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Summary:

Consumer Reports has tackled the smart home and its recommendations are mostly on point. Readers aren’t likely to rush out to buy a connected device after reading.

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photo: Consumer Reports

Last night, my June issue of Consumer Reports arrived with a cover featuring Nest, Hue light bulbs and a connected Schlage lock. This caused me to actually shout in excitement: here was a chance to see how normal people view the smart home. The good news is that connected devices are making their way into the mainstream, but the bad news is that Consumer Reports has accurately pegged most of the challenges the industry is facing — and I’m not sure it’s going to help convert anyone to the smart home.

Consumer Reports notes the potential pitfalls of connectivity, such as ineffective passwords and weak Wi-Fi networks that can mean your devices are able to become part of a botnet army or, worse, share your data on the internet. As we’ve written, companies aren’t designing these products with security at the forefront, and consumers may elect to use weak passwords or pass on updates that are important.

CR’s writers must listen to our podcast, because they also nail the pitfalls of betting on the wrong technology and recognize that the centrally connected smart home is still far away. So, since this is Consumer Reports, what point products does the magazine recommend? In its worth buying category are the TCP lighting system, which retails for $50; a connected generator monitor that has a monthly service fee and cellular connection; and a FortrezZ Wireless Z-wave water valve controller that lets you remotely turn off your water in case of a leak.

In the “never mind” category, Consumer Reports tosses the Nest thermostat and Nest Protect under a bus because of customer complaints about the heating turning off after updates and a lack of sensors on the Protect. It also tells people not to waste their money on a $5,685 smart toilet that I never even knew existed and a variety of connected ovens. I’m with them on this one: Remote preheating is not enough of a feature for the cost spike for a connected oven. Call me when it is refrigerated.

CR can’t make up its mind on the Philips Hue lights, the Belkin WeMo light switch or some of the connected washers and dryers. Price is a factor for Hue and the connected dryers, and the WeMo gets dinged because it’s an odd size that can make it a pain to install. I don’t agree on the hue bulbs and tend to recommend them to people as a good first product because it is fun and let users tiptoe into the future of a truly smart home, thanks to the integrations with services like If This Then That and other consumer friendly hubs like the one from Staples Connect.

Check out the article for the ratings on connected locks and the nitty gritty about CR’s take on the smart home. I found myself in agreement most of the time, although I wish the article had tackled the hub phenomenon and discussed the pros and cons of that. Maybe next year.

  1. Thomas J. Romano Tuesday, May 6, 2014

    They should have looked up insteon also. you don’t need a hub or smartphone if you use their remotes. The remotes link with the other devices via the setup buttons.

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    1. I think the focus was less about hubs and more about devices and apps. And the remotes may have not fit their criteria.

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  2. House of Janes Tuesday, May 6, 2014

    This seems very reasonable to me. These are all just toys we’re playing with – we’re in the Commodore PET / TRS-80 / Apple ][ phase of the IoT. The real action is yet to come.

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    1. House of Janes Tuesday, May 6, 2014

      Lol sorry for the “House of Janes” – it’s @dpjanes.

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  3. I think Nest gave up their smart home aspirations, back in January, to manage power consumption. But can you blame them? They were paid thirty times worth.

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  4. Tightwads association of western new york Wednesday, May 21, 2014

    I read consumer reports and wrote my own article about Nest. At $225+ they are very pricey, don’t save much more money than if you take 20 minutes to progtam your current thermostat correctly, and are really funny for kids to play with…which is horrible. Plus, if they are hacked its easy for anyone to learn your habits and when you are out of the house, and easy to steal from.

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