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.