Picture this: you’re in the middle of a business trip and your smartphone alerts you that your basement, hundreds of kilometers away, is at risk of flooding. Not to worry though, because the same home automation system that notified your phone also activated a shut-off valve in your basement to prevent major damage. Home automation systems are rapidly becoming a valuable tool in the world of insurance. FIBARO is one of the global leaders of this emerging technology.
Although smart home devices can certainly simplify life, they also raise questions concerns around things like breaches in user data. We caught up with Rich Bira, FIBARO’s Managing Director, to discuss home automation and how the company is addressing the issues of data collection and security.
GO MAGAZINE: Tell us a bit about FIBARO and how your products are sold in North America.
RICH BIRA: Based in Poland, FIBARO designs, engineers, and manufactures innovative smart home devices, including its flagship Home Center hub line and a series of smart home sensors and controllers. Beyond the Home Center smart home hub, unique accessory devices include the Flood Sensor, Motion Sensor and Door/Window Sensor, as well as SWIPE gesture controller and The Button, a standalone one-click controller. FIBARO’s products are designed and manufactured at our own facility in Europe and are of the highest quality standards. Our products are known for being beautifully crafted, and are easy to install. Typically, FIBARO’s products are sold through distribution or direct to DIY customers, as well as through partnerships with telecommunications companies, insurance providers, and professional installers.
Governments and regulators are usually slow to keep up with the pace of change in technology. Have you had any issues with regulation in Canada? Do you foresee any challenges in the future?
We haven’t had any issues with regulations in Canada, or throughout North America for that matter. Concerns with smart home devices normally revolve around end user privacy and data sharing. However, European privacy laws are incredibly strict, and thus FIBARO’s products have been designed to protect the end user.
What’s the biggest value that FIBARO brings consumers?
One of the biggest values is security and peace of mind through our entire ecosystem of products for the smart home. When FIBARO’s sensors – whether it’s the Flood Sensor, Motion Sensor or Door/Window Sensor – are installed, users can monitor any activity through the FIBARO app and receive notifications if there’s a change in temperature, presence of water, or detection of unusual motion in the home. And when paired with other devices, like a shut-off valve or camera, homeowners can act, even when they’re not home. This saves them money and heartache later on. Homeowners can be at work or on vacation and know their home is safe.
FIBARO also makes interacting with technology in the home simple and intuitive through devices like SWIPE and The Button. Utilizing one touch control or gesture functionality, these devices allow users to set a programmed scene and activate several devices at once to maximize comfort and safety in the home. Scenes also allow users to save time. A user can activate a “goodbye scene”, and with one click all the lights and connected devices in the home turn off, the security alarm is armed, and external doors are locked.
FIBARO’s sensors also provide temperature readings that allow users to track historical data and make simple changes to create a more efficient home. Simple things like making sure doors and windows are closed and the lights are turned off help to improve the health and energy efficiency of the home.
Have you found any apprehension with consumers regarding privacy? Who ultimately owns the data being collected?
Apprehension has been minimal because most of our customers do their homework before investing in smart home devices. Those that are apprehensive simply ask us questions or share their concerns and we can provide peace of mind due to FIBARO’s strict attention to protecting our customers’ privacy. It’s known that FIBARO’s software lives on our devices, not the cloud, and is thus controlled and protected by the end user.
A main concern about IoT (the Internet of things) has centered around security. How would you rate the hack resistance of your products?
FIBARO takes the security of IoT devices very seriously and uses Z-Wave technology to deliver top levels of security. Z-Wave technology not only allows all FIBARO smart home devices to communicate with each other and with other certified Z-Wave devices, but also provides the highest levels of security for devices. The Z-Wave Plus certification program uses 5th generation Z-Wave and encryption and safety features to ensure that all certified devices are protected from hacking, and that consumers are secure in their homes.
Can you tell us how FIBARO has leveraged its products to reduce risk or improve other products, specifically for European insurance companies?
We’re still in the early stages [of working with European insurance companies], but for those companies that we are working with, they’re benefitting from reduced risk. By offering FIBARO sensors, insurers are able to give extra value to their customers. Water damage is one of the biggest threats to homeowners and the highest claims made to insurance providers. When installed near toilets, sinks, and water heaters, FIBARO’s Flood Sensor provides both the homeowner and insurance providers peace of mind. Insurers are encouraging their clients to install FIBARO sensors where they make sense in their home.
We want to ask you a personal insurance question. Can you describe your last experience purchasing insurance? What would you change about the industry?
I was first insured by a small insurance company and worked with a broker that was referred by a friend. I had a bad experience with that company after suffering through a flood due to a massive rainstorm that affected my entire neighborhood. I made a claim and then found out that despite it being something originally explained to me as being covered, it was in fact not. I learned from that experience and have since switched to a larger organization. As a side note, the flood occurred before FIBARO came out with a flood sensor. As I’m sure you can assume, I now have flood sensors installed throughout my home, which have saved me from headaches on multiple occasions.
We’re giving all new personal property VIP customers and select business customers (barbershop, salon and dentistry) a free FIBARO water and temperature sensor when they purchase a policy from Gore Mutual. Read more about it here.