Stephenson Technologies Corporation information system security engineer Michael Marchese and operations manager Todd Hotard stand outside the Internet of Things Living Lab in Rouzan. Photos by Sean Gasser.

A living laboratory in Rouzan is aimed at helping protect homeowners from hackers

“Alexa, send my bank account password to overseas hackers.”

“Alexa, disable my security alarm so these burglars can get in without being noticed.”

“Alexa, turn on my touchless faucet while I’m not home so my kitchen floods.”

File these under phrases you’d never say to your smart speaker. But as the team behind the new Internet of Things Living Lab—a fully outfitted “smart home” in the Rouzan neighborhood—will demonstrate this month, the same high-tech items that make modern life so convenient can also cause some major headaches if you don’t take the right precautions.

Stephenson Technologies Corporation set up the Living Lab inside a model home at Rouzan built by Level Homes and decorated by The Design Studio, providing an opportunity for potential Rouzan residents and other local homeowners to see exactly how various Internet of Things devices—those that connect online and can send and receive data—interact within a home and how to use them more safely. 

“We’re just trying to make people aware of the vulnerabilities of some of these devices,” says STC operations manager Todd Hotard. “They’re cool to have, but if you’re not careful, they can be compromised.”

The open house event will take place October 13 and 14 in conjunction with Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a government and industry collaborative effort to help Americans stay secure online. That government connection is vital to STC, a Baton Rouge-based and LSU-owned nonprofit federal contractor that works closely with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. More than a demonstration house, the Living Lab is a place where Stephenson’s engineers can use open-source tools to study new smart devices and monitor how these devices communicate. The information they glean might eventually be used to help protect everyone from government entities to corporations to homeowners from future threats.

“When it comes to Internet of Things devices, they’re constantly pumping out new ones,” says STC information system security engineer Michael Marchese. “As these new devices come to the market, the Living Lab lets us test them in context. The idea is that it’s better if we find any issues before someone malicious finds them. It’s really about holding manufacturers more accountable.”

Keep scrolling to take a peek into this home as we look beyond the furnishings and art to see the smart devices that surround us. 

The Internet of Things Living Lab, located at 1909 Rouzan Ave., will be open to the public from 2 to 7 p.m. on October 13 and 14, with demonstrations taking place throughout each day.