Are smart devices really worth the money?

One of the advantages of buying a smart device is the amount of money you are supposed to save in the long run from increased efficiency. Indeed, many manufacturers state that by using a smart device to optimise the energy needed to complete tasks like washing clothes, you are helping both the environment and your wallet. Yet, a June 2020 report by the consumer group Which? has suggested that this is not the case.

This blog aims to give you the information you need to decide if a smart device is a purchase you want to make, which will often differ depending on the type of product.

The benefits of smart devices

Smart devices have a variety of great benefits that make them work harder than our regular devices. This is because the objects can be controlled remotely from your smartphone. For instance, on an exceptionally hot day, you can order your house to become cooler in just enough time before you get home from work. Or, if you’re in a hurry to get dinner started but you’re still at the store, you can have your oven start to preheat while you’re still on your way home. This increases the level of convenience and accessibility for consumers to go about their daily lives, putting technology at the centre to enable remote tasks in areas this was previously not possible.

The lifespan of smart devices

When looking at smart devices, it is always worth checking their expected shelf life. A smart washing machine for instance will last about the same as a regular one – typically this is around 10 years. However, with a smart washing machine costing on average £190 more than a conventional one, the amount of money you need to save to make it a worthwhile investment needs to be over this amount over the course of 10 years.

It is therefore always worth evaluating the average lifespan of the goods you want to buy and the amount of money you need to save over this period as a first port of call.

Security risks

The Which? survey also asked major manufacturers about their plans to issue the software updates needed to keep the products working. It found the majority of manufacturers said they would offer updates for “the life of the product” but did not specify how long that was.

Samsung, for example, told the organisation this was “a minimum of two years”, while Beko said a maximum of 10 years.

IoT security is a growing concern as the number of connected devices increases – The International Data Corporation estimates that 41.6 billion internet of things devices could be operating by 2025. Yet there is no doubt that these devices still present a significant safety risk if they are not regularly updated and secured properly. This is why manufacturers often provide ‘patches’ to keep the products working and fix any security issues.

If the manufacturer does not plan to provide these updates during the entire lifecycle of the product, it could be rendered obsolete. Despite a new sale of goods directive from the EU coming into place in June 2019, which forces manufacturers to state upfront how long products would be updated for, it is currently not clear when this will be introduced in the UK. In addition, the directive does not specify exactly how long the period of updates a manufacturer must provide should be. 

We would therefore recommend that before purchasing a smart device you research how long the manufacturer plans to provide software updates for the product.

How can you help secure your IoT devices if you choose to buy one?

Although IoT laws are starting to become more common, consumers should still ensure they are doing everything in their power to prevent leaving the front door open to hackers.

To reduce your vulnerability, there are three key things you can do:

  • Change the device’s default password and replace it with a strong one.
  • Update the software with any patches the manufacturer creates as soon as they come out.
  • Review any default privacy and security settings of your IoT device to make sure you are comfortable with the level of protection they give you.

As previously stated, not all smart devices fall into this category. Your wearable or smart speaker, for instance, are often updated by the manufacturer (in the same way your phone is). Nonetheless, with smart appliances, it is worth always researching the technology to ensure you are making the most rational choice as a consumer. In the coming years more regulation may also bring clarity to these concerns so please watch this space.

Got any questions? Write a comment in the section below.

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