UPDATED 12:00 EDT / NOVEMBER 25 2013

More Americans interested in home automation, despite security risks

This week’s SmartHome roundup features the new American lifestyle – home automation.  A recent report shows that Americans are now more interested in living a smarter and connected life, despite the increasing threat to privacy and security.

Sunrun’s SmartHome survey


Solar company Sunrun conducted a survey from October 29-31, 2013 among 2,022 U.S. adults ages 18 and older regarding living a smart, connected life. The survey concluded that more and more Americans are now interested in living smart, connected lives—with saving money and staying organized as two of the top reasons, at 45 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

Though oversharing data and privacy concerns are two of the issues that plague the Internet of Things movement, the survey revealed that 55 percent of U.S. consumers are decreasingly bothered by these concerns, as they continue to use their mobile and wearable devices to track their personal lives. Seventy-four percent of the survey participants have expressed interest in or are already using technology to track their personal data at home. Of those who already use smart home devices, people with children use more connected devices (at 74 percent), while only 48 percent of those without children use connected, home automation solutions.

Even as more and more people connect their lives, there’s still a long way to go for everyone to accept smart home solutions. This is not because they are afraid of the robot takeover, but because they aren’t aware of them. According to the survey, of those using fitness trackers, only 42 percent who currently use devices to collect/track personal data are aware of existing tools to monitor home energy use. Only 39 percent of fitness tracker users are aware of smart home automation solutions.

“This desire to live a better life isn’t new; we’ve seen proof of that over the last six years, as we’ve helped tens of thousands of Americans to chose cleaner, less expensive solar energy,” said Lynn Jurich, co-CEO of Sunrun. “But the results of our survey show a new trend: how technology is enabling consumers to be more active in making changes that positively impact their quality of life.

“For example, we most recently combined our solar service with simple tools like a smart thermostat that gives families greater control over home energy use. As consumers become more aware of new technology to track their lifestyle, they will be able to make more informed decisions to live smarter.”

Sunrun helps people utilize solar energy without having to pay too much for solar panels, but aside from that, the company is helping people get their homes connected.  In September, the company announced a partnership with Nest.  The two offered a money-saving, solar power-maximizing solution in a promotion that ended in October.  Those who purchased a Sunrun package were given a free Nest Learning Thermostat.

SmartHome security concerns


For years we’ve heard about people’s lives getting messed up because their online account was hacked or the service provider was hacked.  Companies such as Microsoft, providing operating systems for PCs, laptops, netbooks, and mobile devices, are aware of these threats and it has an arsenal of security solutions to keep users safe from attacks.  But what about providers of smart home automation solutions?  Can they keep homeowners safe from hackers?

Some have pointed out that they are not prepared for such attacks, especially when there is no apparent threat.  Hackers may not be interested in hacking into your homes but this could provide a way for home invaders to get more creative.  Experts aren’t saying home automation solutions aren’t secure, they’re just saying they may not be as prepared as they think they are.

“It’s not just that the consumers don’t understand the technology,” said Jeff Hagins, co-founder of SmartThings, which sells devices that can be controlled with a smartphone. “It’s also that the people building it don’t understand it.” Hagins added, hypothetically: “Just because I know how to write PHP [programming] doesn’t mean I understand these vulnerabilities at all.”

Qualcomm’s connected home chips


Qualcomm’s Atheros subsidiary introduced a new embedded processor that will “transform networking devices like home gateways, routers, and media servers into ‘Smarthome’ platforms.”

The new product line, dubbed the Qualcomm Internet Processor (IPQ) platform, features a dual-core, 1.4GHz Krait central processor with a new dual-core, 730MHz packet processor engine from Atheros.

Qualcomm stated that there are two chipsets, the IPQ8062 and IPQ8064, for retail routers and home media servers that are currently in production, and expected to be available in commercial products in the first half of 2014, while gateways and enterprise access points using the IPQ platform is expected to arrive by mid-2014.

“Just as Qualcomm helped propel the smartphone experience and ecosystem, we are now employing the company’s mobile DNA to enable the Smarthome as a platform to deliver an advanced class of content, applications, and services that can be enjoyed throughout the home,” Amir Faintuch, president of Qualcomm Atheros, said.

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