On our most recent IoT Podcast, Neil called in to our voicemail hotline with a question about a free smart home device and service offered by his home insurance company. The device is called Ting and it monitors your home’s electricity to warn you of any wiring problems to prevent fires. Should Neil be concerned that the Ting device gives his insurance company a backdoor into his smart home?
In the case of Ting, Stacey is actually using one right now. It plugs into any home outlet and uses a Wi-Fi connection to communicate with the Ting servers. Whisker Labs is the company behind Ting and it created the algorithms for the Ting sensor to detect and interpret tiny changes in electrical flow throughout the home.
The idea is if the Ting device suspects a wiring issue that could cause damage, it can alert the homeowner. In Neil’s case, he’s getting the $349 device, monitoring service, and up to a $1,000 credit to repair any electrical hazards detected by the Ting unit.
Ting says that it only collects data “which is necessary to reliably deliver Ting service,” for example. And the device, app, and servers are subject to “regular, rigorous vulnerability and penetration tests by an independent, accredited third-party security firm.”
In light of Stacey’s use and our review of the company’s policies, it doesn’t appear there’s any nefarious motive on the part of Neil’s insurance company. There’s no evidence that any data or access to Neil’s smart home is available to the insurance company either.
Indeed, I can understand why the Ting device and year of service are being offered at no change.
It’s far less expensive for a home insurance company to give out a connected device that can prevent electrical fires than it is to pay out claims for burned-down homes.
Even if Neil uses his $1,000 credit to fix any electrical issues surfaced by the Ting, it’s still a cost savings for his insurance company.
The one downside is if the Ting detects a potential problem, I assume the insurance company would get a notification along with the homeowner. At that point, if the homeowner ignored the message, the insurer might decline to pay out a claim on resulting electrical fires. But I’m not sure why someone would ignore a potential fire hazard in their home.
Again, you should investigate any “free” connected smart home device offered by a third party. Some, like Ting, appear to offer a big potential benefit with little risk of creating a suspicious backdoor. Make sure you do your due diligence before connecting any device in your smart home, whether you bought it or not.
To hear Neil’s question in full, as well as our conversation on the topic, tune in to the IoT Podcast below.
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