Thursday, 2 October 2014

Master of the House? Who Controls the Home in the Internet of Things?

I had an interesting conversation with an American friend recently about how the AT&T Digital Life product had helped him take control of the temperature in his house.... from his wife!

I've experienced air conditioning wars at a company I used to work at - the thermostat was at the end of the office near the door. At various points, certain people would go and turn it up to full heat, whilst others would go and turn it fully down to cold. It was a mess. In the end facilities resolved it by taking control away entirely and nobody was happy.

Whilst slightly amusing, it does raise interesting questions for the future home internet-of-things (IoT) solutions.

Is the administrator or 'Master' of the house IoT system de facto the most tech-savvy person in the house? Statistics on technical career choices would dictate that is probably usually a man. Does that put women in an unfair or weak position when it comes to privacy?
What rights do other family members have to privacy and control?
What about visitors?

Rental Homes and Holiday Lets

What about rented homes? In the future home automation, monitoring and other IoT solutions are likely to be built in to new homes. What rights do people who are leasing homes have when it comes to ensuring that the Landlord cannot monitor or control such a system?

Abusive and Controlling Relationships

What happens in cases of domestic violence, controlling behaviour and abuse? Spyware applications are often used by jealous partners so there is nothing to say that such people wouldn't also use IoT technology as part of their controlling behaviour.

The Good Side

On the flip-side, there are plenty of examples of cameras being used by home owners which have caught thieves, discovered abuse by child minders and by carers for the elderly. For some vulnerable people, door cameras have been helpful to deter and detect cold callers who would take financial advantage of them.

These new social realities are happening now. Whilst home IoT solutions are generally fantastic, for some people, even being at home may become a problem.

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