Complex Made Simple

Hackers on hot pursuit for cool smart homes devices

2020 is wrapping up a decade of smart devices making their way into every aspects of our lives at home, at the office and on the road.

We need this as electronic waste is expected to exceed 50 million tons by 2020. A few companies are aiming to get rid of one of the main culprits in e-waste: the electronic cable. Wi-Charge, Energous, and Ossia, are developing methods for powering devices wirelessly using safe and efficient infrared technology

But where we are most vulnerable is when we equip our domestic abode with digitally connected, smart high tech, remotely accessed devices and leave a door open for anyone to literally trespass onto your property and share your intimate living space.  

Smart device invasion

The smart home market is the biggest it’s ever been with smart speakers and displays, smart doorbells and light bulbs, smart ovens and fridges, and everyday people are actually shopping for these.

Smart Echolocation

One super recent development in Google’s smart home technology is the use of subsonic sound waves to locate users in the room — allowing devices to respond contextually by displaying larger text if you’re farther away helping better service people with vision impairments. A similar echolocation tech can sense or listen for indications of a break-in, such as shattering glass or human footsteps to alert occupants.

Digital Wall Art

The Nanoleaf Canvas is a new type of wall art. It’s an interactive, fun way to splash a wall with light and design. The panels snap together, allowing the owner to create and recreate designs to fit their life and space.

Same temp coffee

The Ember is a smart coffee mug using an internal heater to keep the drink at an ideal temperature as set by the user via a companion app.  

Always fresh plant

Love plants but hate watering? That’s where the Dewplanter comes in by capturing and filtering water in the air. It works as a dehumidifier — but instead of dumping excess water into a bin, it waters a plant. A control panel allows the owner to set the desired water amount.  

IR saunas

The technology works by sending out a thin beam of infrared light. A receiver on an enabled device then converts the beam into electricity. Unlike 5G that uses radio frequency (RF) energy, Wi-Charge uses Infra-Red (IR) light. IR light is prevalent in nature – it is about 50% of the sun’s energy.    

The technology can charge devices from up to 15 feet away, including smartphones, cameras, speakers, hearing aids and even drones.

Wireless bathrooms

Wi-Charge has tested its wireless power technology on restrooms including touchless faucets, soap dispensers, and flush valves in toilets.   

Complete Smart home interface

The Harmony Hub is the perfect manual smart home interface. The Hub itself is a box that sits on a shelf or table and connects to almost everything, which wouldn’t be doable with a battery-powered device.

The Logitech Harmony Hub and Companion remote. Image by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

It connects to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and contains traditional IR remote capabilities in addition to RF connectivity. 

Hackers’ paradise

Hackers are targeting smart home devices ranging from video doorbells to connected baby monitors. In recent years, there have been several stories of smart speaker vendors gathering sensitive information. 

With the holiday season finally here, many of us eagerly turn our eyes toward the hottest new smart home gadgets and toys.  

The rise in popularity of smart home and IoT (Internet of Things) devices has been accompanied by an increase in the discovery of critical vulnerabilities that threaten to expose unsuspecting users to a litany of privacy breaches. 

CNBC’s 7 tips for smart home safety

1. Check permissions upon installing a device. Most smart home devices have very generous data permissions set as the default. Make sure you take a look through the privacy settings to only share what you’re comfortable with, and not just going with the factory settings.

2. Keep an eye out for devices that are always on. Some devices are in a constant state of readiness, waiting for motion, voice, or other prompts that will make them spring into action. The problem is that these can often be abused by hackers. Like data permissions, these settings can be turned off or restricted.

3. Maintain your devices. Update software on all devices & apps every week. Manufacturers regularly release software updates with security fixes that improve the security of their devices. 

4. Secure access. Change default passwords to sentences and enablemulti-factor authentication for all applications. Of critical importance is to limit system admin to parents and force children and visitors into non system admin account “non-trusted.”

5. Separate your devices. Hackers will often use unsecured devices as an “in” through which to breach other parts of a network. Maintaining a dedicated IOT network or a specific IOT only wireless network at home is a way to prevent hackers from using a hacked device as a foot in the door.

6. Protect your devices. Use next-gen AV (antivirus) on all tablets and laptops and install a firewall between router and devices. Lastly, use free OpenDNS services.

7. Create “safe rooms.” Consider keeping smart home technologies very restricted, or even out entirely, of those areas in your home you want to keep the safest.