The Smartification of the Home, Part 1
Over the past few years, there has been proliferation of intelligent connected devices introduced into homes across the globe. These devices can range from the familiar – such as tablets, smart phones, and smart TVs – to the less familiar, such as utility meters, locks, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, motion detectors and scales.
Other devices, like wearable technologies, or wearables, such as fitness and lifestyle monitoring devices, and smart glasses are making an entrance into our regular way of life.
This effect, known as “smartification” of the home, becomes very apparent, when comparing a visual snapshot of the typical home now, with say one of 5-7 years ago.
Figure 1. Home networks before
Figure 2. Home networks today
Our understanding of the global prevalence of smart devices and their implications to the attack surface of the home is critical, as it allows us to better understand the security demands of the connected home. We had earlier discussed the possibility of threats against the Internet of Everything in our 2014 predictions. Below, we discuss some interesting forces that can influence – for good or bad – the prevalence of these smart devices.
In the United States, there is already a large amount of effort going into marketing around household smart devices with a focus on convenience, security, and energy conservation. It is now fairly common to see smart hubs and smart devices (including home appliances) being sold in electronics, department and hardware stores, such as Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy and Sears. Online retailers like Amazon, as well as specialty vendors like SmartHome.com, are also selling a broad range of smart devices for the home.
Broadband providers, such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, and others are now providing consumer smart home automation packages as well. These are based on a subscription model, and can be added on to the existing Internet service of customers. Independent providers such as Vivint, Iris, Nexia, Savant, and others also provide similar subscription-based services to manage one’s home.
Non-service based smart hub offerings, such as SmartThings, Revolv, Vera, and Loxone provide equipment bundles that allow the consumer to enhance their home – without having to pay subscription charges. Apple’s upcoming HomeKit, currently slated for fall 2014, appears to make use of the smart phone, as the primary “hub” for orchestrating devices at home.
It may be surprising to realize that much of the functionality of these smart home offerings have actually existed for many years. However, in the past, these systems had less focus on simplicity, openness, and compatibility. Newer devices that have these characteristics, and as a result tech-averse consumers can deploy and manage these devices over their life span.
Regional availability of smart devices will affect the rate at which homes become smarter over time. In the US and Europe, for example, there are already a significant number of smart devices available on the market. Global companies such as GE, LG, and Samsung, are already providing smart versions of appliances that they have traditionally produced for many years, in many different regions of the globe. Apple is another example of a brand with global outreach potential.
By contrast, local or regional brands — ones that have historically been focused on one country or region, which may be trusted more by their base of local customers — may be slower to introduce “smart devices” into their product lineup. They may also not have the immediate ability or even local demand to justify competing with global brands. Customers loyal to these brands may not be as keen to embrace smart devices.
The cost of a smart device will affect its availability to the average consumer in different regions of the globe. Though cost is just one factor, as these devices become more affordable in each region, they will likely become more attractive for consumers to purchase, resulting in an increased prevalence of these devices in a given region.
Typically, costs of smart devices will vary in different regions due to factors such as logistics, local taxes and import duties, This results in regional price differences. In markets where prices are relatively low, adoption will be rapid; expensive markets will see the opposite. It is safe to assume however, that historically as the technology improves and becomes commoditized, the cost of these devices will fall.
Limiting the prevalence of smart devices globally is the fact that each country or region has their own regulatory requirements, including safety and security codes. For example, devices available in a specific region may need operate on a specific voltage and frequency, and have a specific plug type and also undergo certification by safety groups (such as Underwriters Laboratories in the US).
Not all competitors in the smart devices space may be willing (or able) to bear the costs of re-engineering and and recertification necessary to meet these needs; this may be particularly true of smaller startups that lack the resources of their better-established competitors.
In addition, global companies that manufacture and distribute smart home devices, including ad-hoc products and services, may encounter challenges at the political level that set back their products’ market potential in a given region.
In the next blog post, we will look at some additional factors that may influence the prevalence of smart devices, and the resulting attack surface.
Stay tuned for our upcoming Threat Intelligence Resource – Internet of Everything hub, which will provide the latest updates and information about the Internet of Everything.