Local control vs cloud control is such an important factor to consider when building out your smart home but, in my opinion, it’s a very easy choice - here are 5 reasons that a local smart home is just plain better!
What is Local Control
When your smart home is cloud controlled and if you want to control a device or run an automation, the devices that are in your house will have to send their data out to your internet connection to a server in the cloud. It then has to think about what decisions and actions it wants to take, then sends data back to your house through your internet connection and to the device it wants to control - this is in contrast with a local smart home, where a connection from your smart home platform and your devices are happening pretty much directly with each other.
For certain devices like your thermostat, a few hundred milliseconds of latency compared to 10-20 milliseconds of latency probably isn’t too big a deal. On the other hand, for certain devices like motion controlled lights, a few hundred seconds of milliseconds of a delay between you entering a room and the lights coming on actually feels huge and this is where speed can really start to matter. Plus, who doesn’t want things to feel faster and more responsive?
Reason number 2 that a local smart home is better is for privacy reasons.
With cloud controlled systems, as we discussed, every time you interact with your device or you run an automation or routine, that information is being sent to the cloud for processing - and you can bet that every action you do in your house is being logged and recorded.
Most likely this data is used to help improve the system, but there is also the potential that a lot of it is sold to advertisers and other data analytic companies.
Sure, you might not be bothered about someone else knowing when you turned a light on but consider how this applies to data like your voice conversations, security camera footage and even potentially your location data - that makes the privacy reason much more compelling!
The third reason a local smart home is better is for reliability - with a cloud controlled system, there is one link in the chain that has the potential to render your smart home useless: your internet connection.
Smart Home platforms like Google Home and Alexa rely on an internet connection in order to do pretty much anything and if they don’t have that connection, then you can’t control even the basic aspects of your smart home.
It’s not just internet connection you need to worry about, there can also be an outage at Amazon or Google (or any cloud platform), that can also be a concern because you are relying on them maintaining the platform.
Granted, these are huge companies with infinite resources and outages are few and far between, but it only takes one outage to cause you massive headaches and we have certainly seen these companies have problems over the years.
Not being able to shut your curtains remotely might not be the biggest deal ever, however, if you end up in a position where you can’t turn your lights on, or even your heating on, then that could certainly be a much more frosty situation.
The Future is Brighter
The fourth reason a local smart home is better - is the greater future-proofing from a longevity perspective.
With devices that are controlled locally rather than being connected to a cloud, you aren’t reliant on a brand still being in business in 5 years time or even just continuing to support that device for more than a couple of years. Some companies will even terminate their online services for that product, meaning you have no choice but to upgrade:
(to clarify, Philips did say the device will run locally after support ends, but not all companies might be as generous)
Also with cloud devices, imagine you bought a product because it had a specific feature advertised that you really wanted and then 2 years later after you bought it, the company then removes that feature through a software update that you had absolutely no control over because it just happened automatically - I’m guessing you’d be pretty disappointed.
We’ve actually seen this already with TP Link’s Kasa product and even more recently in the Google vs Sonos lawsuit. But with local devices, you aren’t dependent on that company still being in business in a few years time and you can be in control of what it does and when.
The final reason a local smart home is better is for security reasons. With cloud connected devices your data is being sent out to someone else's servers which means that it’s up to them to protect and secure your data. Now these companies do have lots of resources at their disposal and you would like to think that they are doing everything possible to keep your data secure but, unfortunately, this also makes them more lucrative targets. Also, just being a big company doesn’t necessarily mean they are following good security practices - the lawsuit against Amazon’s Ring video products are a perfect example of that.
Now, again, you may not care if someone can control your lights - although that could get pretty tedious quickly - but think about when it comes to security cameras; doorbells, baby monitors even. You probably don’t want anyone being able to view those whenever they want.
Of course, it's completely possible for someone to get a bit gung-ho with security with their own devices but at least it is something you have within your control. If you want too, you can also completely block local devices from accessing the internet so that you know there is no risk there.
So, there we go! That is my top 5 reasons for choosing smart home devices and a platform that is local rather than cloud controlled. Now by no means am I saying that local control is perfect - there are one or two minor drawbacks - but I think the positives far outweigh the negatives. In my opinion, local control is the way to go every time.
Are you a local control person or are you a cloud control person who is now re-considering and thinking about moving to local control or at least moving to local control as much as possible? Please do let me know!