Smart Home Security
From doors that lock remotely to motion sensors that alert you to porch pirates, smart home security products attract not only tech-savvy homeowners, but also cyber criminals. Although these intelligent features are designed to keep out burglars and other external threats, they can be infiltrated by clever hackers. Once they've breached your smart security system, they can monitor your home, disable features that protect it, and ultimately gain entry.
Have you ever watched some spectacular aerial footage captured by a drone and thought, “I want one too!” Be forewarned that thanks to government-imposed restrictions on recreational drone use these remote-controlled aircraft can bring more headaches than thrills. You’ll need to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), you might need to get a remote pilot certificate, and you won't be able to fly your drone near airports, military bases, national parks, sports arenas, and many other so-called “no drone zones."
Why schedule a meeting or book a restaurant reservation yourself when with a single voice command you can have a virtual assistant like the Amazon Echo or Google Home do it for you? Well, maybe this convenience seems a little less appealing when you realize that these devices record your conversations and that consumer advocates worry about how this harvested personal information may be used. So, if privacy is a priority, consider taking care of all those mundane to-do tasks the old-fashioned way.
Robotic Lawn Mowers
Like Roombas for your lawn, robotic mowers can give your overgrown grass a shave while you kick back on a warm summer's day. But yard-work-averse homeowners should do a little research before adding bots to their mowing routine. Along with grass, the self-steering cutters have been known to mow down pets, backyard wildlife, and even feet. A robotic mower can also get stuck in a loop or die out in the middle of a job when the battery runs out of juice, so it may not wind up being the time-saver you think it will.
Remote Car Starters
Available in many new vehicles and as an aftermarket installation for some older models, remote car starters let you switch on your car from afar via a fob, so you can warm up the interior on chilly mornings or cool it down on scorching days. But an aftermarket installation may require modifications to the car’s factory security system, which can make the car more vulnerable to theft. As well, an improperly installed unit could damage your vehicle and void the warranty. And if you accidentally start the car while it’s in an enclosed space like a garage, the carbon monoxide fumes it produces could lead to poisoning or even death.
The internet of things, that web of everyday devices connected to the internet, has grown to encompass scores of intelligent appliances like smart sinks that minimize the spread of germs and smart toasters that remember how you like your toast. But there's one appliance that may be too smart for its own good: your fridge. A few years back, a smart refrigerator was hacked to send out malicious emails, and you certainly don't want your fridge to be the weak link that provides access to your smart home. So, if you have your heart set on a smart fridge that can serve as your family's hub, track food expiration dates, and help you find recipes, be vigilant about software updates to keep your appliance functional and malware-free.
Smart suitcases that can measure their own weight and even charge your phone seem like the perfect travel companion—until you get to the airport. The FAA considers the lithium-ion battery used to power many of these connected cargo carriers to be a fire hazard. Many carriers will ask you to remove the battery before boarding, which might in turn require the use of a TSA-approved screwdriver.
Bed Climate Control Systems
If you’re chilled to the bone even with the covers on, or all hot and bothered even with them off, you may have been tempted by advertisements for bed climate control systems. These new products have a base unit that tucks under the bed and circulates warm or cold air into a special blanket via a hose. But all this technology doesn't guarantee a good night’s sleep. These systems rely on the air in your room for cooling, so if your air conditioner conks out completely in the summer, the system may do the same. And there's always the chance that you'll kick the comforter off at night, knock the air hose loose, and end up uncomfortably cold or hot.
The television has come a long, long way from the primitive mechanical sets developed in the 1920s. Today's newfangled screens immerse you in the action and can be curved, bent, or even rolled up. But given the high picture quality of affordable flat-screen LCD or LED TVs, it makes more sense for budget-conscious shoppers to buy one of those models on a sale day than to fork over a pretty penny for a luxe viewing experience.
Related: 50 Great Gadgets for a Smarter Home
Money-saving, time-saving—and yes, sometimes even life-saving—the latest and greatest smart home technologies span from self-programming thermostats to voice-activated TV controls to video doorbells and beyond. Raise your home's IQ!