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How Safe Are Home Security Systems?

By Jeff Kagan
Nov 21, 2019 10:01 AM PT
systems designed to keep homes safer may pose security and privacy risks

I have loved the story of Ring doorbells ever since seeing the CEO Jamie Siminoff on TV's Shark Tank several years ago. I also loved the SimpliSafe story with CEO Chad Laurans. There are also several other competitors -- like Blink home security, which is owned by Amazon, and Nest, which was acquired by Google. These companies, started by creative entrepreneurs, are changing the security industry. However, there are several problems users need to be aware of.

First, these companies are being acquired by larger companies. Moving forward, that means they are a slice of a larger pie. The larger company always wants synergy, so it looks for ways for these technologies to work together and do more.

On one hand that sounds great, but privacy invasion is becoming a growing concern for many of these larger companies and their users.

In the last several years, we've watched the entrepreneurs running these breakthrough companies evangelize their security and safety visions. However, even they must give way to the parent company's plans for growth.

I recently tested the Ring doorbell and the SimpliSafe security system. Both are advanced and generally easy to set up and use. While I do think they are cool, I have noticed some features don't work as well as their TV commercials suggest.

Ring Doorbell Is Too Slow

The Ring doorbell takes too long to send a smartphone notification so you can talk with the person at your door. That feature unusable.

Example: When someone is near my front door, I get a notice of activity. When someone presses the doorbell, I instantly get a notice someone is there. So far, so good.

However, if I am out and about and my Ring smartphone app wakes up, I click the icon and wait, and wait, and wait. By the time it actually connects and lets me see my front porch, it's too late. The visitor is gone. That means I cannot connect with the person who rang the bell.

Sure, I can rewind and see who was there, but it's too late to have a conversation. That defeats the whole purpose of being able to monitor your home and chat with visitors and delivery people, or scare off bad guys.

So, when watching TV and seeing a Ring doorbell commercial showing how well it protects your house, just remember, it does not always work as well, as quickly, or as easily as advertised.

Ring Battery Life Is Too Short

Another problem is battery life. If you hook it up to your power, this is not an issue. If you use battery power in the summer, it lasts quite a few weeks.

However, when you use the battery in colder weather, you are lucky to get a week or two before it goes dead. I am not sure why the battery can't hold a charge in cold weather.

So, while I love the idea of Ring, and while I applaud the company for caring about the customer and building a great device, it has real problems that need to be fixed.

SimpliSafe Security: Easy to Set Up and Use

SimpliSafe is one of several companies that allow you to set up a home security system quickly and easily. Anyone can install the system in minutes. It's easy.

SimpliSafe's security system protects your home and family from the bad guys who want to break in. It operates on wireless networks, so you don't even need to hook it up to your wire line phone or cable TV wire.

How are things changing? Ring is moving into security and SimpliSafe is moving into video doorbells. So, today these two companies are becoming direct competitors.

Nest operates in this space as well, along with many others.

There are many differences, and both strengths and weaknesses, between these devices.

You can choose based on the quality of the video signal to your smartphone, how quickly it reacts, how quickly it shows up on your smartphone, how much the monthly service charge is, and so on.

Voice-Activated Home Tech Vulnerabilities

There have been scary stories lately of vulnerabilities with voice-activated software systems like Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant and Apple's Siri, thanks to lasers, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and other technologies. This is a problem that needs to be fixed, and quickly, if these companies don't want their brands to be damaged.

Lasers can hack digital assistants running on devices like Amazon's Echo, Google's Home, and Facebook's Portal. They can open doors and screw with everything connected to the system. If that's the case, what about Ring, SimpliSafe and Nest?

How safe and secure are we if we depend on these new technologies? After all, no one wants their home or their personal safety to be vulnerable to thieves and bad guys.

Privacy Invasion Is a Growing Concern

Privacy invasion is another area of concern. Some people may not mind if a company knows everything that goes on in their homes. Others do. Some companies threaten privacy more than others. You need to understand how to protect yourself.

After all, who wants company workers watching what goes on in the privacy of your own home? If you walk around in your underwear or less, or if you discuss private or intimate matters, you don't want devices watching and listening.

The good news is, Ring, SimpliSafe and Nest are all great companies with advanced technologies. There are other companies in this rapidly growing space as well. Most were built by entrepreneurs, and some of them are being acquired by larger companies.

We need to make sure they don't cross the line. We need to protect our privacy and security. These companies need to make sure they cannot be hacked. These are real concerns.

When these companies started out they seemed to care about their customers. Let's hope they don't lose that quality as they continue to grow and mature over time.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.


Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent analyst, consultant and speaker. Email Jeff.


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