Moving house in the digital age

by Alistair Helm in


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I’ve been a casual observer over the past few years of The Internet of Things (IOT). A phrase coined by Kevin Ashton to describe the “interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data”.

I can recall visiting a “smart home of the future” as was described by Microsoft at the time in 2001 in Sydney and being captivated, as many people were by the internet connected fridge. More for the touch screen device on the door (remember this was 6 years before the launch of the iPad).

Such visions of the future as so often happens, take longer to arrive than we imagine. Skip forward nearly 20 years and there are very few touch screens on fridges. However the Internet of Things has slowly permeated our home, from cameras on door bells, to remote device control of our heating and lighting. The fact is, if a device is connected to a power source it could be and maybe connected to the internet, certainly my printer is, and I love the freedom to print wirelessly.

Anyway back to the title of this blog “Moving house in the digital age”. My interest in this subject was piqued by listening to a recent regular podcast favourite of mine “This Week in Google” with the regular co-host Stacey Higginbotham who is an expert on IOT. She got into an interesting discussion of the challenges that are faced by people like her, who live in highly connected houses that are alive with IOT devices, from lighting to door locks, to garage doors, to believe it or not taps an ovens.

Stacey is a real live case of someone who’s moving house and in preparing her home for sale she is somewhat challenged by the myriad of operating systems and instructions that pervade her connected home. How to convey to the new owner the operating systems for everything? Added to that is the thorny question of security.

Each device has an IP address and is connected through networks to routers that are all accessed by passwords. The conundrum she and other such hosue owners face is the question: “Should these passwords be changed or deactivated?” This type of issues shows just how moving home in the digital age is potentially far more complex and requires more thought. One aspect of no small significance is the question of privacy. Many IOT devices store data (anonymised) on usage which is very insightful to the behaviour of the user. Think for example the data insight you can infer from the time based tracking of a garage door or the usage of interior lights as well as thermostats.

Stacey conveniently referenced a document provided by the Online Trust Alliance which publishes a Smart Home checklist – Advice for buyers, sellers and renters. It is eye-popping in suggestions such as “Obtain confirmation from previous owner they no longer have administrative or user access”.

I could not help but reflect on how this compares to the current checklist for moving home. A quick check online brought me to the Harcourts site which has a very comprehensive checklist. However I am not sure the list has been updated recently as the opening advice was to cancel the newspaper and milk delivery. Do many people still have milk or newspapers delivered?

How times have changed. I recently wrote an article reflecting on the changes in marketing property for sale over the past 25 years. The internet, now celebrating its 30th birthday continues to impact our daily lives and surprises us at time in ways we least expect - like how we approach moving home with our ever more connected smart homes.