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Nest, the company, died at Google I/O 2019 (arstechnica.com)
351 points by redm 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 368 comments

Smart people don't buy smart home devices.

My relatively poor grandparents and my slightly less poor parents had a hard working life, but none of them had to sleep in a dark cold room because the switch to turn the lights on or the heating stopped working. Ever. This problem has been solved by other people many many years ago.

Last month I watched a documentary where a billionaire was showing of his multi million mansion and when he wanted to show the camera team his 100k home cinema room they couldn't see anything because his smart lighting system was stuck in an update loop and nobody had a clue how to fix it. In the interview he said it's not a big deal because he doesn't like to have the lights on when watching a movie anyway. L.O.L.

If I had a 100k cinema room then it would be certainly be a big deal to me if I can't even see where the heck I'm walking.

In my entire life I never thought "damn, how nice would it be if I could turn on the lights in my bedroom from downstairs on my phone". It's just not a problem which I think people have, but somehow the consumer industry has convinced so many fools to buy cheaply fabricated, badly secured, even worse programmed and often not long supported smart home devices which add absolutely no benefit to anyone's everyday life and cause lots of problems.

By the time I find my phone lying around in my lounge, unlock it through Face ID or finger touch, open up the home app, find the home device which I want to control, then make whatever change I wanted to do I am much faster to just get my arse up from the couch, walk over and turn it on/off with a normal hand movement. On the way I can also grab a beer from the fridge and then continue watching the telly and laugh about some fools who spent 100k on a home cinema without lights.

This is the exact kind of comment that would make it to the top because it just empowered everyone that DOESN'T have one such system. It's filled with finger pointing. Most of the replies basically point out yeah, I hate IoT lights, but this use case is good... It's not genuine to dismiss the entire enchilada because YOU don't have it. In 5 years when all the crap is worked out and you eventually buy a system with extra security at your door or backyard, or a something to that effect I'd like you to come back and admit it.

> In 5 years when all the crap is worked out and you eventually buy a system with extra security at your door or backyard, or a something to that effect I'd like you to come back and admit it.

I heard this same song and dance 5 years ago. The problems with the "IoT" market are foundational. Most IoT devices are not designed to be used for extended periods without internet access and a continuous stream of updates. The former means that, in general, they are only as reliable as your internet connection (including that crappy modem/router the ISP gave you). The latter means that unlike traditional home hardware, once you install "smart" devices you're at the mercy of the business plans of the vendor. So even if you get something set up that works acceptably, it will last 5 years tops (see Nest) before the vendor's priorities change.

Finally to address the "extra security" comment. Security from what? The developed world is objectively safer than ever, why would I invest in "solutions" to problems invented out of whole cloth? The paranoia of people installing cameras all over their own home (often cameras whose footage they have no real control over) astounds me. We're more mistrustful of our own neighbours than the companies that are actually exploiting our privacy and manipulating us psychologically for profit.

>Most IoT devices are not designed to be used for extended periods without internet access and a continuous stream of updates.

But you could design one with a manual fallback option. Doesn't seem foundational to me. Nothing about an IoT design prevents one from doing that.

>The latter means that unlike traditional home hardware, once you install "smart" devices you're at the mercy of the business plans of the vendor. So even if you get something set up that works acceptably, it will last 5 years tops (see Nest) before the vendor's priorities change.

Yes, that is the downside of dealing with any service oriented business, in any domain. But again, you can have a manual fallback option (as I think most devices do FWICT)

>Finally to address the "extra security" comment. Security from what?

I suppose it depends on what you consider security. For an intruder alert system, you'd need something that can transmit a notification to someone. An IoT device seems like a good option, but I guess you could also use a device that can send a text over a cellular network.

I personally have no use for anything IoT, but I think its premature to go completely in the other direction and say that IoT is completely useless. What we're seeing with so called "disruptive" technologies is that things get worse (or sometimes a lot worse), before they get better.

> But you could design one with a manual fallback option. Doesn't seem foundational to me. Nothing about an IoT design prevents one from doing that.

Certainly I could (or at least someone with the engineering skills could), but the actual IoT companies don't. My impression of IoT devices (do not want) is based on what actually exists, not on what could theoretically exist.

>Certainly I could (or at least someone with the engineering skills could), but the actual IoT companies don't.

That is incorrect. There are several IoT products with manual fallback options on the market. I don't even know why you're disagreeing to be honest. You don't like IoT devices, I got that part.

> There are several IoT products with manual fallback options on the market.

Name three.

Also, "manual fallback" is a cop-out. When I want manual operations, I don't go looking for home automation. The "smart" features should be available without Internet. There's nothing technically difficult about this, but it isn't being done because of abusive business practices.

If you don't want an internet enabled device, then you are looking in the wrong place. The I in IoT stands for internet.

This is the crazy thing. IoT is actually advertising with a requirement, not a feature. Since when has "needs internet access to function" become a selling point?

>Since when has "needs internet access to function" become a selling point?

That is a good question. I don't know. But I'd say it became a selling point after the internet became ubiquitous and reliable enough in the eyes of consumers. Otherwise people would be complaining about 'needs internet access to watch a movie/make a video call/play a game/push source code/order food/call a taxi/etc/etc/etc".

That’s the point here though isn’t it? I don’t want the internet involved with turning the lights on when I have to get up at night.

