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Continued: Twin Cities homes are going high-tech thanks to 'smart' devices

  • Article by: KATIE HUMPHREY , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 26, 2014 - 6:07 PM

“We’re in a phase of a lot of experimentation,” said Jonathan Gaw, research manager with IDC, specializing in connected home technology. “What we’re aiming for is a system where a lot of your devices kind of act in concert, they behave together.”

Smart, but secure?

If everything is connected, what happens if a thief hacks your door lock or messes with your thermostat from afar?

Proofpoint, an IT security firm, said in January that a cyberattack used 100,000 smart devices, including refrigerators and TV sets, to send malicious e-mails.

But Derek Meister, an agent with Best Buy’s Geek Squad, said that common-sense security measures would protect most consumers.

“Whether it’s your refrigerator or your laptop, you should be using the same security to protect both,” Meister said.

His suggestions? Make sure your home network is encrypted, use strong passwords and keep software up to date.

Some big names in home security and communications, including ADT, Comcast and AT&T, have waded into the smart home craze, pitching full-service packages for customers who want the digital bells and whistles but don’t want to build their own network of high-tech devices.

Chris Tiedeman of Blaine had AT&T install a home automation and security system this fall. From his phone he can control the thermostat, lights and security system. If he’s not home when his parents stop by, they can text him and he unlocks the door from his smartphone or tablet.

“I haven’t used a key in months,” said Tiedeman, who works in public affairs and does some work on contract for AT&T.

SmartThings, with offices in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., offers a more do-it-yourself approach through sensors, smart outlets and a central hub that syncs different smart devices so they can be controlled with one app.

Using a smartphone to command household gadgets is a novelty, but SmartThings co-founder Vlaminck said the broader vision is for homes that use sensors to respond to your every need — no controls necessary.

“With a few rules, your house can start reacting to you and doing things for you,” Vlaminck said.

But even at his house, old habits die hard.

“[My wife] can reach the light switch from the couch, so me turning it on from my phone is not all that exciting in itself,” he said. “The light switches have worked in our house for a long time.”


Katie Humphrey • 612-673-4758

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