Smart Homes and Security Challenges

smart home graphic

Smart home      (credit: asid.org)

Inventive minds have created a plethora of smartphone-connected home devices, from thermostats and security cameras to locks that can be monitored and controlled remotely via the home Wi-Fi network.  Some of the smart products out there include the popular Nest thermostat, August Home locks and doorbells, the new LED color-changing lights from Philips, and numerous remote-access security cameras such as the iSmartAlarm.

However, the new interconnected home has revealed opportunities for hackers, including a recent incident in which a smart refrigerator was accessed remotely and used to obtain the owner’s email credentials.  This is one reason why, despite the useful nature and variety of smart home products available, the smart home has yet to be fully embraced and catapulted into the mass market.  In fact, recent research from Argus Insights has found that overall demand is actually dropping for smart home products, most likely due to issues of cost and the threat of hackers.

To solve the latter problem, companies such as Dojo Labs and Cujo have developed monitoring devices that plug into your router to detect suspicious activity. For example, if a hacker is trying to access your web camera, these devices have the ability to automatically block that access.

Hacked security graphic

The threat of hackers (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Security, both for the Wi-Fi network and for the home itself, is the current area of growth.  Another research agency, Parks Associates, has found that connected cameras have helped drive double digit growth in sales of home security system installations, with nearly 6 million home security customers using a smart home device as part of their security system.

The internet of things is a more promising concept when we are also provided with peace of mind, so security will be front and center in the upcoming years of growth for these interconnected devices.

Consumer Electronics Show Debuts Camera-Centric Tech

CES Las Vegas LogoIn Las Vegas this week, the International Consumer Electronics Show is taking place, introducing attendees to the most cutting-edge technologies well before they are available to the general public.  This year, the most notable camera-centered products include security cameras with facial recognition and user-friendly medical cameras.

Netatmo Security Camera

Several sources, including CNET and Gizmodo, have published stories on Netatmo’s new security camera with facial recognition.  Its sophisticated software can recognize family members who are at home and provide a video feed that can be viewed remotely, should there be an intruder who is not recognized.

Camera for phone from CellscopeA startup called CellScope exhibiting at the show was featured on NPR; it has built a small ear probe that clips onto the top of your iPhone camera. Instead of rushing to the emergency room, this product allows you to stream footage from inside the ear to an app, so the images can then be examined by a doctor.

Finally, there were two exciting announcements from the show, first that Omnivision and Inuitive Ltd. have created a partnership to develop a reference design for building compact modules that enable 3D imaging in consumer electronics, which will enable advanced features such as augmented reality, 3D scanning, and post processing photography. Second, Jabil Circuit and Pelican Imaging also announced a partnership, this one to develop a high-resolution array camera module using the most advanced digital optics to allow for accurate depth acquisition.

Compact camera modules are essential to new technologies and consumer electronics of the future, because, as evidenced by these examples, when we produce more powerful images with high quality cameras, we can also create useful tools with which to utilize them.