices

Between 1900 to 1920, the introduction of household machines and other appliances made housework easier and less time consuming. These products largely benefited the middle class which was dealing with a short supply of cooks, maids, launderers, and others. From the first vacuum cleaner in 1901 to the first garbage disposal in 1927, the need to spend time on manual work declined as new innovations inserted themselves into domestic life. [1] Products were being marketed as "spring cleaning with electricity" and their advertisements claimed to "automatically gives you time to do those things you want to do." [2]

Shift to Automation

Structure of ECHO IV. [3]

The first attempt to make a machine "smart" was in 1966, with the invention of the home computer ECHO IV. The computer consisted of four large cabinets, which were around 800 pounds each, and a CPU. [3] Keypads were placed at various points in the house to complete tasks. These included creating shopping lists, controlling the home's temperature, and turning devices on/off. [4] While the computer was considered a novelty, its success is debated due to the machine's size and general encumbrance .

It was not until 1975 when a home automation protocol, the X10, was developed. It relied on powerline communication, which allows data to be transmitted via power cables. It is still in use and is thought to be "the father of modern home automation." [5]

Today's technologies continue to expand. Homebuyers are constantly looking for the newest high technological innovations that can be incorporated into the home.[6]

Today's Technology

Smart home products became more popular in the 2000s due to affordability and increased accessibility to products. As technology advanced to meet the gap in the market, a wave of businesses sprouted up to create gadgets for the intelligent home. Soon, the smart home products transitioned from a luxury to something of a necessity.

Nest Labs

Nest Labs is an American home automation company founded by two former Apple engineers, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers in 2010. Starting from the Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011, the business now sells thermostats, cameras, doorbells, and alarm systems that have the ability to connect to Wi-Fi and are sensor-driven. [5]The startup was bought for $3.2 billion by Google in 2014. [7]


SmartThings was founded in 2012 as an American startup focused on letting users synchronize their connected gadgets on one technology app and hardware hub. The company sells products such as Philips Hue Lighting, Bose SoundTouch Wireless Music Systems, Google Home, and Amazon Echo, which can all connect to the SmartThings Hub. [8]


Hive is a British producer of technology for smart homes. It was created in 2012 by Centrica which also owns British Gas and Direct Energy (U.S.). It primarily serves the UK, Ireland, and North America. The company does not sell any other products except its own, and the Hive app connects the heating, lights, sensors, and plugs that it sells. [9] On 13 March 2018, Hive released a new product called the Hive Hub 360 in the UK Yves Béhar. [10] The product leverages AI to listen to its environment and send the recordings to the user's Hive app. [11] Hive Hub 360 has not been released in the U.S. yet.


Smart home Hubs are devices that centralize all controls of a user's home into one device. Hub products started as devices that must remain in the home but in 2015, other devices began to emerge. The options now range from items such as pods that can stand alone or connect/stay on the wall of the home. They can be accessed from other technological devices in order to control remotely. These devices connect into wireless signals and home gadgets in order to control everything from one simple tool.[12]

Privacy Concerns

There have been several incidences in the past few years regarding smart homes. Particularly, these concerns tend to revolve around the issues of privacy that arise with the use of smart home devices. Voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home are said to be "always listening" to users' conversations. Once these devices are awakened by the user, usually in the form of a button or voice command such as "okay Google" or "hey Siri," the encrypted recording is stored in a backend server. This is seen as potential a danger by many digital security businesses. Regarding this threat, Candid Wueest, Symantec's chief researcher on threat, claimed that people could listen or watch smart device owners by hacking and turning on devices, such as Amazon echo and other smart home appliances, remotely.[13]

November 2015 Murder Case

In November 2015 in Bentonville, Arkansas, James Bates called two friends over, one being Victor Collins, who was a former police officer in Georgia, to watch football and drink alcohol. Afterwards, the men spent time in Bates' hot tub. In the morning, Bates found Collins dead in the hot tub. While Collins' blood-alcohol content was high (about four times more than the limit to drive in the state), the prosecution sought to establish a reason for death. Because a person present that day could remember music being played on Bates' Amazon Echo, detectives sought to be provided with a recording from the device. [14] While Amazon hesitated to hand over the voice recordings due to privacy at first, they eventually gave permission to the authorities to release the records. In December 2017, the murder charge was ultimately removed after the evidence brought to trial from the Amazon Echo recordings. [15]


