Real tech payoff that comes with a (remote) risk

Let’s get you started on a smart home. While we’re at it, how ‘bout we save you some money? Maybe ease up on the carbon dioxide your house belches into the atmosphere. And we can do this while making the temperature in your castle more regularly comfy.

Now get the power company to pay for the new gadgetry that makes it all possible. Better yet, pocket 50 clams if you knock out the sub-30-minute job of swapping in the hockey puck-sized Nest thermostat for your old model.

You get a nifty gadget in your house worth about $200 that should cut your gas and electric bills while making it easier to adjust the temperature in your house, including by letting the magic of machine learning do it more efficiently than you would.

If you live in Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light Co. wants you to take them up on the offer, wants to pay you $50 for the simplest of wiring jobs.

Why the high-tech giveaway? There are two chief incentives: energy efficiency and keeping up with power demands.

KCP&L has given away about 16,000 smart thermostats in the past 15 months. This year, it expects the Nests planted in homes to cut electricity consumption by 7.4 million killowatt hours, enough to power more than 6,000 homes for a year.

The wall-mounted wonder was invented by two former Apple engineers and purchased by Google for $ 3.2 billion. Programmable thermostats have been on the market for decades. They allow users to set a different temperature for the evenings, another for the workday, another for the weekends.

Smart thermostats do that for you, but with more savvy. They check the internet for weather reports and adjust accordingly. They learn your patterns of your life and adapt. If you’re too lazy to get up from the couch, you can tweak the heat from your smartphone (although you don’t need one for the thermostat to work).

Back to the free smart thermostats. What’s the catch. First, you’re sharing data about your lifestyle with Nest, meaning Google. Marketers armed with the patterns of your comings and goings could some day use it as fresh ammunition to tempt you toward their products — likely in ways that you’ll be blind to.

Then there’s hacker risk. Nest founder Tony Fadell has said the Nest is built with “bank level security” and that the business will fail “if people don’t trust it.” Yet researchers have said the thing can be cracked by someone who has access to it during delivery or in your home (cough, ex-boyfriend, cough).

Once exploited, scientists from the University of Central Florida said, “what was once a learning thermostat has been transformed into a spy” able to get into your Wi-Fi network and everything that connects to it.

Such is the dilemma of virtually everything about the digital era and cool things that come from internet connections. Privacy traded for convenience.