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Off Hours offers more control over smart home devices

Smart home devices, such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home and the Apple HomePods, have exploded in popularity in recent years. Of the 80% of homes in the U.S. with broadband, about one-third have smart devices today. These new devices are confronting people with a choice pitting convenience against privacy as they decide whether to open another digital peephole into their lives for a growing number of devices equipped with Internet-connected microphones and cameras.

A new company is looking to change that, giving owners of smart home devices more control of how and when they operate. The company, Off Hours, uses a mobile app to disconnect your wireless router when the network is not needed.

“With privacy, It’s really difficult to do anything about, because the devices aren’t doing anything we didn’t give them permission to do,” said Bernie Crump, founder of Off Hours. “When we click that box, we agree to the terms which normally include letting them monitor how we use the equipment and sharing that information with third-parties.”

The Off Hours system automatically turns the network back on when you get close to home—about 1 mile—so that the network is fully up and running when you walk through the door. The app also allows users to have their router automatically shut down when they’re sleeping through a scheduled timer.

“Where the rub comes from is that we’re only using these devices a few hours a week but when it is on our network it’s using us effectively 24 hours a day,” said Crump. The purpose of the product is to bring some balance between those two.”

To gain feedback on his idea, Crump has conducted multiple surveys, done 1:1 interviews and worked with two Tippie business classes out of the University of Iowa.

“One thing that’s interesting and that speaks to the validity of the data is that I keep finding the same results and proportions in every data set,” said Crump.

60% of the people surveyed don’t understand the privacy issues or it is a secondary consideration for them. The other 40% of people surveyed are concerned about privacy and about half of that 40% are right on the fence, Crump told Clay & Milk.

Going forward, Crump plans to run a crowdfunding campaign which will serve as his final market validation. This will also allow him to begin to scale up the product so he can reduce production costs.


  • AppMyHome
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    Will the product have the ability to let critical services/notifications through such as smoke detector status, camera motion detection or even ability to command the home remotely?

    • Bernie Crump
      Posted December 4, 2019 at 11:50 am

      When you’re away from home the network is off. Alarms generated by connected devices can’t reach the internet because they’re not connected, but if you need to access a device (to adjust the temperature or open the garage door as examples), you use the mobile app to turn the network on first. The app will tell you then the network is up, you can access your device, then turn it off when you’re done.
      We keep the network off then the home is empty for two main reasons; first, your home and away hours are only your business, and second, keeping the network off then you’re not using it decreases the surface area for hackers and makes hacked devices much less useful.
      The system is not designed for everyone. In our customer discovery we found stay at home professionals, people that wanted to monitor video of their pets while they’re at work, and people that actively monitor and react to device alarms like camera motion detection. These people are outside of our initial focus.
      It may be worth mentioning here that smoke detection and intruder alert functions are only casually addressed by smart home devices. If those functions are important, they need to be delivered by a system that includes, cellular, battery back-up, and human monitoring services.

      • AppMyHome
        Posted December 5, 2019 at 12:23 pm

        thank you for the clarification. Smart Home users do need to pay attention to their internet connection security. Just protecting your PC or Mac with virus and firewall software is no longer enough as the smart home devices are in essence a computer, but one that you can’t download firewall/virus software into. Having an internet firewall is certainly a must these days. Your solution provides yet an additional way to protect your home at least while the device turns off the router. Perhaps having both an internet firewall and your device would provide a good basis to protecting.

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Off Hours offers more control over smart home devices | Clay & Milk
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