The dark side of the IoT – Google deliberating bricking Revolv devices

Anthony Caruana
5 April, 2016
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In January 2014, Google (now called Alphabet) acquired smart-home device manufacturer Nest. Nest’s main product is a smart thermostat that controls your home’s climate control systems so that everything runs at a comfortable temperature in the most energy efficient manner possible. In October that year, Nest acquired Revolv –  a company that makes a similar product. This wasn’t a case of shutting down a competitor, but of acquiring the company in order to hire all of its people.

The thing about many home automation and Internet of Things, or IoT, gear is that the hardware, software and associated services are tightly intertwined.

Revolv is a home automation hub. Essentially, it can communicate with and coordinate the operation of a number of other devices. And on 15 May 2016, Google will be turning off the Revolv service. This doesn’t just mean any web-based services it provides will stop or that there won’t be any new software updates.

The Revolv device will actually stop working. It won’t be partially nobbled or taken out of support. It will simply stop working.

I doubt many Australians will be inconvenienced by this news. I’m not sure Revolv ever marketed products here. But it’s a salient warning about the interconnectedness of our world and how the suspension or closure of an online service can result in a piece of hardware being made deliberately obsolete.

 

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