back to article FTC lets Nest off the hook over Revolv IoT hub bricking shame

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided not to move forward with an investigation into smart-home company Nest and its decision to end support for the Revolv hub. In a letter [PDF] to the Google stablemate, the regulator said it had "decided not to recommend enforcement action at this time," referencing "confidential …

  1. Number6

    Home Server

    The obvious answer from the consumer perspective is for the company to produce a home server that can be used with the device. Either they can write their own or release enough information about the device that someone else can write one, because there are enough people out there that would. If necessary, one final software update for the device so that it can be pointed at the local server rather than one in the cloud.

    Can't see it happening though, it would mean that all those people wouldn't have a need to go buy a new device from somewhere.

    1. WatAWorld

      Re: Home Server

      Yeah, because after laypeople spend $200 on a device they're ready to spend $500 on a server to support it.

      Let us face it, the company that made the devices is still in business, just it has been purchased by Google.

      And Google could easily be running the required servers. But by abandoning devices sold a mere 30 days earlier Google opens up sales for the Nest product it is continuing to produce.

      1. Number6

        Re: Home Server

        A Raspberry Pi is probably good enough to act as a server to get IoT things working again, it doesn't have to be expensive if you've got someone in the community minded to put together a bit of software.

        I dislike stuff that only talks to the cloud, I much prefer to have it all confined within my firewall with an approved gateway in.

      2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: Home Server

        Have you seen recent cloud service subscription prices? $500 for a server is a bargain.

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Home Server

      A good model for this would be the early Slimp3 music players produced by Slim Devices - these were really excellent music players, they became quite popular and after a few years the company was purchased by Logitech. Logitech dropped support for them after a few years.

      However, since the music server that the player relied on was open source, they are still working fine - the server application runs on a number of operating systems, including a PC.

    3. Timbo Bronze badge

      Re: Home Server

      As long as the company producing the End of Lifed IoT device is forced (by legislation) to make their server software Open Source, then this surely would help prevent said devices ending up in landfill, or on a boat to Asia to be "recycled" (or put in landfill "out of sight over there !!).

      A few years ago, Cobalt made some nice little 1U webservers, which worked really well...then they got bought by Sun and then said servers were discontinued...but at least Sun released to Open Source, the code for the servers and hence StrongBolt and Blue Quartz (and others) came about which extended the life of these products considerably. :-)

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Home Server

        Or better yet start with FOSS to begin with. IoT devices are a combination of physical devices and software/apps. The physical device, say fridge, can have a lifetime of decades so using FOSS to begin with might make keeping the software patched easier. Appliances can have a lifetime 10+ with some money spent on maintenance.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Home Server

          Appliances can have a lifetime 10+ with some money spent on maintenance."

          Smart TVs. AHhhh hah ha ha ha ha ha

          1. Number6

            Re: Home Server

            I refuse to have a smart TV. I use a dumb TV with a Linux-based media centre to do the smart bits, so I can be reasonably sure that the TV isn't transmitting my conversations to some unknown place out on the web or ratting out my viewing habits to advertisers.

            As for the music stuff, I have several Pi-based systems in the house that hook into a Squeezebox sever running on a machine here. Very cheap way to get networked music around the house, a Pi, a small USB power supply and a pair of computer speakers. Not hi-fi, but the environment here is not good enough for that anyway.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A shot across the bows for M$FT also? Wither Win RT futures? Remember Zune etc.? This is/should be about more than just new IoT devices - what about the rest of the IT world?. I work in/around IoT and must say the Nest Hub decision has caused many prospects to hold back so generally and ask some serious questions wrt viability of each element of the supply/value chain esp as many are 'startups' even if quite well funded (for now)......bad for the industry over all - thanks Google/Nest!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Won't even slow them down as the consumer shit is all "free." Us cattle are monetized differently so whatever services, updates, etc. will be wrapped up in a bow as gratis to avoid a consumer injury. [Do notice the buy-back. Ever think Microsoft would do one? Right.]

      1. WatAWorld

        Why single out MS for copying what practices Hotbot, Macrovision, Adobe and Apple pioneered?

        That is the thing, justice and an absence of hypocrisy require tolerating MS doing what we've tolerated Apple doing.

    2. WatAWorld

      Remember the iPod 4.

  3. WatAWorld

    It has been reported many times that many Google alumni populate the Obama administration

    It has been reported many times that many Google alumni populate the Obama administration.

    And Google founders have been big supporters of Clinton.

    So it would not matter the merits of the case, whether it was likely to succeed or not, there would be little chance of a prosecution being attempted.

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    Cost is more than just purchase price

    People will also have spent a lot of time installing them and setting them up, maybe getting some paid help. This should also be compensated - there seems to be the idea that customer time has zero value.

    Other costs: getting to/from the store where they bought it, also had to return to get a refund (presumably).

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "it will refund customers"

    So it hasn't yet? If it was the plan to do that then it would have been sensible to have made the offer when the shutdown was announced, not when it had the FTC on its case.

    At least Revolv was bought by a company that has the resources to make refunds. What happens to a company that just goes bust because of cash-flow problems or because the owners have taken out all the funds as dividends and done a runner?

