Switching off the consumer

The Internet of Things era is upon us with devices ranging from home automation systems to heart monitors. But all is not well in the world of IoT.

This week the tech world was abuzz with the news that Google Nest has decided to shut down its Revolv home automation hub because, well, it says it’s got something better.

We’re not talking about ceasing to provide support here, at least until your warranty is up. No, they are literally switching the system off permanently. On 15th May this year, these devices simply will not work anymore. It doesn’t matter how reliant you’ve become on them to sort out your heating, or the oven or the lighting; it doesn’t matter how much you paid for Revolv, or when. It’s just going to stop.

Google says it’s dispensing with Revolv because it’s got another product that they say is better. You just have to buy it first. If you don’t want to buy their new thing, you’re going to have to buy someone else’s.

As one very irate commentator pointed out, this is a bit like Apple saying that you only get to use their latest iPhone for 12 months, then they’re going to shut it down and you’ll have to buy another one because they said so.

The way most IoT devices work at present means that the consumer is completely reliant on the hardware provider’s choice of cloud service. The two are ‘hard-coded’ to one another. You don’t get to re-programme the device if the company goes to the wall or decides just to stop providing the service. We managed to resolve the problem of maintaining a web address no matter who hosts it on the Internet with the Domain Name System (DNS) and it's about time it started happening with IoT too.

We’re a consumer society and built-in obsolescence is a given these days – no-one expects their devices to last forever. But when it comes to service provision, in all areas but IoT, we get to choose our providers and we can switch around for the best deal or the best service.

If this issue isn't resolved soon and companies like Google continue to abuse their customers’ goodwill like they have with Revolv, people will be rightfully wary of buying into IoT, and that way we all lose. Because if there are no consumers, there's no market and if there's no market, there's no innovation.

Posted by Kirsty McIntosh on Friday, April 8, 2016

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