Later this month, I will be moving into my first house! Of course, as a first-time homeowner, this is an extremely exciting time but also quite daunting. There are so many things to do, buy and install before we can move in and endless options.
For example, we will need Internet. Working for a PR agency and having family located on multiple continents means that for me Internet is even more of a priority than getting the water turned on (I can always buy bottled, right?). I assumed the former would be just as easy – until I started looking into it. I found myself writing a list of questions to narrow down the best options: What sort of broadband package do we need? Is fibre available? Is it necessary to install a phone line? Do we need an aerial? Which provider is the best? What speed is fast enough?
Thankfully, working at a technology-focused agency like Proactive PR has given me a certain level of knowledge about things like broadband and Fibre-to-the-Home. I know that fibre is the best in terms of speed and performance but despite ambitious Government targets, fibre isn’t available everywhere. It is also more expensive than regular broadband leaving me to question whether we really needed it. Also, do we need superfast fibre optic or will regular fibre do the trick? Should we get a TV package? Like I said, endless options!
In the end, we decided the benefits of fibre made it worth paying a bit extra so we went for an unlimited fibre optic broadband package. As tempted as we were to go for the all-singing, all-dancing “ULTRA SUPERFAST FIBRE OPTIC BROADBAND WITH SPEEDS OF UP TO 76Mb!”, we decided to go for a standard fibre optic broadband package with speeds of up to 38Mb. Although it may seem like a huge step down from 76Mb to 38Mb, it is actually a huge step up in comparison to the 17Mbs we have currently.
It may be Smart, but is it safe?
While patting ourselves on the back for selecting a broadband package, we soon realised this was the tip of the iceberg in regards to navigating our way through the range of technology options now available to home-owners. Alarm systems, fridge-freezers and other appliances are no longer straightforward ‘does what it says on the tin’ products and instead boast an endless list of additional features.
The first question that came to mind while browsing was: “Do we want/need Smart appliances?” After reading and writing about the latest Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart technology at work, I was well aware of how exciting and futuristic these products sound – but do I really need a fridge that tells me when items have expired? Is it necessary for all of my appliances to be able to communicate with each other?
To have a fully-fledged Smart Home, several Smart devices that wirelessly connect so they can “talk” to each other and react appropriately would be required. For example, if it is possible to turn on the heating remotely by pressing a button on your phone, you may also have a setting that sets the temperature at a certain level. This is monitored by sensors in your house that can also communicate with the thermostat and turn it off once the temperature reaches its maximum setting.
Another area where Smart features are becoming increasingly popular is security. Today, systems which allow you to remotely tune into any security cameras installed in your home from your tablet or smartphone are commonplace.
Although my initial reaction to this sort of system was “that sounds great!” the more I thought about it and read up on it, the more nervous it made me. If I can control my alarm system from a phone, what is stopping a burglar from hacking into my phone and turning it off? I know this may sound paranoid but for many the security of Smart devices is still a real concern – and rightly so, with Samsung’s Smart Home platform the latest to come under fire for not being safe enough. Perhaps the best line of defence is actually traditional bolted doors and a built in alarm system.
In the end, we decided against most Smart technology, as it was, of course, pricier and not necessarily essential or helpful to our daily routine. Maybe one day, homes without connected appliances will seem too outdated to even think about but there is clearly still a long way to go before the ultimate Smart Home becomes mainstream. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my non-intelligent, classic home!