Over the last decade there has been some really great software products that have been shut down with little to no warning. This is getting so common that someone created a website called Killed by Google. After Google shutdown Reader in 2013, I spent months trying to find a replacement. During this research I determined I should try to find solutions to services I use everyday that wouldn’t be shut down in some board room over profit margins.
About five years ago, I started researching smart home products and services as well as automation software to use in my next home. I started to notice the following trends:
- Software products and services being shutdown with no notice
- No software updates for promised features or security fixes
- Software updates that remove out of the box functionality (features/bricking)
- Free software that suddenly requires a paid subscription
- Companies are selling or hording your data.
For the sake of relevancy let’s just cover what’s happened since the start of 2019.
When ecobee launched the ecobee Switch+ I became super interested in them due to the shear amount of sensors in a small device. They had also stated there would be API support as well as it would be integrated as a remote temperature sensor for an ecobee smart thermostat.
It took most of 2019, before 15 of my ecobee switches got the firmware update to be added to my thermostat but the delivered promise of api support never came.
Best Buy Insignia shut down
Best Buy quietly announced on September 6th that it was shutting down it’s Insignia brand of smart home devices on November 6th. App access would no longer be available rendering most of the products unusable.
The announcement has already been purged from the Best Buy Insignia website.
Lowe’s Iris shut down
Lowe’s Iris platform first launched in 2012, offered free and paid subscription options. An announcement on January 31st that it was shutting down on March 31st, rendering devices dead.
I’m happy they offered a program to trade in any purchased devices for a prepaid credit card so users could migrate to a different solution.
The announcement has already been purged from the Lowe’s Iris website.
Chamberlain MyQ Breaking API Changes
When it comes to automating garage door openers there are few out of the box solutions that work and are as popular as the Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener.
An open source project created a python library that many other open source projects use to integrate with MyQ using the MyQ Api. Unfortunately the MyQ team has broken this api multiple times in 2019 causing automations to break.
I hesitate a little bit every time I see an MyQ app update on my phone. as I’m always wondering if this will trigger my opener firmware to be updated and break my home automations.
It’s been a cat and mouse game between smart home developers and the MyQ team.
Stringify shut down
Stringify was launched in 2014 and bought by Comcast in 2017. Fast forward 18 months later to April 8th, Stringify announces via email it will be shutting down new sign ups immediately and all data will be deleted on July 8th.
Stringify has announced that it will be shutting down in the upcoming months. https://t.co/VFshmwCeKK— Stringify (@StringifyIt) April 8, 2019
Sonos bricking devices
In December it was uncovered that Sonos was bricking devices upon agreeing to recycle your device or by upgrading the speaker.
Recycle Mode is a state your device enters 21 days after recycling confirmation in the Sonos app. In Recycle Mode, all data is erased and the device is permanently deactivated so you can safely and securely dispose of it. Once a device is in Recycle Mode, it cannot be reactivated.
This decision was overturned in March 2020.
Works with Nest shut down
Google announced on
May 7th that it would be shutting down
Works with Nest on August 31st.
It was only after massive backlash that they announced
that they would continue to support integrations until they were available in
the new API’s backed by a single Google Account.
Current users have to be super careful not to migrate their existing Nest accounts to the new Google account for fear of losing integrations. I believe this migration and integration support for various hubs will be completed in 2021.
Wink product availability
August Connect firmware
In early 2020, I received a firmware update that caused all five of my August Smart Lock Pro Connect Hubs from connecting to my Wi-Fi. Slowly but surely they’ve came online but every now and then I’ll have one drop offline. Thankfully I have the Z-Wave version and access the locks that way.
Dark Sky shut down
On March 31st Apple acquired Dark Sky and announced it would be shutting down it’s API at the end of 2021. A lot of smart home users used the API to power weather automations.
Apple did the right thing by giving users plenty of time to move off of the API.
As stated in the 2019 section, when remote thermostat sensors support was rolled out to the ecobee Switch+ via an firmware update. A few months later it was removed with a second firmware update. Now only some of my switches are paired as a remote sensor to my ecobee smart thermostats.
