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Column: Should you connect smart homes to smart phones?


AUSTIN, Texas — In my unstinting effort to keep you up-to-the-moment in the digital world of “what’s happening next?”, allow me to introduce you to two terms you might not have encountered in your own busy world.

First comes the “Internet of Things.” This refers to the bundle of smart phones, smart cars, smart watches, smart homes, smart clothes and smart everythings that supposedly are smarter than you and are supposed to make your life easier. Next is “connectivity,” which refers to the brave new world in which we humanoids connect to our products and they connect to each other.

Both terms were buzzing around a recent conference at which Apple, the giant of gizmos, announced a new software package called “Home Kit” that puts your iPhone in charge of your house. For example, when you’re headed home from work, this phone will unlock your door, open the garage, turn on the lights, adjust the thermostat, start the oven, fire up the barbecue and get the daiquiri blender going. How handy is that?

However, aside from the fact that none of these tasks seem burdensome enough to warrant Internet intervention, my question is, “handy” for whom? Thieves would surely appreciate the convenience of hacking into your Home Kit system to have it unlock your doors for them. And NSA, the FBI and other snoops will gladly rig your toaster to spy on you. Perhaps the worst perversion of smart technology, however, is one already being contemplated by Google: Using the connectivity of thermostats, ovens, light fixtures, etc. to transmit digital ads directly into our homes. Oh, the horror!

Before we connect the privacy of our homes to the Internet of Things, let’s ponder what other “things” come with this “gee whiz” technology. To learn more, connect with the Electronic Privacy Information Center:

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.