The Effects of Climate Change on the Performance of Smart-Home Devices

Homeowners are deploying the latest smart devices to control the environment of their homes. Smart thermostats, air conditioners, heating units and humidifiers enable people to create exactly the type of atmosphere in which they want to live.

Did you know that not only do smart devices control environments but environmental factors also influence the performance of smart devices?

For ISP and other smart home-device support teams, heat, cold, humidity and other environmental factors can degrade the performance of smart devices, produce unusual malfunctions and cause misdiagnoses that run up the cost of support.

Shortened Life Expectancy

IoT devices, like sensors, that are exposed to rapid or extreme changes in temperature or humidity,
can run through their useful life faster than you can say, “It’s as dead as a doorknob.” Instead of enjoying a life expectancy of years, sensors can become ineffective in only a few short weeks. Since they are often still covered by warranty, upon their early death, used up devices have to be replaced at the manufacturer or ISP’s expense. If the challenging environmental conditions persist, the replacements will continue to fail at a rapid rate, running up maintenance costs and contributing to customer frustration.

The damage isn’t always to the devices themselves. Humidity and heat can play havoc with battery life resulting in frequent customer complaints and expensive site visits just to replace batteries that should have lasted much longer.

Erratic and Degraded Behavior

What’s worse than finding a worm in an apple? Finding half a worm in an apple.

What’s worse than a smart device that, due to environmental factors, dies too early? One that behaves erratically.

Nobody depends on a watch that has stopped running. It’s easy to notice and ignore. What’s far worse is a watch that loses a few minutes per hour. You think you are getting the right time, but you arrive ten minutes late to your meeting.

A temperature sensor that delivers incorrect temperatures can cause far more damage than one that doesn’t work at all. A broken sensor needs to be replaced, but an erratic one can cause lights to go on, air conditioners to stop, sprinklers to start or alarms to trigger at improper times.

For support teams, erratic device behavior makes root-cause analysis of problems very difficult. If the customer’s bedroom lights go on at weird times, naturally, support technicians will want to have a look at the device that controls the lights. But the device may be performing properly in response to an external sensor that is suffering intermittent photo-electric problems. Getting to the root cause of such a problem can be difficult since testing requires capturing the intermittent problem and correlating it with the visible phenomenon (“lights go on at weird times”) about which the customer is complaining. Will a support technician send out a new smart light switch only to see the same erratic behavior due to dependence on the same faulty external sensor?

Communications

Environmental factors don’t only influence the performance of devices themselves. A surveillance camera or other remote device that communicates by via can confront severe connectivity challenges if used in a football team’s locker room with its high humidity.

Random electro-magnetic interference (EMI), external to the smart home, can render a properly functioning in-home device quite dysfunctional. Support technicians will be very hard-pressed to corroborate external EMI events with improper smart device behavior within the home. Close-by magnets and cell phones can also negatively impact smart-device communications.

A sudden heavy load on the WiFi can cause communication packets to drop and devices to misbehave. If this phenomenon occurs unpredictably, it will be practically impossible for even the best support technicians to locate its source. By the time the customer call comes in, the condition will have long since passed without a trace.

Solutions

Malfunctions caused by environmental conditions are often the most difficult to analyze and repair. They can require two or more transient factors to occur simultaneous. They are challenging to replicate and nearly impossible to analyze—without real-time eyes and artificial.

Veego monitors connected-home devices, services, interoperations as well as communication protocols and conditions individually and systemically. Veego’s unique Malfunction Knowledgebase powered with artificial intelligence can detect and analyze interrelated and intermittent problems leading to prompt and cost-effective resolution.