056 HPM 1115

HPM November 2015

Got a story? Ring us on 01732 748041 or e-mail twood@unity-media.com TRAINING/TECHNICAL What your smart control says about you As the popularity of internet enabled smart controls and thermostats continues to grow in the UK, so does the need for installers to provide customers with information about their chosen product, especially where data protection is concerned. Martyn Bridges, of Worcester, Bosch Group, explains... The more smart thermostats and controls continue to make inroads into the UK market, the more new information people are finding out about them every day. For example, only recently I wrote an article questioning what really constitutes a ‘smart’ controller, as it seems this label is increasingly being given to anything connected to the internet. However, while these types of thermostats are getting quite a bit of interest from the media, I’m as yet unsure about how this growth in awareness is translating into actual sales. While it is encouraging this attention is helping boost people’s interest in their heating systems, I have to wonder if homeowners are really likely to upgrade their existing controls simply to get their hands on the latest technology. In reality, I can’t imagine many homeowners would choose to upgrade their existing thermostat and controller for a smart solution unless they are in the process of making extensive changes to their heating system. Only then, if they are having a new boiler installed, is it more likely they will seek further advice from their installer and invest in having new controls fitted at the same time. CONSUMER PUBLICATIONS For anyone considering an upgrade though, it is interesting to note that one or two consumer publications have investigated the benefits of smart heating controls of late and that, as well as exploring the benefits of these products, they have looked at the potential downsides too. In fact, some of the articles I have read appear to be making the point that any internet connected smart products could have data risks attached to them. For example, if your heating schedule happens to indicate whether you are home or away and this information were to fall into the wrong hands, it could help would-be intruders plan a break-in based on what they know about peoples’ habits. Interestingly, Which? Magazine recently carried out an in-depth study into the information that smart controls and their companion apps were sending out wirelessly. It discovered that certain brands of controllers were sending unencrypted information about homeowners’ habits, so it would be possible to access information such as the times heating systems are set to switch on and off as well as holiday settings etc. As well as carrying labels that would be helpful to a burglar, such as ‘awake’ and ‘away’, WWW.HPMMAG.COM the data also revealed the distance one particular user had to be from home before she was sent a text message to ask if she wanted her heating switched on. Other information gathered in relation to another user included the model and make of their smartphone, as well as their complete email address, which is particularly unnerving and not something you would necessarily expect to be available to anyone with the time or inclination to find out. The problem here is knowing whether or not the device being recommended to a homeowner comes with encryption as standard. While many people have encrypted Wi-Fi routers, this is not always guaranteed and is something homeowners need to be aware of. While the use of passwords was found to be highly recommended by the sellers of smart controls, the research carried out by Which? concluded it is unreasonable that certain types of smart controller simply assume people have protection in place when this might not be the case. As a result of the report, some brands have since responded by making sure all personal data is encrypted as a further security measure. As controls become ever more sophisticated and mobile technology continues to develop, the 56 NOVEMBER 2015 HEATING & PLUMBING MONTHLY general public is becoming more aware of the potential issues involved with living their lives online. Earlier this year, we saw some fairly extensive press coverage surrounding the issue of people’s home security systems being hacked by criminals. The problem centered on security cameras that were dotted around people’s homes, but proved anything but secure when it was revealed the images relayed by certain systems could quite easily be accessed by anyone. As a result, I think there is a general concern about security and internet enabled products, which is why the Wave from Worcester launched earlier this year is designed so that no data leaves the device and obviously the house at all, making it perfectly safe to use at all times. When installing any type of smart controls, it is worth making sure homeowners are familiar with their system and leaving literature or guidance to help should they experience a problem. There is plenty of information available online and Worcester has produced a Handy Hints booklet toward which installers can direct customers should they have questions, as well as a series of instructional videos on our YouTube channel. enquiry number 124 Worcester’s Wave Smart Thermostat allows manual (remote) and automatic (learned) programming


HPM November 2015
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