Nest product shutdown shows a key problem for the Internet of Things

Posted on 6 Apr 2016 by Michael Cruickshank

Smart-home company Nest has demonstrated a key flaw within the so-called Internet of Things through the discontinuation of an internet-connected product.

The company has decided to shut down a subdivision called Revolv which produced a product called the Revolv Hub, which served as a central connection point for multiple smart-home devices.

Following the shutdown the Revolv Hub will not just be no longer supported but will actually no longer function at all.

“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,” the company said in a statement. “…we can’t allocate resources to Revolv anymore and we have to shut down the service.”

Revolv was acquired by Nest, which itself is owned by Alphabet, around 2 years ago, and the team behind their products was moved to other projects within Nest.

Upon acquisition, Nest stopped selling the Revolv Hub devices, however a substantial number of consumers were still using these systems, purchased for $299, when they were shut down.

This decision caused a large media backlash against Nest and Alphabet, prompting them to state that they would now refund affected customers the price of the device.

The limits of ownership

While this case only affected a small number of people, it nonetheless demonstrates a key problem with the networked devices making up the so-called ‘Internet of Things’.

Many such devices will only be functional should they continue to be supported by the software and server infrastructure of the company which sells them.

Should this company discontinue products lines, or worse, go bankrupt, millions of devices could be rendered as little more than expensive paperweights.

Within such a scenario, customers theoretically would be able to modify or replace device software in order to connect to a new service, however in some cases this may not be legal.

Due to the face that despite having purchased a device, a user merely licenses its software, owning an networked device is a very different thing to owning a stand-alone product.

As a result of the growth of this sector, such legal and technological issues will be a key concern for customers and manufacturers into the future.