The Risks of Smart Plugs

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‘Smart’ devices are now commonplace around the world, with everything from smart speakers to doorbells and lighting providing unprecedented connectivity around a house or premises. Smart plugs are one of the litany of smart devices that we install in our homes and offices, and like all technology, there’s risks associated with them.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the risks of smart plugs and how you can mitigate them.

What are smart plugs?

Smart plugs look very similar to normal plugs, but they allow for remote operation. You can turn a smart plug – and the appliance connected to it – on or off from your phone or tablet. You can also schedule these plugs to turn on or off at certain times – your kettle can be ready for you when you wake up in the morning, for example.

Are smart plugs a fire risk?

As with any other plug, smart plugs are more likely to be a risk if they’re used improperly. If you overload a socket by plugging in too many appliances, or if you plug in an appliance that exceeds the plug’s maximum wattage, you risk short-circuits and electric discharges, which can cause fires in the worst case scenario.

Which smart plugs are a fire risk?

No plug is risk-proof, but some manufacturers’ plugs are cited as more of a risk than others. Which? found that a Hictkon smart plug available from Amazon was particularly risk-prone.

The plug contains two USB ports, and the live connection was found to be ‘too close to an energy monitoring chip’, and this increased the possibility of an electrical discharge, which could have caused a fire. This plug was removed from sale by Amazon, pending investigation.

With this in mind, it’s important that you make sure you’re buying a smart plug that is reliable. Look for the ‘CE’ mark on the plug, which certifies that it meets the relevant safety standards.

how to minimise the risks of smart plugs

Are there any other risks associated with smart plugs?

There are fears that smart plugs are at risk of hacking, which would theoretically allow hackers to gain access to smart appliances in your home. While your smart plugs might only be used for your TV or your coffee machine, there could be more serious consequences if a hacker gains access to your wifi and then interferes with your electric gates, for example.

Certain plugs from TP-Link, Meross, Innr and Ajax were discovered to be particularly vulnerable to hackers, and once the infiltrator had gained access to the plug, they could shut power down and also remain on the home’s wireless network undetected. All manufacturers concerned have either released or will be releasing fixes for these issues.

As smart plugs and devices become more popular, the guidelines and standards around them become stricter, so the aforementioned vulnerabilities will be few and far between when future smart plugs are released.

What can I use instead of a smart plug?

There isn’t anything on the market that offers the same functionality as a smart plug for non-smart devices, but you can certainly opt for normal plugs for any smart devices you own. If you leave the smart TV plugged in and the socket turned on, for example, you can still turn your TV on or off from your phone or tablet.

Smart plugs, by and large, are very safe and offer a new level of connectivity, functionality and ease in our homes and at work. If you use them properly – by this we mean never overloading the sockets and making sure to carry out any software updates when prompted, you are maximising your protection against fire and intrusion.

Elite Fire are proud providers of fire safety and protection services for customers around the UK. From the installation of fire safety equipment to fire risk assessments and safety training, our expert team can provide exactly what you need to maximise your fire safety. Contact us today to find out more.

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