Alexa, and its Echo speakers, are designed to make it easier to make purchases for subscribers to Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shopping and free access to its video and music offerings. Prime isn’t available in South Africa, meaning you’re paying the extra $100 a year for a modicum of convenience provided by a voice assistant that listens in on your every conversation. No thank you.
I’m also deeply sceptical of this current generation of internet-connected devices, such as security cameras and fridges, because they lack decent security. A major distributed denial of service attack in 2016 that took down Dyn — a major provider of domain-name servers — was through such CCTV video cameras and digital video recorders. Some of these are too “dumb” to have security. Worse, they all have the same password, which was “password”. Who wants their poorly secured fridge to be part of a botnet targeting internet takedowns?
There’s no doubt that smarter homes are the future, but to retrofit an existing house is lot more complex — and pricier. Apart from running Ethernet cables through our roof to key points around the house where a WiFi booster spreads the love from our 100Mbps fibre line (thanks Vumatel), our house is relatively old school.
The major change from the time I hooked up my previous home, is that the main internet point is now under the TV, not in the study. That alone demonstrates how much has changed in 10 years. Ironically, a wired connection is required only for the TV itself, so that we can stream Netflix in 4K. We no longer even have a landline.
The one clever thing our electrician did was rig our lights on a separate circuit to the plugs, so that we can see what we’re doing if the electricity trips. That’s the kind of smart home we like.
Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff .