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Navigating smart home device purchases for your home

As a homeowner, navigating the mass of smart device options is intimidating. The sheer volume of existing products, newly announced gadgets that have not been released yet (but are coming soon!), and the seemingly unending list of new options can make it tough to make any decision — never mind the basics like cost and availability.

So what criteria should you consider when deciding to pull the trigger or not on a smart home device? I always like to consider the following questions when it comes to technology and the home:

What is it that you really want to happen?
What challenge, problem or opportunity are you really trying to address with your purchase? If you can’t answer that question, stop right there. You are probably just bored, and it will pass — unless, of course, you would like to ultimately add to the treasures hidden in your connected-gadget junk drawer.

Most — if not all — connected products are designed with very specific use cases in mind. When you try to stretch those uses, things can stop working and the frustration begins. The best advice here is to buy the device based on what it is specifically designed to do, not what you hope it can do. In some cases with over-the-air (OTA) updates the products will improve over time. I’ll touch on that below.

Is it a secure product?
Does it come with the aforementioned ability to take OTA updates? What do they do with your data — and what do you get in return for sharing it? Can I determine the level of security by adding my own passwords or authentication choices? These are table stakes for a dependable product. Don’t compromise.

How much time and money am I willing to invest in this?
Connected tech can be expensive. In addition to the initial purchase price, does it involve a subscription or ongoing cost? Is this purchase based on something that you are interested in playing with? Or is it something that you will depend on in your residence for the long term? If it is a hobby purchase, manage your spend and understand the path forward. Otherwise focus on the next question below.

Am I depending on it?
If you are considering a device that you will depend on long term, know the market players and manufacturers involved. Are they experts in the area that you are considering? You hear the phrase, “hardware is hard” way too often in relation to the connected space recently, as players who understand software try to deliver things outside of their core competency. For example, in my company’s category we have been making locks for nearly 100 years, and there are industry standards for everything from fire ratings to sledgehammer tests. We have robust customer and product support capabilities. We aren’t going away anytime soon, and it is a pretty good bet that we will continue to improve the product and grow around it. In other words, a smart bet.

What about working with everything else?
Integrations” (the fancy word for the ability to work with other connected stuff) are fickle. Some are better than others, and again you should consider the market players and manufacturers involved. Integrations aren’t always useful and, as a matter of fact, can be downright annoying — so head back to the first question, “what is it that you really want to happen?”

There are a lot of exciting new devices and technologies out there to choose from. Leverage these simple questions to help you get the most out of your smart home device investments of time and money!

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.