Smart devices need to be reliable and trustworthy or people won't build their lives around them


Opinion – updated. Who wouldn’t want to buy into smart home technology? That’s the premise of Live-Smart after all – that connected technology can make your home and lifestyle much more comfortable and convenient.

But nobody’s going to build their lives around technology that can’t be relied on, so the last thing the smart home needs is another story about technology not working properly because companies are seemingly more interested in their own priorities than those of their customers.

The most recent example is around a product called Revolv, a smart home hub that’s luckily not been available in the UK, which was acquired by Nest 18 months ago. Nest announced yesterday that it will no longer be supported, which means it’ll stop working, with no alternative product offered, despite being sold with a ‘lifetime subscription’.

Owner Arlo Gilbert, who paid $300 for it, took to Medium to call it a “pretty blatant f**k you” to buyers, saying “on 15 May, my house will stop working; my landscape lighting will stop turning on and off, my security lights will stop reacting to motion, and my home-made vacation burglar deterrent will stop working.”

Who’s in control?

Unlike with an older generation of products, like a TV or even a PC, which can still work even if they are left unsupported, if a single Internet of Things service is shut down you can potentially lose access to a whole range of household devices, as Arlo Gilbert has discovered.

Writing on Medium, he said, “When software and hardware are intertwined, does a warranty mean you stop supporting the hardware or does it mean that the manufacturer can intentionally disable it without consequence? [Nest CEO] Tony Fadell seems to believe the latter. Tony believes he has the right to reach into your home and pull the plug on your Nest products.”

Nest said that, “Revolv was a great first step into the connected home” but “Works with Nest… is better” and as a result, “we can’t allocate resources to Revolv anymore and we have to shut down the service”.

Of course “can’t” should really be read as “won’t”.

Nest will no doubt feel it’s a storm that will blow over at the cost of a bit of early adopter goodwill but next time someone buys an IoT device, they will need to ask themselves not just whether the product is any good, but whether the company providing it is reliable enough to deserve becoming a part of your life.