Why you can trust us

Engadget has been testing and reviewing consumer tech since 2004. Our stories may include affiliate links; if you buy something through a link, we may earn a commission. Read more about how we evaluate products.

Scientists want to fix our notoriously insecure smart home devices

The National Science Foundation wants to boost consumer trust in the Internet of Things.


The dream of a smart home that would automate your life à la The Jetsons is more like a nightmare thanks to the lack of security in numerous smart devices. Now, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is intervening with a nationwide project designed to boost internet of things (IoT) security. Seven academic institutions will research technology designed to reduce the security burden on users and help fix smart home privacy flaws eroding consumer trust.

Led by Dartmouth College, SPLICE (Security and Privacy in the Lifecycle of IoT for Consumer Environments), will conduct research in a number of fields related to home devices and security. Those include privacy, sociology, interface design, mobile computing, embedded systems, wireless networks, and radio engineering.

As the team notes, smart home devices in houses, assisted-living facilities and elsewhere can offer convenience, improved energy efficiency, better security and a host of other benefits. However design flaws and poor initial configurations (think bad default passwords) “can create unsafe conditions and increase risk of harm to people and property,” according to SPLICE’s press release.

SPLICE intends to develop a toolkit designed to identify so-called non-cooperative smart devices to help users understand how their home tech works. It also plans to shift away from a privacy model that forces unsophisticated consumers to figure out how (and why) to secure specific devices. Finally, the group will identify “privacy issues in smart homes that must be addressed to advance consumer trust” — in other words, figure out exactly why people are so (rightfully) wary of IoT tech.

SPLICE plans to develop prototype products that integrate new technology developed during the project. It will also create an advisory council to provide guidance on best practices and potential problems in the future. Finally, it’s developing programs aimed at encouraging underrepresented groups to pursue careers in computing. The research program will kick off on October 1st, 2020.