Can Samsung create a “Jetsons” family home?

Samsung is selling us on security and convenience with their SmartThings line but are opening up our homes to threats?

 

The Jetsons was one of my favorite cartoons growing up. What attracted me most to the cartoon was the chores my mum always got on my case to do were handled by ‘Rosie the robot’ or the home itself. Every morning George would get onto a conveyor belt half asleep and this belt would take him through the shower and he would proceed to a machine that brushed his teeth. This house was heaven to me. The number of fights I would get into with mum from nursery to high school because I was not a morning person would have been solved by this home. Therefore, I see the allure of the move to Smart Homes. They make life easier by taking away mundane tasks. However, are we trading our security for convenience. Are we providing easy access into our homes by opening them to hackers? Should we adopt this Smart Home movement? Essentially, is the Jetsons family home dream attainable?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8SC6bny1SA

Samsung, in an attempt to create a Smart Home, has started a new division called Smart Things. It features devices that can be added synced with an app from your home giving you control over these devices remotely. It has a home monitoring system where Samsung sells the idea of increased home security.  A home owner can monitor their house while away at work or on vacation. If the user is a parent, they can keep tabs on their kids when they are away. They also have a Smart Refrigerator that takes pictures of the inside of the fridge alerting you to what’s low on supply. From there you can use the screen on the refrigerator to make an order using an online delivery service. The refrigerator takes over the task of refrigerated goods inventory record keeping. Other products on Samsung’s line of Smart Things are thermostats, espresso machines and stereo systems. Samsung is selling their consumers on better parenting, better security and more convenience. Is this value-proposition sustainable?

The more we let go of our control of some tasks to a computer, the more we open ourselves to risks. If I can monitor my home and children from my phone, it means that other people who can hack into this system have same access. Cyber security researchers at the University of Michigan were able to hack into an experimental set-up of Samsung’s SmartThings. The researchers go as far as to dissuade people from relying on these systems to provide security because they are prone to vulnerabilities [i]. The issue with SmartThings is that the access Is grants is at a full device level, rather than narrower. Securing these systems is not an easy task.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwm6nvC9Xhc

If Samsung is aware of these vulnerabilities aren’t they falsely advertising? Is it their responsibility to inform their customers of these risks? If they don’t and my home is hacked into, can I hold them liable for the losses?

Moving forward, Samsung needs to work with scientists and hackers to make their systems more secure. At the moment, their SmartThings devices are not living up to their customer promise. I would hope that we are closer to achieving my childhood dream of a Jetsons home but at this point it seems like Samsung has a lot more work left to do.

What do you think? Should Samsung pull down this line of devices until they can fix the bugs? Should they disclose to their customers? Or is it business as usual for them?

I wonder whether George Jetsons would feel safe living in a home equipped with SmartThings devices.

 

[i]http://ns.umich.edu/new/multimedia/videos/23748-hacking-into-homes-smart-home-security-flaws-found-in-popular-system

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2 thoughts on “Can Samsung create a “Jetsons” family home?

  1. Great article Diana! I agree with you that Samsung or any company for that matter which is developing Smart Home and convenience solutions which is asking us to rely on technology needs to work on the security of these devices and technologies. I however am positive that the technology is only help us improve our lifestyles and lot of work is still pending to make this a success.

  2. This is a very interesting topic, thanks for sharing Diana!

    Safety is a huge issue and I definitely think Samsung should pull the devices out of the market until it fixes its security issues (especially for more sensitive things). This article (https://www.wired.com/2016/05/flaws-samsungs-smart-home-let-hackers-unlock-doors-set-off-fire-alarms/) further emphasizes the safety issues associated with Samsung’s SmartThings system. While there are safety issues, I think that shouldn’t cause Samsung to panic and abandon the project altogether. Anything that is new and innovative is likely to have safety concerns. But if these concerns can be addressed then we can unlock immense potential value. Based on the insights from the article I cited, Samsung could first start by focusing on non-critical items such as controlling window shades and lighting systems. The company should iron out its safety issues for these and release these items into the market and test how it works. Samsung should start working on critical items only after the non-critical items are thoroughly tested and an adequate safety system has been developed.

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