We all hear a lot about “Cloud Connected” devices and systems, today. Cloud Connected typically refers to any device or system that is connected to a cloud based server system. A “cloud” system is usually based on a server, or multiple servers, making for more powerful processing power and access to cloud based services like voice. This offers some advantages like remote access, app control, voice features and other things such as low level AI (artificial intelligence). This means it requires a live internet connection to function or fully function. Herein lies the issue.
This past weekend a major internet provider in NY and NJ went down. In some areas they are still down. This is typically a rare problem, and even rarer to occur to such large areas and cities, but the one complaint we saw the most was the people’s smart home systems were NOT functional, didn’t work, they could not interact with it, while disconnected.
Spectrum, one provider is actually still down as of the writing of this blog. Optimum is a Fiber provider who’s fiber was cut during the weekend.
Here is a post from one of the Facebook Smart home groups.
POST FROM SMART HOMES FACEBOOK GROUP
“Well I should have thought of this. Maybe someone has a fix for this situation. Optimum (my internet service provider) is down. So now my entire smart home isn’t working. Is there a way to make sure the smart home continues to work when the internet has an outage.
PS: if your in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and surrounding regions the entire Optimum system is out. It is a fiber optic issue affecting all of Optimum and starting to affect other service providers as well. ( I wonder if we are getting cyber attacked.)”
Having installed smart homes for over 23 years now, this has always been a concern. Even in the early days of the internet, when outages were much more common, we always provided redundancy for control. Internet connected, or worse, off-site control systems, are always the secondary redundancy, not the primary.
Don’t YOU want to be in total control of your smart home system, how it works, what it does, who knows what you’re doing? I sure do. I don’t want to be reliant on the internet to be able to unlock a door, arm my alarm or turn on my lights. That is truly absurd, yet, this is the way many systems are heading these days.
This current outage in NJ and NY is just a recent example of why we think this is a bad idea. Being able to remotely control, access and operate your smart home is not the same as having your control system hosted on the internet. This is called “Cloud Control” and means the main brains behind your system are on the internet and require a connection to properly operate. Alexa, Next, Ring and several other devices come to mind. None work, or fully work when not connected. Again, this is becoming more and more rare these days, but it still happens and will always happen, to some degree.
At FulTech, all of our systems are hosted at your home, on local devices, that do not require internet connection. Whether you are connected, online or not, the system FULLY functions no matter what. Now, don’t get me wrong, connected systems offer significant benefits, and allow you to use your phone, tablets or voice to interact with your system and make a huge difference to ease of use and access, but again, our focus is that it works when you need it, no matter what (unless the powers off, but that’s a discussion for another blog).
You can have the latest in smart home technology, yet still have it hosted locally in your home and not require an online connection (or snooping on how you use your home). Again, all of our systems are online and connected, but when that connection fails (the landscapers cut the line, a squirrel ate it, etc) or the internet goes down, you still want to have full control of your smart home.
Alexa will not work at all without a Wifi and internet connection. Nest thermostats can still be controlled when offline, but with very limited capabilities. I’ve seen DIY clients with other Wifi thermostats that they couldn’t setup or even turn on, until they had internet. These were brand new homes and some had to wait weeks for the internet to be connected. The outcome was they had to install standard thermostats until their area got internet connected. Many other cloud connected systems function the same way. You end up with either severely limited or no functionality and control when you are offline.
Cloud based systems have their merits, for many software applications, hosting data and websites, and much more, but for smart homes, I hope I have outlined several reasons as to why having a local based system is the best option, gives you the most control, and keeps data collection (another blog post) about how you interact with and use your system, to you and your family members only.