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Ten Scary Things About Home Networks

By Carolyn E. Price     Mar 2, 2007 in Technology
As with any new technology, uncertainty usually goes hand-in-hand with putting together a home network. Are you going to lie awake at night worrying about whether the toaster will misread a command from your network server and wipe out your hard drive?
Bill Gates' US$135 million home outside Seattle is said to be networked to the nines, with Gates able to use his PC to control most of the houses' functions from afar.
The networked home comes complete with "smart" appliances and a range of security and entertainment options and it is becoming increasingly common.
New homes can come equipped with centrally controlled entertainment, security and climate systems. Home-builder Lennar recently offered new home buyers the ability to purchase a networked home option.
Existing homes are being retro-fitted with home theaters and music systems that can pipe sounds from an iPod to any room you want, at any time.
In the living room, a PC is capable of becoming an entertainment hub, down to the basement where central computers can control heating and air conditioning; and into the kitchen, where you can install so-called 'smart cabinets' that can held the would-be chef find all the right ingredients. A home network system can control the entire home.
"Every year, more things get integrated," Marc Resnick, director of the Institute for Technology Innovation at Florida International University, told the E-Commerce Times. "It's not as though we woke up one day and everything's connected. It's a steady progression."
The linked article is separated into two parts. The above link goes to part 1, and this link goes to part 2.
The ten scariest things about home networks:
You Might Buy Too Soon -- This is not a new worry. Everyone is scared that when they are getting into some new technology, they are getting in too soon. Think back to betamax versus VHS tape recorders. Too young to remember? Just look at the cat fight going on now between Toshiba and Sony over the Blu Ray and the HD-A2 players. Which one do you choose?
You Might Go Broke -- In the late 70s and early 80s, a good VHS or Beta machine might cost you around $2,000. Today, you can get a DVD player for a 100 bucks. General Electric is marketing low-voltage smart home systems that can run up to $40,000 for the basic networking cabling, routers and controls for a new home. That price is before you've bought any of the high tech gadgets or smart appliances.
You Might Get Hacked -- Any Internet network can be hacked but a hacker needs to be motivated to do it. Unless you have someone with a personal vendetta against you, your network is more than likely to be safe from a hacker, even if it isn't as secure as it could be.
You Might Forget to Turn Down the Thermostat -- Over-reliance on technology can be a big problem and realists have to recognize that central control can quickly escalate into "central chaos". Most systems have default settings and fallback programs but sometimes, relying on a computer to do to much can be asking for trouble.
Finding the Gotchas -- networking homes has reached a major turning point and homeowners who decide to go the smart home route should be aware of all the potential pitfalls.
You Might Suffer From Gadget Overload -- Today, a home networking gadget freak might covet an array of devices, from TiVos to set-top boxes, iPods to satellite radio receivers, standalone hard drives, smart remotes and PC-to-TV devices.
You Might Need Professional Help -- "Consumers are increasingly asking for installed technologies, whether it's for a home theater room or an intricate home network complete with servers and structured wiring," said Joe Bates, the Consumer Electronics Association's director of research. "Clearly, builders, contractors and consumers believe that these offerings are no longer just the wave of the future but a reality."
You Might Run Out of Content -- Recently, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been pleading with the music industry to undo DRM protection on content. The reply, a resounding "no". This illustrates the challenge of getting the recording and movie industries to agree with hardware and software makers on how much to let users share, back-up or beam their content.
"That's definitely slowing down the growth of smart homes on the digital media side," said Marc Resnick, director of the Institute for Technology Innovation at Florida International University. "People don't want to invest in the equipment if they're not going to be able to play with the content."
You Might Run Out of Storage Space -- Even when video is compressed, it is a hard disk hog compared to data, photos or music. When you start storing video in high def format, you'll need oodles of storage. One-terabyte storage devices have been around for about two years and cost, on average, around 5,000 bucks. A terabyte storage system can probably hold around 300 movies so if you're a collector, you'll be putting out the big bucks.
You Might Not Be Compatible -- compatibility is always an issue, this will never go away, even when smart home networking is a commonplace practice.
This really made me think about a lot of issues as we've been considering installing a home network at our property up north. For me, these articles were a real eye opener.
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