Smart homes and apartments are giving property owners unprecedented access to renters private lives.
SmartRent claims that they “have curated a best-in-class experience for residents living in SmartRent-powered communities.”
How are they doing that? By letting residents use their smartphone to control things like doors, security gates, thermostats, lights etc.
SmartRent uses smart devices, like light switches, thermostats, speakers, and numerous other devices to turn properties into real-time surveillance platforms. (To view a list of 38 smart home surveillance devices click here.)
SmartRent homes and apartments also allow companies and property owners to do the same.
A recent Northeastern University study revealed that smart speakers listen to people’s conversations at least 19 times every day.
“The average rate of activation’s per device is between 1.5 and 19 times per day (24 hours) during our experiments. HomePod and Cortana devices activate the most, followed by Echo Dot series 2, Google Home Mini, and Echo Dot series 3.”
The study found that the average length of time a smart speaker is activated for is 43 seconds, which means that 43 seconds of your conversations are probably being recorded 19 times a day.
The study also warned that smart speakers like Siri, Alexa and Echo can be awoken by misinterpreting a spoken word or phrase, like hey, they, cold, told, he clearly, they very, hey sorry, Kevin’s car, congresswoman, pickle, that cool, back to, a ghost. The study also found that television commercials and shows can inadvertently wake a smart speaker.
SmartRent could care less if Amazon devices are secretly monitoring renters conversations and daily activities. Why?
Because Amazon has a vested interest in helping SmartRent turn multifamily communities into Alexa-run listening communities.
“With Amazon Alexa Fund as an investment and strategic technical partner, we’re ready to build off of Amazon’s momentum and bring that convenience and safety to multifamily housing environments like condos, apartments, townhomes and other high-density living communities.”
SmartRent has no plans at stopping at multifamily communities. In fact they are working with Amazon SideWalk Labs and Ring doorbells to turn hundreds of thousands of homes into real-time surveillance homes.
“Our teams have an aggressive climb ahead of them as they work toward the goal of bringing smart home automation to 100,000 apartments by the end of the year.”
An abusive property owner could conceivably deny a renter access to their property remotely, shutoff or lower their heat or air conditioning, and they could also use CCTV cameras to monitor what is happening inside their homes or apartments in real-time. As the above video illustrates, property owners even know when renters come back from vacation.
Vice News revealed that Airbnb’s are pushing homeowners to install “Minut, Noise Aware and Roomonitor” listening devices which measure, ambient temperature, motion and decibel levels in individual rooms. (To learn more click here.)
SmartRent discloses personally identifiable information of renters to private companies and data brokers.
“We may disclose the information we collect from you to our affiliates or subsidiaries. We may disclose the information we collect from you to third party vendors, service providers, contractors or agents, such as building maintenance staff, who perform functions on our behalf.”
SmartRent even knows if a renter has broken a pane of glass!
“If you are a Tenant, we may share information with your Landlord so that your Landlord can monitor the condition of the apartment. Examples of this information include temperature settings and leak monitors, motion sensors, or broken glass sensors.”
SmartRent boasts that property owners are monitoring renters locks, heating, cooling etc., in more than 25,000 homes.
“Prior to launching in the multifamily apartment space, we built a home automation platform for single family rentals. From 2014-16, we successfully launched in over 25,000 homes spanning across 15 different states. We were able to test the performance of many different smart locks, thermostats, lighting and sensors, as well as tweak and perfect the platform to properly handle the concept of dual ownership: where a resident directly controls the smart devices within their home, but the property manager can still monitor system health and administer access credentials.”
Smart homes and apartments are a convenience for renters and property owners. But they also give property owners and corporations unfettered access to renters personal lives, which is a huge selling point for companies like SmartRent, UDR, Stratist IoT, Vivint, IOTAS, Zego, and Airbnb.
Unfortunately, renters cannot just throw these smart devices into the trash bin as The UK’s Sun News suggests.