Last week, Alphabet/Google subsidiary Nest, makers of Internet-connected “smart home” devices like thermostats, announced it’s shutting down support for their Revolv line of smart home hubs. As of May 15, the hubs (which cost $300) and their companion apps will cease to function, leaving users with a worthless brick.
Nest bought Revolv in 2014, and since has largely ignored the hub (save a few software updates) in favor of other Nest-related technology. Buying into new or obscure technology often carries “first generation” or “bleeding edge” risks; see for example my first smartphone, the Palm Pre. However, not working period if the parent company goes under or merely decides it isn’t profitable to keep supporting the device is a big flaw. That’s especially if the “Internet of Things” (IoT) and cloud functionality are supposedly the wave of the future. At least my Chromebook would allow me to install a traditional Linux distribution if something happened to Google, which is better than being a $300 paperweight.
Besides casting a bad light on IoT devices, it also draws attention to Google’s habit of killing off (“spring cleaning”) tech that’s still got a following, on what sometimes appears to be a whim. While Google can do whatever it wants, their habits might make some potential customers think twice about using or trusting any of their services, which isn’t good for Google. Of course, the same goes for other companies and their tech.
I suppose as an end user, advice I can think of might include:
- Not placing all of one’s tech usage with just a single company, no matter how convenient. Contrast the “walled garden” nature of Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft. I’ve written about alternatives to Google’s services, as well as free software options.
- When possible, make sure any tech uses open standards or isn’t irrevocably tied to one company. Exceptions would be movies and TV shows, since Hollywood forces digital rights management (DRM) from the get-go. However, one can opt to rip DVDs/Blu-Rays.
- Be cautious about or avoid “bleeding edge” or obscure/not-well-established tech services. The “smart house” tech era’s still pretty young, so Revolv’s situation might not be too surprising. On the other hand, a company like Honeywell’s been making thermostats and similar home technology for decades; they also now make some Wi-Fi/Internet enabled thermostats and other household devices. No, I don’t work for Honywell, but they came to mind as a well-established company not likely to go out of business anytime soon.
- Research technology purchases beforehand, such as through Consumer Reports or with reputable website reviews.