As the number of U.S. coronavirus cases quickly nears 5.4 million, most Americans doing everything they can to protect themselves — not just outdoors, but indoors as well, since "household spread" is one of the most common paths to a COVID-19 infection. Everyone should maintain a clean, disinfected home and follow CDC recommendations, but could smart home devices help prevent household spread as well?
“A smarter home can be a safer home,” says Jonathan Collins, Research Director for tech market advisory firm ABI Research. “Voice control can mean avoiding commonly touched surfaces around the home from smartphones to TV remotes, light switches, thermostats, door handles and more."
“Due to the vast number of products available, the smart-home market tends to be more resilient in the face of economic challenges like coronavirus compared to other, less-diversified industries,” says Blake Kozak, principal analyst at Omdia.
Today, some smart home devices come with special features and accommodations that could help protect you and your family against the spread of coronavirus.
There are many benefits to automating your thermostat, but it is now an especially crucial feature during the coronavirus pandemic. Your smart thermostat helps you control how quickly and effectively the virus spreads in your home, simply by adjusting the humidity.
Studies show that humidity has been proven to considerably slow and weaken the spread of bacteria associated with the coronavirus. When you cough or sneeze, the dry air in your home can almost preserve the bacteria, allowing it to linger and spread. However, humidity in the air can counteract this effect, weighing down the bacteria and pushing it to the floor where it is significantly less likely to spread the infection.
[ Related: The Best Smart Thermostats of 2020 ]
Experts recommend maintaining a humidity in your own home between 40% to 60% for maximum effect. The best smart thermostats today, such as Google Nest, ecobee and Honeywell, all incorporate humidity sensors into their design for easier control.
“During the spring and the fall when there are big temperature changes, everyone in the office wants to jump up and turn the air up or turn the heat up or turn them down,” says William Taylor, Senior Career Advisor at VelvetJobs. This is where he says a smart thermostat can help. “It also helps you cut down on germ contamination from having people touch devices.”
Smart light bulbs
Light switches are among the first places you touch in a home and continue to touch throughout the day. By using a smart home device that controls your lighting, you don't have to worry about touching light switches and possibly spreading the disease. You can even install motion detectors for extra, hands-free convenience that will also save you tons on your energy bill.
[ Related: The Best Smart Light Bulbs of 2020 ]
David Mead, a long time security expert and founder of LinkdHOME, has some creative recommendations for families in quarantine together. “If you do have to isolate from a family member, then using smart lighting to help keep a visible 'quarantine zone' may be useful,” he says. “When the isolated person is in that area, the beam could be set to red to inform other household members to stay out. This is actually an adaptation of something people have been doing to aid in working from home, as well — kind of like an 'On Air' light to tell the kids when they are not to be disturbed during meetings and such.”
Smart door locks
Some smart locks ensure that you enjoy touch-free access to your home, either from your phone or a remote. Voice control is an available option on some models and even timers for more convenient use.
You can even use this as an option for trusted deliveries because with smart door locks, you can isolate certain areas of your home. When you have guests or vendors come to your home, you can wirelessly unlock the doors without ever having to come into contact. This gives far less opportunity to exchange germs, especially when you use appropriate mail-handling tips.
Just like smart door locks, a good video doorbell can be a saving grace during coronavirus. “The humble video doorbell provides an effective way of managing people at your door without needing to come into contact with them,” says Mead.
“These devices connect to your smartphone and provide notifications directly to you when someone is at the door, whether they ring the bell or not. You can then use the speaker and microphone built into the doorbell to talk to the person right from your phone to take care of any communication required.”
With Americans spending more time at home, it's more important than ever to be secure. These days, a security camera does far more than just record; it can also include critical features like night vision and motion controls that provide clear images of areas.
This can also help prevent the spread of coronavirus in your home by limiting your physical interaction with visitors, deliveries and service calls.
With all of these smart devices in your home, you need a smart hub to control them all. Working as the brain of your smart home devices, this smart hub eliminates the need for touch in many well-trafficked areas of your home.
For even more protection, you have the option to add voice control for a truly touch-free setup. With the help of integrated services like Google or Amazon Alexa, you can order groceries, play a favorite album or call your best friend.
[ Related: The Best Smart Home Hubs of 2020 ]
“With many of us under Stay At Home orders or working from home,” explains Mead, “we're increasingly dependent on home deliveries for all our purchasing needs.”
These Smart Hubs eliminate the need for physical touch, sparing you from extra germs. It’s an especially convenient solution these days given coronavirus and is also popular with elderly customers who struggle with freedom of mobility.
How will COVID-19 change smart homes of the future?
As ABI Research continues to watch the market, Collins projects continued growth. “COVID-19 is part of the additional motivation and incentive for voice control in the home that will help drive awareness and adoption for a range of additional smart home devices and applications.
Bill Ablondi, Director of Strategy Analytics’ Smart Home Strategies advisory service confirms that because of the pandemic, consumers are purchasing smart home devices in growing numbers. “Our consumer surveys during the pandemic, as well as our observations of device companies such as Ring, Nest, and Philips Hue, and interactive security companies such as ADT, Comcast, and Vivint indicate some smart home devices were acquired because of the pandemic.”
Jack Narcotta, Senior Industry Analyst for Smart Home Strategies’ advisory service, agrees. “Globally, nearly 250 million households already have at least one smart home device, and as average selling prices for most devices decline, many of those are highly likely to buy additional devices. Online shopping will keep device purchases flowing in spite of any restrictions placed on brick-and-mortar retail stores.”
The bottom line
As the coronavirus continues to highlight the need for heightened security measures at home, outfitting your property with the appropriate smart home devices can add an extra shield of armor against mounting infection rates.