Smart Home: A Cautionary Tale

The cyber attack that took down large swaths of the Internet in October was a possible double-whammy to the home products industry.

First, it revealed— on the cusp of the busiest shopping season— the potentially staggering sales loss if big e-commerce sites go dark for any length of time because of hostile cyber invasions or even less nefarious computer-geek shenanigans.

Second, what should be even more alarming for companies eager to stake their claims in the smart home boom was the ease with which the hackers were able to bypass the presumably sophisticated security of giant Internet switchboard Dyn by strolling unchecked through the unlocked doors of such smart home devices as webcams, baby monitors and routers.

Blinding Light

The ray of marketing hope that is “the Internet of things” suddenly has the feel of a blinding light if something doesn’t change.

You don’t have to be able to pronounce the name Julian Assange to know there’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to securing Internet-connected devices. But the recent attack on Dyn should serve as an overdue caution sign to the speeding expansion of smart home products unprotected in many cases by open-source operating systems that are as open to the bad guys as the good guys.

Thomas Worley, co-founder and CEO of Dado Labs, told HomeWorld Business properly implemented U.S. standards can guard against most cyber attacks (see story, November 7, 2016, issue). “It’s about the brands doing their homework, the brands understanding their security and picking a platform that has the right industry-level standards for security,” Worley said.

Call For Regulation

Too often throughout housewares history companies have jumped feverishly into hot new categories that it elevated the risk of low (even unsafe) quality, unreliable performance and oversaturation, all of which can derail sales momentum prematurely.

Business managers and product developers racing the clock in an ultra-competitive marketplace might not like it, but the rising call for federal regulation of cyber security, and by extension smart home products, is starting to make sense as a necessary intrusion to help stem what could be a devastating, irrevocable breakdown.

The application of ever-obsoleting smart home technology to common household products is costly and challenging enough without having to worry about clearing more rules. But that might be the safety net this industry needs for long-term success in what is becoming a crowded category at a dizzying pace.

Growing Demand

If it once seemed ridiculous to think someone might to try to crash Amazon through your coffeemaker, think again.

The smart home movement is an exciting marketing opportunity fueled by growing demand. Rushing into the smart home market without responsible cyber safeguards, though, could invite a double-whammy nobody needs.