Dec 04 2017

Are Smart Homes Safer Homes….Or Not? The Answer To This Question Might Affect What You Pay For Homeowners Insurance

In 2010, according to IHS Markit, only 0.5% of homes in the U.S. had connected home devices such as thermostats, lighting, security, and entertainment. By the end of 2017, IHS estimates that nearly 12% of households will have connected home devices, with an average of six devices per home.

At Bearingstar Insurance, we have seen this trend among our own personal insurance clients – more people are buying homes or renting apartments already loaded with smart technology or they are taking steps on their own to turn their home into a partially, or totally, connected living space. That’s why we wanted to explore the smart home phenomenon with you in a three-part blog series that will discuss what makes a home “smart”, key details about some of the most popular gadgets in the marketplace today, downsides of this smart technology, and how having a smarter home may – or may not – affect your home insurance.

What exactly is a smart home?

Who better to ask this question to than SmartHomeUSA , a company that stocks thousands of home automation products. The definition of a smart home, they say, is one that provides you with comfort, security, energy efficiency and convenience at all times.

You just might have a smart home if…

  • Your appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment, audio and video systems, and security and camera systems are all capable of communicating with one another
  • You can control these devices remotely from any room in the home, as well as from any location in the world by phone or internet

The main benefits of having a smart, connected home are purported to be a savings of time, money, and energy. In addition, much of the technology is directed at helping homeowners, condo owners , and renters not only feel more protected while they are in their residences, but also when nobody is home.

However, aside from early adopters and self-professed gadget geeks, mainstreaming of these devices has been slower than industry experts had expected for two main reasons:

  • Companies making these products – like Nest, Phillips, Google, Amazon, Logitech – all have had their own private operating system and were closed off to connecting to other smart devices
  • Many consumers have been hesitant to spend the money on these gadgets when they didn’t really understand the value or the purpose behind them

Typically, the buying process starts with baby steps and a specific reason for wanting to add a smart device. For example, many parents would like to be able to keep a watchful eye on the kids when they are home alone. So, a wireless smart indoor security camera, with 24/7 live streaming, that can be accessed from an app on your phone, tablet or laptop and from anywhere you happen to be, could make a lot of sense for working or traveling parents.

Today, the industry is at a “tipping point” and gathering a lot of momentum going into the 2017 holiday season for one main reason: there is now a common language (or protocol) that enables all the smart things in your home to talk to each other. This language is called IFTTT (IF This Then That), and it is a free web-based service that allows you, the smart technology user, to create, or say, chains of simple conditional statements, called “applets,” that all your smart devices can understand.

What does this mean in human-speak? Say you’ve installed a smart thermostat along with wireless and smart lighting in your home. You can now have the two devices work together to conserve energy, create a comfortable environment when you arrive home, or set the ambience for a romantic evening without you having to touch a dial, a switch, or a button.

Industry analysts project that the year ahead will be a huge one for smart home technology, due to constant innovation, lower prices, better education for consumers on the benefits, and enhanced security measures.

There’s something smart for everyone in your household

From the futuristic tech lover to the biggest music fan to the culinary enthusiast in your family, there is truly a smart gadget for everyone in your household this holiday season. Below are just a few ideas for items you may want to add to your shopping list.

Virtually everyone craves an easier way to do everything in their life and with smart technology gadgets for the home you can actually give the gift of convenience this year! Who wouldn’t be happy with gift boxes full of set-it-and-forget-it devices for the home like smart light dimmers and switches, Wi-Fi enabled thermostats, or a smart room air conditioner. By automating your home lighting and/or heating and cooling system, you can have control with a simple touch of a screen, swipe of a finger, or the sound of your voice. This gift may also put some extra coins in the pocket of the receiver who will be able to improve their home’s energy efficiency by remotely powering off these systems when they aren’t in use.

What about for the person in your family who would appreciate having a little extra time on their hands? Present them with their very own robot vacuum or lawn mower. The latest version of these “housekeeping” smart products are far more advanced than their early predecessors that often got lost in a remote part of your house, or yard, and annoyingly beeped, “I’m out of power” while you frantically tried to search down their location. Today’s robot vacuums and mowers not only clean your house and landscape your yard, respectively, but also remember the layout to increase efficiency, dump their own dirt and debris in a receptacle, and find their own way back to their charging station.

What about something for the person in your house who could use an extra hand in the kitchen? You could go “big” and get them the smart fridge of their dreams with giant touchscreen, music speakers, and a built-in grocery list system. Or, you could ease them into the latest kitchen technology by purchasing a smart slow-cooker that can be adjusted for time and temperature so that dinner is ready when you are, or a wired digital food thermometer that provides temperature graphs and instant readouts, or even a Wi-Fi enabled coffee maker that connects to a smartphone so you can set up your perfect cup of coffee every morning with a few button taps from anywhere, anytime.

Maybe you’d like to have your loved one unwrap something a little more “fun” than an automated home system, cleaning gadget or appliance. In that case, you may want to look into hands-free speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. Who wouldn’t want a personal assistant that can record your grocery list as you rattle off what you need, that will remind you when your kids need to be dropped off or picked up, that can help you with your homework, and that will tell you a joke or play your favorite song within seconds of you asking. Looking for more great high-tech gift ideas for the whole family? A smart speaker system, like the brand new Sonos One, comes with Amazon’s Alexa assistant built in, but also supports Google Home, and allows you to play music all around the house just by telling Alexa what you want to hear. Cue those holiday tunes!

Finally, as your local insurance agent who is always looking out for your best interests, Bearingstar would love for your holiday shopping list to include some smart technology for the home that is aimed at making your household safer and more secure. We understand that devices such as Wi-Fi enabled, motion-detecting security cameras, connected door viewers, wireless garage door sensors, next generation smoke detectors, smart locks, and water leak and mold sensors don’t sound like the most exciting gift ideas. However, whether you’re staying put in your own house this holiday season or taking your show on the road, these devices can give you peace of mind that your home, your possessions and your loved ones are well-protected from theft, fire, water damage, and other unforeseen events. That’s definitely a gift worth giving to someone else – or even yourself – this holiday season.

Choose a smart insurance partner to protect your smarter home

At Bearingstar Insurance, we understand that some Massachusetts and Connecticut homeowners, condo owners and renters are enamored with smart technology and partial or complete automation of their homes, while others are hesitant to connect to anything. Then, there is everyone else in between that is interested in testing the waters by trying one smart device out at a time.

Whether you’re thinking you’d like to go in “whole hog” on smart technology for your home or you’d rather just test out one device at a time, in Part II of this blog series, we will share more details about some of the most popular smart gadgets in the marketplace today, not just their “cool” or fun factors, but also their truly life-saving features.

Whatever your level of enthusiasm is towards intelligent devices in the home, our knowledgeable team is here to provide you with the right insurance options to protect the smart technology, as well as the other personal belongings, you bring into your home. We are also ready to assist you with identifying any discounts you might be eligible for since adding or enhancing your home security with smart technology products. Finally, our team works hard to stay updated on the exciting innovations – as well as the shortcomings – of this growing industry to ensure your insurance options are keeping up with the technology of today and the future.

For more insurance tips related to smart technology in the home and/or assistance with all of your home insurance needs, contact a friendly agent near you at any one of our convenient locations across Massachusetts and Connecticut. We look forward to sharing more information with you so you can make smart decisions about technology and insurance for your home.

Back to Blog