Have smart products gone too far? We could talk about how they collect and use your data, the possibility of your home being hacked, or how this is just another way to make owning a home more expensive, but we’re instead going to take the path of just being annoying. Do we really need smart lights when the switch is right over there? Is a smart toilet the new thing you need in your life? We’ll discuss the state of smart homes and see if we’re heading in a bold new direction, or just add tech unnecessarily to everything around us.
Let’s talk about why smart homes are popular before talking about how weird they’ve gotten. Imagine having smart locks, a smart garage, or a smart oven (yes, all three are real) that can be accessed via your phone. Homeowners are always worrying about whether they remembered to lock the door, close the garage, and turn off the oven.
Why? Because forgetting to do so can spell ruin for your home. Yes, a motivated criminal can get through any lock and your garage isn’t going to realistically stop them, but an unlocked home is very attractive to criminals. It makes you an easy and viable target. Forgetting to turn off the oven means you might burn your house (and all your stuff) down to the ground.
You could leave work and check your home, or you could pull out your phone and see if you locked up and turned everything off. Plus, a smart home allows you to complete these actions from your phone if you forgot.
There’s also lights and heat. You can turn lights on and off from your phone (for better energy or safety, depending on the time of day), and you can lower energy bills by turning off the AC or heat while you’re away with a smart thermostat. No reason to pay for it when you’re not there.
I just laid out a few smart home devices that are practical, but let’s talk about some weird devices. We’re going to start strong with the smart toilet. These have been in Japan for a long time and are finally coming over here. You can now flush the toilet from your phone, warm the seat, and it even has a motion-activated seat. Sound great? It sounds weird to me.
Or how about egg tray? Yes, this is a real product. It reports to your phone how many eggs you have and if any are going bad. Umm, yay? There are some complaints about the quality sensors not being great, but the major problem here is that it’s unnecessary. Not sure if you have enough eggs? Just buy another dozen, they’ll get eaten at some point.
There’s even smart sinks and showers. They have some admittedly cool features, but are they worth it? A smart sink lets you use voice commands to get the exact amount of water you want. Sure, you could use a measuring cup, but we need to add technology to everything now.
A smart shower allows you to have a specific temperature and intensity profile. You could just wiggle the handles until the water is perfect (like you have for years), or you could swallow a $1,000 to $2,000 bill and get it with the push of a button.
Smart homes are supposed to make things easier. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, and other times it simply transfers the effort in another direction. Let’s go back to the smart sink for a moment. You could get a measuring cup out and measure how much water you need, or you can use a clunky voice command like, “Hey Google, tell the sink to dispense 10 ounces of water.”
It’s not reducing effort. You’re instead transferring effort from the handle to your voice. This is such a simple action that you’re not saving any energy, nor are you solving any problems with your sink (unless you have problems with your hands, in which case this technology might be essential).
Another prime example is smart lights. Smart lights give you more control over the lights with your phone, but is it hard to hit the switch a few feet away from you? It’s not saving much effort and it’s more about being lazy. Not only that, but what if you have guests? Do you want them asking for your smart speaker to turn lights on and off?
You must also consider interfaces. Sometimes you’ll be running multiple interfaces and your devices won’t get along. This is creating a problem more than solving one.
One thing you may have not considered yet is that too much control is a bad thing. If you’re neurotic and prone to checking on and tweaking things (it’s OK to admit, it makes life better), then a smart home might be the worst thing for you.
Now you can check how much water is being used from your phone. You can check the temperature of your home, whether devices are on and working, and so many other aspects of your home. It might seem liberating at first, but many neurotic people will find themselves checking their house stats again and again and again throughout the day.
This also lets you reduce water and energy usage, but once again, to an extent that can be difficult to manage. Sometimes releasing that control is much better for you. Smart homes are cool and it’s fun to have all that control from your device, but it can quickly escalate out of control.
Have smart homes gone too far? In a way, yes. We are in a time now where anything can be a smart device. From your toaster to your toothbrush, we are adding phone integration to everything around the home. Sometimes the old and traditional is easier. Flipping a light switch or turning on the sink is as easy as it gets. If you’re getting caught up in the smart home craze, then take a second and ensure you’re making your home a better, more convenient, place before laying out all the money on upgrades and installation.