Why you can’t trust ‘lifetime guarantees’ on the Internet of Things

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The looming shutdown of Revolv has some home-automation fans questioning the Internet of Things.
Photo: Andrew Stawarz/Flickr CC

Revolv smart hubs will no longer be supported as of May 15. Even though subscribers have known this was coming since February, there wasn’t a lot of attention until an author’s highly critical piece was published on Medium.

That story has spurred conversations questioning investment in the Internet of Things, or IoT, and prompted Nest to consider compensating users who were early investors in the Revolv hub.

Hub is a $300 brick after May 15

Users are incensed over their $300 hubs no longer working, and not just for the obvious reason of having a bricked device. A large part of the anger stems from shoppers’ “lifetime subscriptions” lasting for just two years. Alphabet — Google’s parent company, which owns Nest (the company that bought Revolv just to shut it down) — is trying to lessen the blow by rolling the money that would have supported Revolv into the Works with Nest system.

Works with Nest purportedly links to a variety of smart home devices, from Whirlpool dishwashers to Philips lights. Ultimately, though, customers have no way of knowing if all their devices will work together after Revolv goes dark.

Some alternatives exist, and users could be compensated

Even the Medium author, outraged as he was at the end of the Revolv, admitted he could replace the soon-to-be-defunct hardware with something like Samsung’s SmartThings hub for “a few hundred dollars.” In addition to other purchase options, there’s apparently even a way to turn a Nest thermostat into a hub in its own right, thanks to the Works with Nest platform.

Nest has received a substantial amount of recrimination over its decision to deactivate Revolv hubs. However, rather than caving to customer demands and continuing to support a system the company doesn’t believe in, Nest is now working with a small number of Revolv customers on a case-by-case basis. It hopes to determine the best resolution for all parties — including compensation. Yet it’s not clear whether customers would be refunded the full amount for their hub purchase.

A cautionary tale for lifetime guarantees and the Internet of Things

The current outcry could possibly have been lessened if Revolv hadn’t promised a lifetime subscription to its service in the first place. True, users would undoubtedly still be upset that their hubs were becoming useless after only two years. But this might be more acceptable if they didn’t feel they’d been cheated by an broken promise.

Instead, this situation is turning into a prime example of why shoppers should be informed before investing in new technologies. While the Internet of Things has become more popular, the Revolv fiasco has made some skittish.

With so many devices turning to cloud support, many users are concerned that it’s too easy for companies to pull the plug on products. Understandably, they’re reluctant to purchase replacement smart hubs and take that gamble again, only to lose in a couple of years.

Has this situation made you rethink investing in smart technologies? Do you own a Revolv hub and, if so, will you buy a replacement when support ends next month? Sound off in the comments below.