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A smart home is a secure home…right?

The smart home revolution continues to gather pace, with Google introducing Nest Hello – a facial recognition doorbell.

Google’s Nest arguably dominates the smart home market, but with Amazon Home hot on its heels, Google has expanded its device range with a product to directly rival the Amazon Ring. Nest Hello will send notifications to your smartphone and allow you to talk to your visitor, wherever you are. You can also choose to exclusively use your app notifications rather than having the doorbell ring, which is great news for anyone who still has their childhood doorbell tune ringing in their head.

WiFi-enabled video doorbells are nothing new. However, it’s safe to say that many of them have quirks…

Nest Hello is unique in that it comes with machine learning. Google claims that this means it can differentiate between visitors, passers-by and the most nefarious visitors – burglars. That way, you won’t get an alert every time someone – or some bee – passes your home. The artificial intelligence can also recognise faces and allow you to assign names, so the device can tell you when your best friend has popped over for an impromptu visit. It’ll also tell you if it’s someone you don’t know, like a pesky door-to-door salesman.

As you’d expect, Nest Hello connects with other Nest products including speakers, so your Google Assistant can tell you who’s at the door. It can also trigger your porch light so you don’t trip on your way to the door.

The Google Nest, and indeed Amazon’s Ring, are pegged as the next level in home security. But the question I have is, if there is someone dodgy at your door, what can you actually do about it? Sure, you can choose not to answer to visitors that you don’t recognise when you’re home, but will this product do anything to prevent break-ins or burglaries when you’re out?

Smart homes are exciting and convenient, but are they as secure as they’re positioned to be?

I previously wrote a piece on the Amazon Key; an IoT device that allows Amazon delivery drivers to leave parcels inside your home. Despite Amazon’s insistence that this is secure, the thought of a stranger having access to my home is unnerving. But beyond that, research has shown that smart devices can be vulnerable to hacking.

Smart locks, if entirely secure, could eradicate a number of home security risks like you losing your key, because you’d never need one. However, given how many security flaws have been identified in a number of smart locks, the risk increases because hackers could unlock your home and walk in. no window-smashing required.

Even smart devices that aren’t geared towards safety or pseudo-security could leave you vulnerable. Smart TVs have notoriously fallen victim to Ransomware, rendering your home entertainment system unusable. But the more inconspicuous devices, like your smart thermostat, could be used against you or even the government. A big fan of Mr Robot, I watched in fascination as fsociety hack Susan’s smart home to drive her out and use it as a base. By driving the temperature of her shower up so it’s unbearably hot and therefore unusable, to making her house so cold that she can’t stand to be there. That would be enough to drive anyone out of their home.

The more sinister implications of the smart home could see hackers take down institutions like the National Grid. As far-fetched as this sounds, it could happen. If the proliferation of the smart home continues and hackers activate thermostats, kettles or smart fridges in millions of homes, it could cause a power outage with bigger implications than a stolen TV.

The Nest Hello and dozens of other smart devices are impressive. This one stands out particularly because of its artificial intelligence, which is without doubt the buzzword of the year. But is it really offering you the security that it promises?

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