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Smart devices: Do you own what you buy?

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Consumers are app crazy, and not only to control temps or lights. They're unlocking doors and maybe even seeing what's inside the fridge. (Source: Alexander Kirch via 123RF) Consumers are app crazy, and not only to control temps or lights. They're unlocking doors and maybe even seeing what's inside the fridge. (Source: Alexander Kirch via 123RF)
Nest Learning Thermostat (Source: Nest.com) Nest Learning Thermostat (Source: Nest.com)
Wink (Source: Wink.com) Wink (Source: Wink.com)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

Karen Kleinwort loves "smart" devices in her home,  especially with the app-based Nest system for her thermostats.

"Whether we're home or away, we can adjust the thermostat, and it will tell us if we are in an energy-efficient mode or not," she explained.

She uses the WiFi-enabled Wink system to manage the lights.  

"Even when we're not home, we can manipulate the lights to come on and off randomly where somebody might not realize we aren't home," said.

Consumers are app crazy, and not only to control temps or lights. They're unlocking doors and maybe even seeing what's inside the fridge.

But the companies that make those have a lot of control, too.

"Manufacturers can come up with new features. They can add updates; they can fix bugs," explained digital rights specialist and author Aaron Perzanowski.

It's an issue he discusses in his book, "The End of Ownership."

He said that while there may be benefits to such apps, he has made it his mission to make consumers aware of a tradeoff.

"Oftentimes, the companies that make these products insist that even though you might own the physical object, you don't own the software code inside of it," he said. "And that code is really fundamental to the operation of those products."

What does that mean? Perzanowski says that theoretically, a fancy fridge could stop working.

Or imagine if a manufacturer decided to stop supporting the software that turns your home lock.

If you're wondering if it could happen, Kleinwort's home automation system made news recently.

"Nest sold a product called the Revolv, and Nest decided it was no longer interested in supporting that product. So, that these devices didn't turn on anymore."

When we first told Kleinwort she may not own smart device software, she wasn't comfortable, but now she says she simply sees it as a tradeoff she's willing to make. 

"We also see it as a cost of living, that these functions and capabilities allow us to live easier, control our money better, and make more educated decisions."

[ONLINE: Nest | Wink]

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

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Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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