How IoT Can Make Your Home Safer and More Secure
In this 2-part series, we’ll explore how IoT can make your home more secure and also examine IoT security risks that can inadvertently make your home less secure.
Back in 2017, Gartner predicted that by 2020, IoT technology would be in 95% of electronic product designs. It’s now relatively inexpensive to add Internet of Things (IoT) features to a product, and this has helped to make it easier and more convenient to keep your home safe from a variety of potential dangers.
However, according to Tom Snyder, executive director at RIoT, connected sensors have been securing homes long before IoT was a popularized term. (Read Straight From the Experts: How to Limit Cybersecurity Risks with Workplace IoT Devices.)
“Augmenting mechanical locks with electronic home security systems ushered in the era of connected sensors, tied to networks for alerting and response.”
And he said these systems collected data in real-time (for example, the door has been opened) and created an immediate response (the alarm sounds and the security company alerts the homeowner). (Read 10 Steps to Strengthen Your IoT Security.)
“That age old security system has been IoT all along,” Snyder said.
“But many more use cases exist today that add more sensors, richer data, lower latency and deeper analytics to provide significantly more security,” he explained.
And fortunately, it’s only going to get better. “As computing and communication technology increases in performance while reducing in power consumption, size and cost, the ability of home installed devices to perform highly complex tasks for us increases at an incredible rate,” said Mike Hibbett, security architect in the IoT Solutions Division at Taoglas.
Here are just some of the ways IoT can make your home safer and more secure.
Monitoring and Notification
The ability to monitor what’s happening in your home when you’re not there is one of the most significant ways that IoT provides not only security, but also peace of mind. (Read 6 Tips for Securing an IoT Device.)
“Devices such as alarm systems now have the intelligence to detect, through a camera, when a person comes within an area of interest, and can differentiate between people walking along a public path or walking on your property,” explained Hibbett.
And some security cameras have a facial recognition feature that can even distinguish between strangers and friends. Whether you’re at home or out and about, you can actively receive notifications via your smartphone and even see who is at your door. (Read The New Frontier for Hackers: Your Smartphone.)
But this type of motion detection is just one of the ways to use IoT. “For example, if you believe you left your garage door open, you can check an app to see,” said Adam Fingerman, cofounder and chief experience officer at ArcTouch.
“Amazon Alexa has the ability to listen for glass-breaking noises and proactively notify you,” he said.
You can also receive notifications when there are other potential problems in your home. “You can be alerted about and act on hazards of fire, water leaks, and temperature changes,” said Marco Perry, founder and principal at Pensa.
IoT can also monitor the weather and take appropriate action. “In northern climates, this includes turning on the de-icing strips on your roof when it snows, or if you are lucky enough, turn on your heated driveway,” Perry explained.
However, monitoring is only part of the picture. You can also take an active role in keeping your home secure. For example, once you discover you left the garage door open, you can remotely close it. (Read 5 Tips for Optimizing Energy Consumption Through IoT and Connected Devices.)
“IoT can selectively let certain people in and keep others out, even when no one is home,” Perry said. “That means letting your trusted deliveryman bring a box inside your house so no one steals it, but you don't have to leave your door unlocked all day.”
If fact, with IoT locks, you can grant temporary access to visiting guests — or family members (like your kids who always lose their keys). “These same systems can also log a door’s usage, reporting on when your front door was opened throughout the day and for how long,” said Chris Romeika, operations director of Pangea.
And you can do more than just control doors. “You can also remotely turn on sirens and flashlights,” said Fingerman. “You can set your smart lights to turn on and off at sunset and sunrise, or randomly change sequence when you are away to give the appearance of someone being home.”
The vast majority of crimes are property crimes, and the front door is the most common point of entry for burglars, followed by a first-floor window, and the back door.
“Smart IoT-equipped security systems can enable 24/7 observation of a home by connecting alarm and camera applications to your mobile device,” said Romeika. “According to the FBI, 65% of burglaries in the US take place during the day—so being able to check up on the house while you’re at work, out shopping, or away on holiday is a game changer,” he explained.
Unfortunately, most residential burglaries are not solved because there’s no evidence and no witnesses. “However, homeowners can watch and record the video feed, and this could prove invaluable when investigating any event,” said cybersecurity expert Greg Scott, author of “Bullseye Breach: The Anatomy of an Electronic Break-In.” In fact, Snyder said that video recordings are used by the police in many municipalities to help solve neighborhood crime.
But home invasions aren’t the only threat to consumers. “Smart stoves shut themselves off before unattended burners catch fire,” Snyder said. You probably have a smoke detector, but what happens when it goes off and there’s no one home to hear it? However, IoT allows you to receive a notification when the smoke detector is activated. “Also, smart fire alarms provide a warning when the neighbor's house upwind of yours is on fire,” Snyder said.
In addition, smart pipes and meters can detect extremely small leaks, and Snyder said this can save a homeowner on the cost of water waste and damage repair.
For some population groups, smart devices are more like necessities than conveniences. “Connected door locks, door bells, indoor and outdoor cameras as well as air quality monitoring devices are especially known to help the elderly and those who are immobile,” explained Don Ham, VP at Refresh Smart Home.
“Voice activated speakers such as Google Assistant allow people to lock doors as well, asking through a smart speaker for the camera doorbell to be viewed on the television.
Another part of keeping your home safe is maintaining a healthy environment. “Smart filters keep our air clean on a more regular basis while resulting in improved air quality in every breath we take,” Snyder said.
“But significantly, they eliminate the conditions for build-up of health damaging mold that in the past often would go undetected for years.”
So how does that work? “Tiny sensors scattered throughout a house can detect trace levels of airborne substances like mold and alert the homeowner before they reach a harmful level,” explained Scott Russ, security architect at Nerdery.
In some ways, IoT is like having a guardian angel for your home.
However, part two of this series will examine some of the ways in which IoT can actually make your home less safe and secure.