Internet of Things

After Nest Bricks Revolv Hubs, Can Consumers Trust IoT?

The smart home isn’t a totally foreign concept to consumers anymore, but there’s still a sizable gap between now and a time when homeowners expect their appliances, thermostats and recessed lighting to all communicate with each other in perfect IoT harmony. There’s no silver bullet to getting there, either — just the long, slow slog of proving to the public through superior products that IoT is the future for a reason.

However, that doesn’t mean that IoT can’t take one step back for every two forward, as it seems is happening with the cold-blooded murder of the Revolv smart home hub.

Revolv didn’t so much announce that cloud support for its hockey puck-sized IoT hub would be shuttered come May 15 as much as it was forced into admitting the fact. Arlo Gilbert, CEO of Televero Health, first brought widespread attention to the shutdown in a Medium post on Sunday (April 3), when he happened to visit Revolv’s site, which was displaying the unfortunate news.

According to Revolv, the decision to leave owners of its product flapping in the breeze is a logistical one. The team behind the soon-to-be-shuttered IoT hub will join Google to work on the Revolv-like Works with Nest platform. In a statement to PCWorld, Nest spokeswoman Ivy Choi explained that the decision was simply a matter of consolidating efforts toward Google’s own IoT future.

“Revolv was a great first step toward the connected home, but we believe that Works with Nest is a better solution and are allocating resources toward that program,” Choi said.

It goes without saying that consumer electronics have seen an acceleration in the time between initial release and eventual obsolescence, but Google’s decision to flat-out brick Revolv units isn’t quite the same thing as the tech being overtaken by a more advanced iteration. After all, is it at all likely that a company Google’s size simply can’t afford to keep the lights on in Revolv’s server rooms?

Moreover, the service shutdown of smart home hubs throws into jeopardy all the other devices consumers may have connected to them, along with all the painstakingly customized routines to adjust lights, heat and everything else early IoT adopters cobbled together over the years. If they want to recreate their smart home functionality with another hub, that means a few more hundred dollars forked over and more time tweaking Boolean operators until the product they have resembles the one they never wanted to stop using in the first place. It’s a stark contradiction to the aura of ultimate convenience the concept of the smart home has acquired.

Much more so than a few thousand techheads being out $300, this is the troubling aspect of Revolv’s long walk to the gallows. Forget the early adopters. If the average consumer is looking to finally make the leap into IoT-ifying their dumb houses into smart homes, how much confidence can they realistically have that they won’t have to make the same purchases all over again in a handful of years?

It seems like Nest is at least aware of the possibility that turning off support for Revolv could have the unintended consequences of turning customers off from IoT for good. After the Internet had a few days to seethe over the news of Revolv’s bricking, a spokesperson told The Verge that Nest was open to working with device owners to mitigate whatever damage it could — even if it means paying them back.

“We’ve been working with the small number of Revolv customers on a case-by-case basis since we sent out the first customer notification in February to determine the best resolution, including compensation,” the spokesperson said.

Whether Nest can salve the wounds of Revolv customers might seem like the main objective here, but it’s more than likely that anybody who jumped on the smart home bandwagon already has the money and the interest to just buy another one — even if it’s not from Nest. Why extend the olive branch to spurned customers then?

Because Nest can’t let on-the-fence shoppers think that it has the unilateral power to brick devices the company itself wants them to hinge their entire tech-filled homes around. And, even if Nest can, has and will probably do so again, reconciliation through refunds may be the only acceptable way for a corporation to say it’s sorry, to win customers back and to potentially erase an ugly mark on its IoT record.

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