At Critical Link, the applications that we get involved with tend to fall into the category “built to last.” We work with complex, heavy duty products – medical and scientific applications, test and measurement, transportation, defense. The applications we work on do their job, and do it well. Part of doing their job well means that they’re based on technology that is robust, suited to the purpose, and has a long shelf life. Yes, we all – Critical Link and our customers – are always up on the latest, but we’re not about throwing things out that work perfectly well just because something that may seem a little shinier comes along.
Anyway, our approach is unlike that of most consumer electronics, which are only built to last up to a point. They’re meant to go obsolescent within in a couple of years. Even if they still “work”, they’re not fast enough, cool enough, shiny enough. So they get tossed in a drawer or thrown in a bin and replaced. And sometimes – as can pretty easily happen if the app is in the cloud – they just get shut down outright.
What got me thinking along these lines is an article I saw in Wired a few weeks back on Nest’s plans to shut down Revolv’s smart home hub.
Revolv is – and soon to be, was – a $300 hub that could control a variety of different gadgets from a single smartphone app. It was backed by a cloud-based service: no cloud-based service, no control.
In 2014, Nest (now part of Google-world) acquired Revolv. They immediately stopped selling the hubs, but kept up support for a while. But they’ll be cutting it off mid-May.
The old Revolv web site tells users what they need to know – but may not want to hear:
What happens to my Revolv service? As of May 15, 2016, Revolv service will no longer be available. The Revolve app won’t open and the hub won’t work.
Is my product still under warranty? No. Our one-year warranty against defects in materials or owrkmanship has expired for all Revolv products.
What will happen to Revolv data? Revolv data will be deleted.
How can I get customer support? If you’re a current Revolv customer, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help you out during this tranition and provide you with a purchase price of your Revolv hub.
That last point, I take it, was something of an afterthought. There were no plans in place to offer a refund until customers started squawking.
The author of the Wired article uses the Nest-Resolv situation to cast doubt on whether the Internet of Things is going to work out or fizzle out.
I’m a believer that it will work out. The establishment of industry standards, which I wrote about last week, will help. So will, as Wired suggests, making “it possible for the devices to work independently of their cloud services over WiFi or Bluetooth”, which will enable you to “use your phone to control a device like the Revolv hub without an Internet connection, even if the thing is sitting 10 feet away from you.”
At this point in time, we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with the IoT. I just hope that they don’t start building in obsolescence to big-ticket items like refrigerators and stoves as they get smarter and smarter.