Each device added to a smart home increases the potential for hackers to gain access to a users' home system. While the majority of computers and cell phones have various measures in place to keep malicious intruders at bay, very few smart home devices have these same (or otherwise equivalent) security measures in place. This is exacerbated by the fact that many of the companies which produce these smart home devices are alleged to prioritize finishing and shipping these products as soon as possible over creating secure and stable systems. This is because of the added time it would take to properly vet and test these smart devices. Because smart home devices can quickly become obsolete, getting them to the market takes precedence over other seemingly extraneous factors such as security. [16] Additionally, many smart home devices do not require any sort of authentication. Most smart home devices generally use standard, out-of-the-box default passwords which can be found online with a Google search. From there, hackers can use malware and botnets to take over these smart home devices. [17]. Security is a consistent concern for potential smart home device purchasers and are one of the biggest hinderances to the mass production and usage of smart home devices.

Domestic Abuse & Smart Homes

Domestic abusers have found a new way to manipulate and intimidate their partners - smart home technologies. These smart home devices were made for keeping robbers out and improving the efficiency of everyday tasks, but abusers are taking advantage of them to show power and confuse their partners. [18] Abusers can scare their partners by ringing smart door bells, changing smart lock codes daily, switching lights or thermostats on and off, or spying on them with in-home cameras. [19] These tactics manipulate partners into staying with their abuser in fear of getting caught trying to get help or find a way out. This is becoming a more prevalent occurrence and it has brought some confusion regarding how to go about dealing with this issue. Legal concerns have also been raised in regards to this issue as lawyers aren't certain how to cover this topic in restraining order filings. [19]

Popular Culture

Smart House

Smart House Poster

Smart House is a movie that references smart homes. [20] Made in 1999 by Disney Channel, the movie follows Ben Cooper, a 13-year-old who just lost his mother, and his family. The Coopers win a computerized house, and Ben recodes the software to exhibit maternal-like behavior. Yet, the program takes the role too far and ends up locking the entire family in the house, believing that the external environment is unsafe. This film, although entirely fictional, does a good job reflecting many of the current fears that users have with the current Smart Home systems.


  1. National Academy of Sciences on behalf of the National Academy of Engineering. Household Appliances Timeline
  2. Aldrich, Frances K. "Smart Homes: Past, Present, and Future." [1] 2003. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Spicer, Dag. "The ECHO IV Home Computer: 50 Years Later." [2] Computer History Museum. 31 May 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  4. Rothfeld, Lindsay. "Tech Time Machine: The Smart Home" [3] Mashable. 8 Jan 2015. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Fritz, Ron. "Is X-10 an Obsolete Technology?" [4] Lifewire. 27 February 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  6. Markowitz, Riki. “How Smart Home Technology Is Changing Today's Homes.” Smart Home Technology Is Changing Todays Homes, Builder Homesite Inc, 5 Apr. 2017
  7. "Nest Labs." [5] Crunchbase. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  8. "Featured Products" [6] Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  9. Hive Smart Heating. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  10. Parsons, Elly. "The all-hearing Hive Hub 360 Hits Shelves." [7] Wallpaper*. 14 March 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  11. Merriman, Chris. "Hive's Home Hub 360 Brings AI Listening to Smart Home Users" [8] The Inquirer. 13 March 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  12. Priest, David. “The Only Way to Save the Smart Home Hub Is to Kill It.” CNET, 1 May 2017
  13. Weisbaum, Herb. "Hey Alexa, How Secure are voice-activated assistants Like You?" [9] NBC News. 28 Nov 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  14. McLaughlin, Eliott C. et al. "Alexa, Can You Help With This Murder Case?" [10] CNN. 28 Dec 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  15. Chavez, Nicole. "Arkansas Judge Drops Murder Charge in Amazon Echo Case" [11] CNN. 2 Dec 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  16. Metz, Rachel. "More Connected Homes, More Problems." Technology Review. 13 August 2013.
  17. Crist, Ry. "How hackable are your smart home gadgets?" Cnet. 27 October 2016.
  18. Fingas, J. (n.d.) Domestic Abusers Are Exploiting Smart Home Devices. HuffPost.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Bowles, N. 2018. Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse. The New York Times.
  20. "Smart House" [12] Disney. Retrieved 15 March 2018.