The two smart devices I will never install in my house

smart devices

The two smart devices I will never install in my house : I live in a relatively smart house. We have an Alexa in every room. Yes, including our two bathrooms. We have smart bulbs or smart light fixtures in nearly all of our rooms. And can control brightness, intensity, and sometimes color. Our hallway lights up when we walk through it.

We have smart shades on our family room windows that open and close on verbal command. Ever since I installed our Alexa-controlled microwave, I haven’t once touched the buttons. And while our air fryer won’t make me a sandwich on command, it will cook chicken when we tell it to.

We even have a toilet seat that automatically opens when you walk into the room. For a while, we had that installed in the guest bathroom, and it definitely caused some consternation among visitors if we didn’t pre-brief them before they went in and prepared to do their business.

I’m telling you all this so you don’t think I’m a Luddite. I’ve pretty much embraced hands-free control wherever possible. My wife hasn’t exactly embraced it, but she puts up with it because she is incredibly tolerant with the patience of a saint.

But with all of that, there are two smart devices that I will never, ever install in my house: a smart garage door opener and an outside smart lock.

Garage door openers

To be fair, garage door openers existed well before there were voice assistants, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. And garage door openers were problematic pretty much since the day the first radio-operated remote control was sold. Well, actually since the second radio-operated remote control was sold.

Go ahead and Google the phrase “garage door opener neighbor”. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Yeah. It’s a thing. Remotes that open one neighbor’s garage door sometimes also open another neighbors’ garage doors. That goes way back to before there were hackers and cyberattacks to worry about. Basically, the classic remotes for garage door openers operate via radio frequency, and each opener is supposed to operate with a slightly different frequency or identifying characteristic.

Configuration

But if two units are sold in the same neighborhood with the same basic configuration, sometimes one unit can open another user’s garage. Some openers set their link frequency using tiny little dip switches in the remote and in the opener, so if you fiddle with the dip switch on a remote enough, you can even spoof a neighbor’s door into opening. Some of the more modern RF openers aren’t subject to this, but many of the less expensive units are still vulnerable, even to this day.

My garage door does have an RF-powered remote, but I actually keep the door shut off and locked via an internal wall switch, so no remote anywhere can trick it into opening.

All of that was before garage door openers became smart. In many ways, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-controlled garage door openers are substantially more secure than the old RF units. While it’s possible to hack a Wi-Fi signal, it does require a level of expertise that — okay, fine, the neighbor’s teenager probably has.

But I’m honestly not all that concerned that someone (whether the neighbor’s kid or a nation-state hacking team) will hack my garage door’s Wi-Fi signal. Read on to find out what worries me. But first, let’s talk about front doors.

Smart door locks

Actually, first, let’s talk about something very few of us talk about or even think about: storm and screen doors. When I grew up in New Jersey, our front and back doors were actually doubled up. The front door had a storm door while the back had a screen door.

Screen doors and storm doors are lighter weight doors that live just outside the main door. Storm doors usually have glass windows and are meant to add extra protection to the house in storms, while letting in a bit more light. Screen doors have screened in window areas, to allow the door to remain open and provide ventilation, but keep the bugs out.

Smart devices : Architectural details

While the house I grew up in had these somewhat anachronistic architectural details, no place I’ve lived since has had either a storm or screen door. In fact, according to a very informal social media survey by a builder located in the Minneapolis, St. Paul area, less than 35% of the folks surveyed indicated they had either a storm or screen door.

This is an article about smart homes. So, where am I going with this discussion of screen doors? Allow me one more digression, and I promise I’ll tie it all together.

I have a dog, and before him, I used to have an indoor-only cat. Every day, when I read my local community’s Facebook group or posts on Nextdoor, there’s a story about a dog or cat getting out, posted by the heartbroken pet parent. Over the years, friends and neighbors have told soul-crushing stories about guests, landlords, or tradesfolk who accidentally left a door open and let out an animal, often losing the animal forever.

Smart devices : Screen doors and storm doors

Screen doors and storm doors are lighter weight doors that live just outside the main door. Storm doors usually have glass windows and are know to add extra protection to the house in storms, while letting in a bit more light. Screen doors have screened in window areas, to allow the door to remain open and provide ventilation, but keep the bugs out.

While the house I grew up in had these somewhat anachronistic architectural details, no place I’ve lived since has had either a storm or screen door. In fact, according to a very informal social media survey by a builder located in the Minneapolis, St. Paul area, less than 35% of the folks surveyed indicated they had either a storm or screen door.

This is an article about smart homes. So, where am I going with this discussion of screen doors? Allow me one more digression, and I promise I’ll tie it all together.

I have a dog, and before him, I used to have an indoor-only cat. Every day, when I read my local community’s Facebook group or posts on Nextdoor, there’s a story about a dog or cat getting out, posted by the heartbroken pet parent. Over the years, friends and neighbors have told soul-crushing stories about guests, landlords, or tradesfolk who accidentally left a door open and let out an animal, often losing the animal forever.

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