Raj Samani

Imagine you lived in a house where all of your household appliances made decisions upon your behalf. Suppose you had a fridge which had the power to order food for you when it sensed it was running low, or an oven which ensured your food was ready when you arrived home.

You press a button to wash your clothes, and your washing machine tells you to wait until your electricity tariffs are a bit cheaper. Even the lighting is not immune from forming its own decisions.

You flick the light switch and they automatically convert to energy-saving mode, you turn on the TV and it decides what you should watch – based upon your previous choices.

In fact, the only control you have is through the use of an iPhone – which all of the technological cabal in your home are connected to.

Sounds like something right out of a sci-fi movie doesn’t it? For such devices would push the realms of artificial intelligence and change the way we interact with our home appliances for ever. And the truth is, they do not belong to the world of scientific fiction – indeed they are scientific fact. We’ve all heard of the smartphone. But how many of us have heard of the smarthome?

For such devices are at the pinnacle of the living, breathing and most of all connected smart home, which is envisioned for the future. And the truth is, most of these ‘intelligent’ decision-making, devices are already in existence. So just how far can we push the boundaries of technology? And more to the point, how safe are they?

Akashic Times caught up with Raj Samani, chief technical officer for McAfee to find out why our homes today are smarter than they’ve ever been before, and they’re only going to get smarter.

A survey by the company revealed that 97 per cent of Brits anticipate having a connected home in the next few years.


Mr Samani said: “We are already moving towards the connected home today. If you’d asked yourself five years ago: how many internet enabled devices do you have at home? The answer might have been one or two. But today it is not uncommon for people to have eight to fifteen devices. I recently spoke to someone who had 71 enabled devices.

“It is the world which we are moving in and we all understand we are going in that direction but what we’ve found is that most people aren’t even aware of the potential risks that going in that direction might cause.”

So what are the potential risks? Samani said that with the modern man or woman becoming increasingly reliant upon technology, they are leaving themselves more vulnerable to exploitation by criminals and security flaws.

“As a parent, one of the biggest concerns I’d have is ensuring that my children can’t go onto my television and download films that I don’t want them to see. Alternatively, if we are allowing people the ability to be able to control their heating and their light through a smartphone, or having your CCTV connected up to your webcam, you want to make sure that only you can have access to that. There are a multitude of risks and it kind of depends on what devices you are talking about,” he added.

But cyber security flaws are not the only dangers of allowing our devices, to effectively become the decision makers in the home.

There is another, perhaps more sinister side to the smarthome that perhaps few would consider. And that is data security. At a time, when technology has come under the spotlight with the misuse of ‘big data’ applications and information leaks, privacy has never been a more pertinent issue.

Samani said these new trends were a cause for concern. He said: “The amount of data we hold on net systems and our smartphones is quite worrying. Today there is a lot of technology that is available that can help protect our traditional devices such as the PCs, laptops and tablets and so forth.

“It is not only with regards to protecting the data on those devices but also about being able to control what people can and can’t do, such as stopping your kids from downloading inappropriate content as well.”

Recently, it was revealed that police were using data applications to predict a person’s likelihood of committing crime and making arrests on that basis.

Big data algorithms draw information from a variety of sources such as social media sites, pictures, videos, DNA, financial, educational and medical records, as well as mobile GPS data, to name but a few. But if the living, breathing smarthome concept is anything to go by, there may one day come a day when information may be drawn from our household appliances as well.

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