To make matters worse there is an unresolved server side bug that keeps renaming any switch that has a custom defined name back to the serial number of the device. This should never happen to a consumer device paired with cloud outages leaves a lot to be desired from ecobee when it comes to software. I recommend using ecobee’s HomeKit support to get around these limitations where possible.
Home Assistant breaking changes and OS changes
In May the Home Assistant team announced that they were dropping support for generic linux installs without consulting the community. This was a major change that left many users frustrated. It makes sense that users should be using the managed Home Assistant operating system, but a large portion of users installed it on Ubuntu and other linux operating systems of which may have been used for other purposes.
As the platform matures there will be less churn and breaking changes.
As we near the 1.0 release of Home Assistant, we’ve seen more integrations be removed as well as changes to the API surface. Although these are good changes they still require work by end users. This is to be expected of pre version 1.0 software.
Although breaking changes do happen from time to time. You control the updates on your own time, helping to limit breaking changes.
Chamberlain MyQ breaking API changes
For the second year running the Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener has had issues due to MyQ trying lock out users from using the MyQ API. It has been a cat and mouse game between smart home developers and the MyQ team.
Tuya firmware locking
I love flashing retail devices from the stock firmware to ESPHome. I do this mainly for privacy and to ensure it can be brought into Home Assistant easily. It appears there is a new firmware on some Tuya devices that is preventing flashing causing vendor lock in to unknown third party services. I can’t blame companies for wanting to lock down the firmware, it just leaves little options for smart home integrations when the company leaves the space.
Check out this workaround for how to flash devices that are locked down.
Logitech Harmony Express remote shut down
On July 9th Logitech announced it was discontinuing the 15 month old smart remote control that cost $250. It would also be shutting down the Alexa service on September 30th, rendering the device useless to control by it’s main selling feature.
Logitech is offering a free upgrade if you bought this product!
On May 20th Wink announced that it would start charging all users $4.99 a month. Failure to subscribe would result in severely limited functionality, pretty much forcing users to upgrade in order to add or edit devices, add automations, or use voice control.
On September 10th IFTTT announced a pro plan that costs $9.99 a month. The existing free plan would be severely limited to 3 applets.
Smart Things Classic shut down
On June 24th SmartThings announced that SmartThings classic will be shutting down on December 1st . All users who haven’t migrated to the new SmartThings API will have major disruptions (e.g., your integrations will be deleted).
Wemo cloud only
On May 26th Wemo announced
Wemo Accounts, a new way to manage all of your devices with an online account.
The new account system shifts all of the device management away from your local network and onto cloud services, which should reduce problems with the Wemo apps and integrations with third-party services. However, account creation is currently broken, which is very on-brand for Wemo.
OSRAM shut down
On March 9th, OSRAM announced that it would be shutting down it’s smart lighting systems servers on August 31st, 2021. They provided a faq and recommended resetting all your devices and pair them to a Zigbee bridge.
Hue Bridge v1 shut down
On March 6th Hue announced that it would be shutting down internet connectivity for the first generation bridge on April 30th. You can still use the bridge locally but they recommended upgrading to the newer generation bridge.
Automatic shut down
On May 1st Automatic Labs announced that it would be shutting down it’s vehicle-tracking service on May 28th
Android Things shut down
On December 18th Google announced that it would be shut down the sign up of Android Things new projects on January 5th, 2021. On January 5th, 2022 it will be shutting down the service completely.
It’s worth looking at all the services and products that were shut down and disappeared like they never even existed. Some of these products and service had amassed hundreds of thousands of users. Is there an emerging pattern? Would you ever trust this company again?
I recommend buying devices that can be controlled locally though ESPHome, mqtt, Thread, Zigbee or Z-Wave. Stay away from products that use a vendor specific protocol especially if the company has a history of shutting down services or products. I’d also avoid large investments in new products by any company unless they have a positive track record or can be controlled via a standard.
If an online service doesn’t charge you a monthly fee, you are the product. Products that have a free cloud dependency have to find a way to turn a profit or they will shut down. Someone has to pay for the cloud services.
I do feel comfortable sticking with HomeKit supported devices as I can control them locally and Apple has a good track record of privacy, supporting devices, and part of HomeKit was open sourced too.