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Should you get a smart garage door opener?

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Jim B. of San Diego, CA came home from work one Tuesday and noticed his garage door was completely open.

He thought this was strange because he had closed it when he left that morning and he even double checked to make sure it was all the way closed.

Inside Jim’s single-story house, someone had rummaged through every closet and drawer, making off with $8,000 in leather jackets, fur coats, power tools and camera gear.

Unfortunately, Jim received a rude awakening to the high-tech world of garage-door opener burglaries. Like computer hacking, this type of crime is another example of criminals using electronic hacking to ply their trade.

According to Mark O’Keefe, a security consultant in San Diego, the way these criminals work with these smart garage door openers, “It’s like having a key to your house.”

The problem is, with crimes like this, it’s difficult for police to catch the burglar unless there is an eye witness who can provide detailed information that can be traced to the burglar such as a license plate. (Another reason to have security cameras around your house.)

The reason people buy these smart garage door openers is, of course, for the convenience. You can schedule them to open at a specific time, such as when a teenager arrives home from school or you can simply use your smart phone as the opener.

Plus, most smart home openers can attach to existing garage door systems, meaning you don’t have to replace your entire opener to make it have “smart” features.

On the other hand, as with any smart home device, the number one concern is going to be the security of the device against being hacked.

The most common way smart garage door openers are hacked is through the Wi-Fi network that they are connected to.

Essentially, if a hacker gains access to your Wi-Fi network, they can access all devices connected to it, including your smart garage door opener.

With the ever-growing popularity of smart home devices, adding a smart garage door opener is something that a lot of folks will no doubt do.

If you choose to do this, here are some to consider that are better quality (avoid cheap Chinese knockoffs.)

Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage. This is a $100 system that adds smart features to a wide variety of garage door openers.

With MyQ installed, you can check your garage door’s status and open or close it remotely from the MyQ app on your iOS or Android device.

Installing Chamberlain’s MyQ system is easier than most, with no wires to attach to your existing door opener.

However, it does require bolting a bracket onto your ceiling rather than the more common adhesive tape approach used by other manufacturers.

MyQ works with a variety of smart home products like Nest, Wink and Xfinity Home to control and automate multiple devices from one platform.

Genie Aladdin Connect. This smart garage door opener has the ability to control up to three separate garage doors at once.

This model also uses a Bluetooth sensor bolted to the garage door for the door positioning monitor device, so it is not going to fall off or lose connection.

With the Aladdin Connect, users can set parameters for door activity that would result in triggered actions. For example, if the door is left open longer than a desired amount of time, there is a mode available that would automatically close the door.

Alternatively, there is a time range mode that allows users to open or close the door on a specific time schedule, in addition to having remote operation and push notifications for open and close events.

The Genie Connect sells for about $60.

Garadget. This device is similar to the above mentioned models and is compatible with the full range of Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.

Additionally, this smart garage door opener also works with HomeKit, SmartThings and a few other smaller smart hubs.

The Garadget method for determining whether or not the garage door is closed relies on a laser, shot from the smart controller.

This laser bounces off an adhesive reflector that users stick to the inside of the door and when it does not make contact the door is deemed to be open.

Garadget uses advanced encryption and authentication protocols similar to that used for banking transactions and is compatible with an array of garage door systems.

The Garadget sells for $75 on Amazon.

As with any smart home device, the key to security is to ensure your Wi-Fi network is secure by using a strong login and password, in addition to setting up a virtual private network through your Wi-Fi.

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