Are you managing your smart home technology or is it managing you?

How do you know if you have the bandwidth in your home to handle smarter home tech gadgets?

SchlessA: Many ISPs have programs that help you understand how much data and bandwidth your connected devices are using. Vendors also note how many devices can support each of their plans.

McKinleyA: Depending on the number of smart home technology devices in your home and the type of appliances, you may have different needs. The basic rule is that if you are a regular user (you use a streaming service to watch TV, you have one or two smart devices, etc.), then you should aim for speeds between 20 and 50 Mbps. [megabits per second] speed. If you have multiple TVs that broadcast 4k at once, different smart home devices and one or two gamers in the house, then you should aim for speeds of 100 Mbps and more. Don’t forget that just because you have speed, it doesn’t mean you have coverage. You need to make sure you perform a speed test at different points in your home to determine your coverage.

If coverage is poor in the areas where you want to place the device, you may want to consider:

· Router centralization. You can pay for the high speed that comes into your home, but if your router is located in a decentralized corner of your home, you are severely limiting its coverage. Wi-Fi signals pass poorly through dense objects such as concrete, metal and wood. The more walls your signal has to pass, the more power it loses. Simply moving the router to another location can solve many problems with signal strength and coverage.

· Upgrade the router to a cellular system. Network routers are a great option to extend the coverage for those who have large gaps where their Wi-Fi signal just doesn’t reach. They provide a stable speed as they work together to expand coverage.

· Upgrade to a Wi-Fi Router 6. Wi-Fi 6 is a relatively new technology that is faster and can handle multiple devices (or streams) simultaneously. This gives it an advantage, but it is one router, so to be effective, it needs to be centralized in your home. If your home has a central place where you can move your router, updating Wi-Fi 6 may be the best choice for you because of its ability to handle multiple instructions at once.

When you add devices, are you more vulnerable to someone getting your personal information?

Schless: More devices inevitably means more places where some of your personal data is stored. Because attacks on consumer hardware, such as connected home technology, typically occur at the network level, the number of devices may not affect your actual level of vulnerability.

However, you need to consider the risk of attacking the device manufacturer. Today, to activate a new device, you almost always need to enter certain personal information, which means that the manufacturer has this data. In the event of hacking into their corporate infrastructure, there is a risk of disclosing your data.

How do you protect your privacy when using smart home technology?

SchlessA: It is important to think about protecting your privacy with smart home technology. Common best practice is to include a minimum amount of data access and permissions. With smart home technology, minimal things like location data, microphone access, and connected accounts are usually needed for the technology to work. Depending on your personal risk tolerance and how you want to balance increased functionality with less privacy, you can enable additional home appliance features through a little more personal data.

What do you do if something goes wrong with a smart home gadget?

SchlessA: If something seems to be not working properly, it is best to call the manufacturer and find out if they can help you fix it. However, if you feel that the device has been hacked or someone else is operating it, first turn it off and unplug it from the power source.

McKinley: Reboot! Sometimes the quickest solution is to turn off the device, then turn off the Wi-Fi router, and then turn them on again in about 30 seconds and see if the problem resolves itself. Nine times out of 10 a simple reboot solves the problem. If that doesn’t solve your problem, the next step really depends on your situation and device. If you are a Pocket Geek Home customer, use the mobile app to access connected home device experts and self-help content for the most common connected home devices if you prefer DIY. You can also google the problem and see what others have done to solve it. If that doesn’t help, the next option is to contact the manufacturer and hopefully they will help. However, modern smart home devices interact with other devices. Many manufacturers have great support for their devices, but if the problem goes beyond their device, then they may have limited support or no support at all.

What is the best way to keep track of software updates on your devices?

SchlessA: It is important to make sure that any device you have connected to the Internet works with the latest software updates. Most devices will let you know when it’s time to upgrade, but you should check every couple of weeks. Most updates these days are related to security, so if you don’t use the latest version, you may be vulnerable to cyberattacks. The most obvious examples of this are our smartphones and tablets, which always seem to ask us to update. This is not in vain and you should always use a security application, such as Lookout Mobile Security, on your mobile devices. This ensures that you will be protected from malicious network connections, phishing attacks and compromise attacks by advanced devices.

McKinleyA: Most of the smart home devices on the market today work with a companion mobile app. You need to make sure that these apps are always updated by installing the latest app updates (or setting your phone to auto-update apps). Once the program is updated, you should have access to the latest features. Some devices, such as Sonos, for example, rely on an app to send updates to physical devices. In cases where you run the latest program, it will remind you that a device update is available. When you see these messages, you should always take the time to allow these updates to take place to make sure you have no problems using them.

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