When you invest in technology for your home, you would be forgiven for expecting the product to be supported for the duration of its working life. Not so with Revolv, a smart hub manufacturer acquired in 2014 by Nest, which has now announced that it will completely shut down its service as of 15th May 2016.
This decision means that existing customers will find that their devices and the companion apps will no longer work from the above date. Not only will this render its customers’ smart home set-ups useless overnight, but this withdrawal of service runs counter to the ‘lifetime subscription’ guarantee that was included as part of the original purchase price. An upbeat message from Revolv’s co-founders stated that the parent company’s mounting activities forced this decision, yet gave no indication that they would be fulfilling the commitments made to existing customers.
“We’re pouring all our energy into Works with Nest and are incredibly excited about what we’re making. Unfortunately, that means we can’t allocate resources to Revolv anymore and we have to shut down the service.”
– Tim Enwall and Mike Soucie, co-founders of Revolv
Neglecting the duty of care
Nest’s decision, while clearly focused on making full use of its resources to implement its product roadmap, will come as a kick in the teeth to a still relatively nascent Internet of Things sector. The casual dismissal of Revolv’s customer base (and the obligations it had taken on) can only undermine confidence in off-the-shelf connected hubs, and particularly in the company’s ability to offer long-term support for its products.
By treating a legacy smart hub like an old phone model, Nest has missed a crucial difference between the consumer technology and smart home markets. This type of product is not simply a throw-away peripheral; such devices are central to the operation of several important systems within a personal space. Much in the way that people do not change their wallpaper each week, homeowners will understandably be reluctant to regularly switch the hubs that they use to control their properties at the behest of the manufacturer.
More worryingly, this decision fully demonstrates the power that IoT companies have in being able to dictate the expiry date of their products and to decide whether or not to honour promises of customer support. Such behaviour causes massive inconvenience to customers, leaving them with an unusable and expensively assembled albatross in their homes.
You could claim that this is exactly the sort of risk run by early adopters in any sector, but there is a dangerous precedent being set whereby home owners lose control of the technology embedded within their residences. If manufacturers (or the companies that acquire them) can turn the lights off whenever they choose, how long can we trust them to keep them on?
Update: Nest has belatedly announced that it will make efforts to support Revolv customers (see below):
— Nest Support (@nestsupport) April 5, 2016