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Local vs Cloud Processing: Why does it matter for smart homes?

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

To many people, the cloud is a confusing concept. But it is really quite simple.

Cloud processing in the smart home context means that the hub and its devices are serviced from the internet. Whereas local processing occurs on your hub, within your home. For the consumer, this means having little control over how your devices behave, no resiliency, no control over privacy, and being at the general mercy of the cloud servicing company.

Most smart home devices available to consumers today are connected to a cloud service for processing. Unfortunately, this means they depend on an internet connection to continue working. This can have severe consequences if your goal is to maximize reliability and privacy.

The Tegrify team has decades of professional experience in corporate IT, and we are no strangers to cloud solutions. However, while cloud solutions are great for most corporate projects, they can be insecure and unreliable. Furthermore, let's be honest; cloud solutions can be outright annoying for consumer smart homes.

Cloud processing has some significant drawbacks:

  1. Your data is not private and can be sold

  2. Companies can "brick" or stop supporting your devices

  3. Devices don't work when your internet is down

  4. Cloud hubs and devices are unreliable

Read on to learn why cloud processing is not the best choice for your smart home.

Cloud services see and sell your private data

This is a significant drawback to using a cloud-connected hub. Thousands of data points are shared hundreds or thousands of times every day. These metrics include usage, habits, preferences, samples of your voice, what you watch on TV, and many more concerning data points. These are often sold to third-party companies, like Amazon, to enable ultra-precise targeting for ads and marketing campaigns.

I don't know about you, but that makes me uncomfortable, to say the least.

For instance, the iBaby Smart Monitor lineup is notorious for sending data back to its parent company in China. I have personally counted upwards of 60,000 communications per day going to China for a single baby monitor. The platform is also known to be easy for hackers to obtain access to the video and audio feed, including the microphone, something parents should be acutely aware of before purchasing.

Local processing is a crucial advantage for smart homes. This means data is not sent to a remote server for processing and stays inside your home..

Companies can "brick" your devices

Shockingly, many well-known companies retain clauses in their terms of agreement that give them the power to completely "brick" your device without explanation. In this case, the device would become a paperweight and cease to work. Some examples of companies that can brick your devices include Samsung, Apple, Belkin, Sonos, Google, Wink, and many more.

A prime example is the Iris hub.

Iris was a control hub owned by Lowes that allowed the user to connect hundreds of different devices and have them communicate with one another. Unfortunately, this hub was dependent on the cloud, and Iris's hardware was often not compatible with other hubs.

On March 31, 2019, as part of a restructuring effort by new CEO Marvin Ellison, Lowes disabled the Iris cloud service, rendering hubs worldwide inoperable. Users were then left with hundreds of dollars worth of equipment they could no longer use.

You can avert all of these risks by choosing to have Tegrify build you a custom hub using the Home Assistant* platform. The device manufacturer cannot brick a device that is not connected to its proprietary hub.

Cloud hubs and devices are unreliable

I have personally experienced the nightmare of having products go through unexpected outages, rendering my own home inoperable.

In the early days of automating my home, I came upon the Wink platform. This smart hub allowed users to connect all sorts of devices, including Z-Wave, ZigBee, Kidde, Bluetooth LE, and Lutron Clear Connect.

Sounds great, right? It was, until several months later.

However, after about two months of owning the hub, I began to experience week-long outages where none of the devices I owned would connect. In addition, automations for lighting, alarms, and media players stopped working during this time.

This happened many times throughout 2018 and 2019, and then to make matters worse, Wink announced their hub service would start charging a monthly fee. Unfortunately, this felt to many users like a bait-and-switch maneuver that severely eroded the trust Wink had worked to create with its customers. I could not imagine paying a company to continue using a broken service.

Go local and avoid the headache of outages. Tegrify can help!

Devices won't work during internet outages

Cloud hubs are unique in that many times if the hub cannot reach the internet, you cannot control the devices connected to that hub. For example, in the diagram below, you can see that devices connect to the hub, and the hub connects to the internet. The app can toggle devices locally without reaching out to the internet, but ONLY if the hub itself can reach the internet.

If you recall my Wink example earlier, this was a significant problem for me. The cloud service would often go down for 4 - 7 days at a time, rendering my home "dumb" and unusable.

With a wholly localized smart home, this is not a problem. All automations and device states processing occurs within your home network and never need to reach the internet to work correctly.

What Tegrify does to solve this is taking these smart devices from nearly any manufacturer and joining them to widely available adapters. We use a small computer with Home Assistant* as the hub to accomplish this.

In short, all processing stays in your home and under your total control. If this is confusing or interesting to you, reach out to learn more! We are experts in this field with decades of experience and can set you on the right path or even build your entire smart home for you.

Final Thoughts

So now that we know all the drawbacks of cloud-based processing, here are the benefits of localized processing:

  1. Your data is private and cannot be sold

  2. Companies cannot "brick" or stop supporting your devices

  3. Devices continue to work, even when your internet is down

  4. Local-processing hubs are infinitely more reliable

If you want to plan a new smart home installation, contact us! If you want to ditch your cloud-processing hub to keep your data safe, automations reliable, and working without an internet connection, contact Tegrify! Smart homes are our passion.

By implementing a "local control whenever possible" philosophy, Tegrify can help you avoid unnecessary outages, keep your data private, completely prevent bricking, and even speed up your device response times.

*Home Assistant is not owned or operated by Tegrify. Tegrify builds its smart homes using the Home Assistant platform, which is entirely free for users to build upon, owned and trademarked by Nabu Casa parent company. Tegrify offers its wealth of knowledge in standing up this technology for consumers.

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