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Revolv does an about face: abruptly shutters its IoT home hub


via Flickr © MadLabUK (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • Move raises questions around Lifecycles and IoT
  • Get ready for the s**t storm of the SHuttered Internet of Things

What happens when the connected consumer device you buy in good faith is deemed obsolete and you’re told by its provider that in a month or two it’s not going to work? You probably swear violently, kick something handy and resolve never to have anything to do with that company again…  ever.  And you may  further resolve to seek guarantees about product or service longevity before you reach for your credit card to buy such a device/service in the future.

Just such a scenario has played out with the news that Revolv (the company bought by Google/Alphabet and added to its IoT activities about two years ago) has done just that with its connected-home hub.

The Revolv hub’s spec was pretty ‘cool’ at the time (which was why Google bought the company). It, and its connected objects, are controlled via apps for iOS and Android so users can set up complex processes and timings and update them whether they were home or away - multiple family members could be granted access as well.   

But now Revolv’s Users have been informed that they have until next month and then Revolv is deactivating cloud support.

"As of May 15, 2016, Revolv service will no longer be available. The Revolv app won’t open and the hub won’t work," said Revolv, adding that all the data will be deleted.

Revolv did make clear upon its purchase by Google that it would no longer be working on and selling its own hub. Instead it would fold its development effort into Nest and support ‘Works with Nest’.

With the shutdown announcement  it’s claimed that all the users of the Revolv hub are now out of their one year warranties and that the  number of householders affected by the shutdown will be relatively small.

Well, yes, but those that are now out of warranty still paid a rather large $299 for the hub (I would still want it to be working at two years old) and, given that it was a ‘hub’, they will now have to find another solution to reconnect all the household things that they had gone to the trouble of hooking up - things like security and fire alarms, thermostats and so on.  I’m guessing that many won’t feel like shelling out another few hundred Dollars or Euros for a solution from Nest.

You won’t fall for that trick again, will you?

Of course this development is being widely seen as a lesson for the future, for both users and providers: that expensive items might be vulnerable to the provider losing interest and/or moving on, and that perhaps users should seek support guarantees (and providers should think carefully about offering them) as the market moves forward.

It might also be a spur to acceptance of relatively high level interface standards (beyond mere connectivity) so that things can be easily swapped in an out of a household system (and indeed the system itself can be changed).

Some observers suggest that the lifecycle problem will be alleviated when both users and providers get themselves aligned with the ‘subscription model’ for IoT which would incentivise providers into ‘thing longevity’ or at least automatic thing replacement.

I’m not sure that it would in reality -  you would still have end-of-life issues cropping up for the actual services with an  incentive for the provider to move people to newer, more profitable subscriptions. In fact, subscription models for many categories could prove far more infuriating that the alternatives, and I as a user (rather than as a provider), am not at all sure that I’d want too many subscriptions clogging up my life and potentially giving me bill shock at regular intervals. “Just sell me a thing and use the connectivity to make sure it works. If it doesn’t it’s going back and you’re giving me a refund,” will be my buyer’s small print.

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