Keeping an eye on the data usage of all those smart home devices

The new array of options for automating tasks can use a little or a lot of data depending on the device

smart home control panel

Smart home devices can be an exciting way to automate your home. The ease of controlling everything from the temperature of your home, when your lights turn on or off, your children or pets’ well-being and many more household tasks have made this a fast-growing trend in home electronics.

Many of these devices use very little data, but others can use quite a lot. For Viasat Internet customers without an unlimited plan, it’s something that bears watching.

To help our customers get a better handle on this, here’s a look at how some of the most popular smart home devices use data:

Smart home hubs/assistants

Devices such as the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home can act as hubs for all your smart home utilities. By linking your Wi-Fi-connected lights, window blinds, vacuums and other devices, you can control these everyday functions with your voice.

Most of these hubs are Bluetooth speakers, and usage will depend on the function you’re requesting. For example, if you ask your smart speaker to turn on your lights, set a timer, or answer a question, that requires a minimal amount of data. But if you stream music or a radio station, you’ll use the same amount of data as if you were streaming on a regular device. That could clock in at approximately 100 MB per hour.

Using an advanced model such as the Echo Show, capable of displaying video, could eat up even more data.

If you use Google Home, be aware of the Cast feature. To function properly, the device sends packets in 20-second intervals, and if left in a prolonged sleep mode, the packets

Smart thermostats and similar devices typically use very little data.

will be delivered in a very high speed and very short time once the device is awakened. That can create a spike in usage. To prevent this issue, reboot the device or disable the Cast feature.

Thermostats

Smart thermostats let you adjust your home temperature via your phone to ensure your house is comfortable upon arrival. That’s not only a cool invention, it’s also data efficient.

Wi-Fi connected thermostats use a small amount of data and will impact your utility bill more than your data bank. Data is required for system updates, but should use no more than 50 MB each month.

Cameras

Wi-Fi connected cameras are ideal for home security and monitoring your children or pets while away. But they use the most data of all smart home devices currently available. That usage varies according to a few factors.

Setting the resolution has a major impact on data usage. A medium resolution setting on a camera will consume about 60 GB per month. By contrast, a high resolution setting will bump it to 140 GB. At the lowest resolution, you’ll need about 18 GB a month.

High activity also plays into data usage. A busy area such as a kitchen will trigger more streaming, and thus consume more data than a camera mounted in a quiet room.

If you use the popular Nest Cam, the settings you use can make a great difference in data usage. If it’s used just as a live video camera – say, to check on your new puppy or look at the front porch – Nest Cam’s data consumption is modest.

But if you subscribe to Nest Aware − the paid cloud service that saves Nest Cam’s video stream to your history − you’ll use an average of 120 GB of data a month at that same mid-range setting. At high-resolution, that average rockets to 300 GB.

And if you opt for Nest Cam IQ, introduced in 2018, you’ll exchange potentially 400 GB of data for facial recognition and other nifty features.

You can drop these numbers significantly by changing the resolution to its lowest setting, or scheduling the Nest Cam to operate only at specific times.

Smart doorbells

The increase of porch pirates – opportunistic thieves who nab packages from outside homes – and missed package deliveries has triggered high interest in video doorbells as a security device. Video doorbell cameras typically use a higher resolution than other cameras, and that means they can use between 50-300 GB a month. As with security cameras, this varies dramatically with the resolution settings.

Take a look at the device’s manual for more details on how much data each device uses and opt for settings that use less data.

Smart bulbs and smart plugs

These devices let you remotely control your lights and other electronics via an app or your voice, if connected to a device such as an Echo Dot or Google Home. It’s a cool function that requires only minimal data since they largely only use data for system updates and to very briefly respond to on/off commands. You can expect to use somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 MB each month depending on manufacturer.

No matter what device you’re looking at, you can always keep an eye on your data using the Viasat customer portal. A simple test would be to compare a period before you set up a new smart home device and then look at the data use a day or two after installation.

Brad Bagby
About Brad Bagby 5 Articles
Brad Bagby is a member of Viasat’s Corporate Social Care team based in Denver. He focuses on helping Viasat's residential internet customers with quick responses on social media as well as the Viasat Internet Community. In addition to also penning freelance features for various blogs, he enjoys home-brewing and practicing the art of “dad reflexes.”