    The FTC and consumer protection world-wide need to lay down some rules:

    If a device is based on connectivity to a central hub it must fail-safe if the connectivity fails temporarily and there should be a software escrow arrangement whereby up-to-date copies of the hub and device software are available if the company goes out of business or just shuts down the hub.

    Companies should not make infeasible offers. If an ISP or the like offers uncapped data then they should be able to sustain every customer using their full bandwidth all day every day. Continuing to run an essential central server shouldn't depend for finance on continuing sales of new product - that's effectively a Ponzi scheme. And unlimited storage is a complete non-starter.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "If an ISP or the like offers uncapped data then they should be able to sustain every customer using their full bandwidth all day every day."

      So a phone company should be required to have enough redundancy so that every person in the country can use their phone at the same time? The postal service should have enough redundancy so that everyone can post 100 letters every day? Petrol companies should have enough stock for everyone in the country to fill their tanks on the same day?

      "Continuing to run an essential central server shouldn't depend for finance on continuing sales of new product - that's effectively a Ponzi scheme."

      This is a difficult one. It sounds reasonable until you think "how else can a company do this?" The only way I can imagine it otherwise working is that customers would have to pay for the lifetime maintenance of the server as part of their upfront cost. You might as well just ban sales of such devices.

      "And unlimited storage is a complete non-starter."

      It obviously isn't unlimited: it's limited by the total data storage in the world, for example. Any reasonable person knows that it cannot be truly unlimited. What it means is "don't worry about caps". If you go silly then you can be told off from the company, and eventually disconnected. Is this a better or worse way of going about business than explicitly stating caps? The idea is mostly to reassure people who have no real idea what a gigabyte is and would worry about what happens when their internet uses too many gigabytes.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        '"Continuing to run an essential central server shouldn't depend for finance on continuing sales of new product - that's effectively a Ponzi scheme."

        This is a difficult one. It sounds reasonable until you think "how else can a company do this?"'

        SImple. You sell it as a paid-for service. I pay my ISP, my domain registrar/email provider and Usenet service providers monthly, annually or whatever. The latter two just provide the service but the ISP also provides the network interface kit which, in fact, remains their property. What's to stop an operation such as Revolv operating as a service and charging as such? The H/W could either be part of the service deal or a separate sale but making quite clear that the service needs to be paid for for it to keep working.

        'Storage obviously isn't unlimited: it's limited by the total data storage in the world, for example. Any reasonable person knows that it cannot be truly unlimited. What it means is "don't worry about caps". If you go silly then you can be told off from the company, and eventually disconnected. Is this a better or worse way of going about business than explicitly stating caps?'

        It is worse. If you say unlimited then that's the offer. As we both agree it's a nonsense so don't offer it because if you do and then try to apply caps later either you're in breach of contract or, if you snuck a limiting clause into the contract, you're guilty of false advertising.

        'The idea is mostly to reassure people who have no real idea what a gigabyte is'

        s/reassure/lie to/

        People have no idea what a gigabyte are going to be the ones who have least idea of what the realities are.

        The principle is very simple. Sell what you can supply. Don't mislead people into thinking that you can supply something you can't.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      "Ponzi scheme" it is not. There should be some consideration or reasonable scenarios such as:

      1. Company goes bust. - How are consumers protected and software maintained

      2. Subscription fees. - If charge how are consumers protected if they later can not afford the subscription and must the vendor provide at a minimum in updates and patches.

      3. Software vs Device obsolescence - Many IoT devices could have a usable service of decades even though the model is no longer in production. How long should should vendors be required to provide support and once support has ended what is the default device functionality (will the IoT fridge default to a dumb fridge).

  6. VinceH

    "In a letter [PDF] to the Google stablemate, the regulator said it had "decided not to recommend enforcement action at this time," referencing "confidential information" that Nest had supplied it with."

    Dear FTC,

    As you know, Nest is now a part of Google. Here are some things Google knows about key members of your staff that we're sure they would rather not become public knowledge...

  7. quattroprorocked

    simples

    1) Companies must support products for five years after last sale. OR refund all those who purchased less than 5 years ago.

    Support need only cover fixes to bugs that break the product or are a security issue.

    2) Watch as the insurance industry gears up to offer this as part of Product Liability cover

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: simples

      "Watch as the insurance industry gears up to offer this as part of Product Liability cover"

      They're not going to be pleased if the original offer wasn't realistic.

  8. Fatman
    Joke

    FTC hints at I(dI)oT manufacturers

    OK, so the FTC is trying to make a statement, but what about the blowback?

    I(dI)oT industry to FTC: "Wot??? Taking away our business model of planned obsolescence??? Get real, if we have to support those I(dI)oT things forever, then WHO will buy our new shiny-shiny???"

    We haven't heard the last.

  9. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    " .... reasonable consumers would not expect the Revolv hubs to become unusable ... "

    I think the term 'average consumer' would have been more to the point.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Company I work for is about to end of life some equipment we've sold. I can see this going down very badly with our customers. Nothing they can do though..

    I'm a bit upset for them. I think we should continue supporting it however there is no commercial obligation to. It also doesn't make commercial sense to support something we're unable to sell any more.

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