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RIP, Cloud-Connected Devices

Paid-up Products Disappear Under Our Noses

Clouds are ephemeral, passing quickly from sight, carried away on the lightest of breezes. Apparently, so are cloud-based products. 

Consumer giant Samsung has decided to deep-six its entire SmartThings product line, starting with users’ home hubs. As of last week, SmartThings hubs stopped working. They’re essentially bricked because, like all cloud-based services, they sail upon the whim of the host company. Samsung decided it didn’t want to build and support SmartThings products anymore, so it simply blew them away. 

This, despite the fact that SmartThings has something like 62 million active users, with tens of millions signing up every year, according to Samsung’s head of SmartThings engineering, Mark Benson. 

“Your SmartThings Hub… will no longer work, but the SmartThings app will still let you monitor and control Wi-Fi or cloud-connected devices you may have set up in your home,” says Samsung’s official statement. “However, without a SmartThings hub, you will no longer be able to automate and control Zigbee, Z-Wave, or LAN devices.” Not much of a smart home system, then. 

This event follows none-too-distantly after Google’s similar move to kill off its Nest Secure home-security service and its Android Things operating system. And startup Nucleus deciding its home intercom/tablet really shouldn’t work any longer. And PC games abruptly disappearing. And kitchen gadgets or security cameras or home hubs that self-ransom. Or bricked security cameras. This is getting old. And predictable. 

Like beer, we don’t actually own cloud-connected products, we just rent them. The latest case in point is Peloton, makers of expensive exercise bikes and treadmills. Part of what differentiates a Peloton from that rusty old stationary bike in your parents’ garage is the built-in LCD screen that streams live exercise classes led by your favorite instructor and new best friend. There’s an extra subscription fee for that, of course. 

And now, a subscription fee for not watching them. For an extra $40/month, Peloton will permit you to not watch their instructors. How generous. How expensive is it to not buy a Peloton? Maybe Lamborghini is also having a sale on not buying exotic cars. That must cost a bundle. 

It could be worse. You could have had a Flywheel stationary bike with its own streaming service. But those all got bricked a year ago — by Peloton. 

Speaking of subscriptions, Cricut, which describes itself as a creative technology platform, briefly dabbled with the idea of instituting one of its own. Owners of Cricut Maker cutting machines would’ve needed to pay a monthly fee to use the company’s Design Space software, which is, of course, required to use the machines. To its credit, the company reversed that decision a few weeks later. Owners are now free to use the machines they paid for. Imagine. 

Home appliance manufacturers are taking a page from their office printers, so to speak. Now even dishwashers have DRM to prevent unauthorized detergents. Say hello to Bob, a miniature countertop dishwasher about the size of a large toaster or a small desktop PC. Bob uses custom detergent cassettes instead of standard liquid or tablet soaps. Naturally, the cassettes are available only from the manufacturer, they’re protected by hardware DRM to prevent refilling, and they’re expensive

Think that’s weird? How about the charcoal grill that uses its own proprietary charcoal inserts? The company calls them, without a trace of irony, Briqs.

[Updated July 5 to reflect Cricut update.]

4 thoughts on “RIP, Cloud-Connected Devices”

  1. IMHO, Samsung has done the ultimate disservice in this respect.
    My Samsung Gear S, which was their first wristwatch capable of hosting its own cell phone and data plan is now a brick.

    First, Verizon opted to no longer accept them, as they’re dropping G3 level services.
    So, bye bye cell and browser capabilities.

    I then reset the device, and sure enough, the phone wants to connect to the Gear app.
    Well, the Gear App is obsoleted, and is now Wearables, which the *newest* iteration no longer supports the Gear S.

    So, now my device is stuck at startup mode, and I can’t even use it was a wristwatch anymore!!!

    Let’s just say I won’t be doing any more wearable technology, unless I can edit it myself.

  2. Da*n! Waited too long to EBay those semi worthless ST Hubs 😒 Gave up on them over a year ago. Been laying in a corner of my office for obviously way too long.

    For all you other ST poor suckers out there. I switched to a “Hubitat” hub that actually works!

    https://hubitat.com/

    Will even support all my ST sensors PLUS my old IRIS Ver: 1 and up sensors that Lowes actually gave all the users a full CASH refund when they gave up on IRIS a few years back.

    Wonder why I’m not waiting for a Samsung ST refund? Also it is now against house rules to ever by another Samsung device, with a penalty of, “Wish you were dead!” My cr&p Samsung Cell phone is next to go.

  3. The article fails to mention that the only thing that is being discontinued is the old (2013) version of the SmartThings hub. Since Samsung acquired SmartThings, they gave ample warnings about eventual changes to the Hub and the entire ‘ecosystem’, so no one should be caught unaware.
    The next version of the Hub, available since 2018, is working fine. They even ported old SmartApps (the Groovy, user-written automations) to the new system. I’ve developed several of them and was pleasantly surprised when I found them tucked away under ‘SmartApps’ heading on the new SmartThings App. What’s even more surprising is the fact that the Web-based Groovy IDE is still functional, so one can modify old SmartApps and/or develop new ones.

    1. Thanks for noting this. Your comment was substantially more useful and correct than the information presented in the original.

      That being said, it’s still the case that “There’s a cloud-connected sucker born every day”. Not that CBDCs won’t be safe and effective, and certainly not mandated, of course.

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