I don't want the internet involved either, so we agree on that. Can we also agree that some people want internet enabled devices?

Not all of us live in safe neighborhoods like yourself.

It's not even a matter of "safe". I live in a neighborhood that is seen as very safe. Yet, we had a burglary two houses down not too long ago. And they happen frequently enough to myself. I've had plenty stolen. Without a camera, there's ~0% chance of anyone being caught.

I ended up buying a camera for peace of mind and for checking in on my place to see who's entering my residence area. Sometimes it's genuinely helpful.

If you're frequently having things stolen, you don't live in a "very safe" neighborhood. I've lived in working class neighborhoods most of my life, and the only thing I've ever had stolen from me was a bike that I left on my front porch when I was a kid. The only thing the people I know have had stolen is stuff like car stereos or GPS devices back before most people used their phones. Just small crime of opportunity stuff, no breaking into people's homes.

I've lived in a variety of areas across the west coast. In all of them, rural to dense city environments... things were stolen. I've had multiple bikes stolen, my car, my backpacks, my eye glasses (yes - that is weird), and more... And they were all in a variety of areas. I still classify many of those areas as "safe" and so do many reports but theft still happens.

Almost nowhere is "safe" from thieves. If you live in a "nice area" like any of the more expensive neighborhoods/cities in the bay area then you're very prone to burglary because go figure you likely have expensive stuff that's good for stealing. Unless you have really good defense mechanisms to detour/stop thieves (or just nothing worth stealing) then you're going to get stuff stolen.

Property crime isn't the same as violent crime.

> Without a camera, there's ~0% chance of anyone being caught.

If you're only interested in recording what happened (as evidence) an IP camera can run on PoE to a laptop or mini-pc on a UPS, and record for as long as you want, even in the case of a power outage if you include a UPS (an old laptop works well in this case - you can potentially just run the PoE switch/injector on the UPS and let the laptop run on its battery).

No internet connection required. No "service" to stop working. No "API" to become deprecated.

But then they can also steal the laptop or mini-pc that is recording. It's also a PITA to setup and manage yourself. I'd rather pay the $50/yr that I do and just have someone else do it. I'm done with the bradlys-as-a-service thing. It'd be another thing adding heat to my living environment as well.

It's been useful for other things like checking in on. Where/when packages are delivered, when the landlord showed up, when a neighbor came over to tell us something but we didn't hear them knock on the door, finding out my smoke alarm was going off for no apparent reason, etc.

They can also cut the copper/fiber/coax coming into your house. If the NVR/whatever recording your video isn't in a super obvious place it will take a thief longer to find that then it would be for them to clip your connection to the net.

If that’s your concern have it upload the video to a remote location you control.

This misses the actual advantages that a managed service provides, like the fact you don't have to worry about the stuff you mentioned. Does your solution scale to multiple cameras? Will you get push notifications when movement is detected while you're on holiday? What if that very laptop is stolen? Would be ironic.

I'm not saying your solution is bad, my house has the same thing (with 4 cameras around the house), but most people don't want to spend time managing yet more stuff, and debugging their camera system if something goes wrong.

Why do you think you live in a very safe neighborhood? I guess perception can be a funny thing but I'm thinking this is the same as Mercedes-Benz owners saying their cars are above average reliability when the service records disprove it.

The idea that the police will take your webcam still and nail a suspect is pure yarn. Have you filed a police report when you were robbed? All the police will do is take your statement, maybe send a forensics crew to dust for prints in a day or two, and the buck stops there unless they happen upon your stuff in an unrelated incident. No manhunt is being started because your laptop was stolen.

The best piece of mind isn't a webcam and paranoia of people you don't recognize in your neighborhood, its a list of your valuables and appropriate renters/homeowners insurance to replace whatever might have been stolen.

Seems like “victim preparation” to me. How about a deterrent?

My neighborhood has had thefts too. I assume my two dogs barking have been enough to keep them at bay. It wouldn’t surprise me if statistically this holds true elsewhere. Low hanging fruit and all.

Have you considered a motion sensor tied to a speaker that plays dogs barking/rustling?

Dogs quiet up as soon as you feed them some tasty treats.

We already have a couple fake cameras on the property as deterrents that were installed by the landlord. I just happened to install a real one because I wanted a little evidence collection since I've been a victim of theft more than once in the bay area.

Option 1: Two dogs barking and a doormat that reads “You better have a warrant”.

Thief thought bubble “this might hurt / don’t forget tasty treats”

Option 2: A half dozen visible cameras

Thief thought bubble “Good stuff inside / don’t forget hat and glasses”

With a camera, there's a ~0% chance of anyone getting caught.

Depends where you are. I would agree in most cities, but in a lot of rural areas, Fred is going to get thrown in jail.

You think fred isn't going to just loot the next town over?

I’m pretty sure once the person gets identified then it is not too long until the arrest. Small town sheriffs talk, a lot.

I'm just nervous about off-the-shelf "smart" cameras also sharing the feed with someone upstream who is not me

There used to be a subreddit full of unsecured webcam links. Sometimes you'd see babycams even, completely open to whoever crawled for the link.

have you caught any thieves yet?

Consumer locks only keep the honest out.

I can buy the notion that smart devices are dumb for a litany of reasons. But the notion that security cameras are dumb, regardless of whether or not they're smart, is absurd. Most people use it to try to find/deter package thieves. Many people park their cars out front and want to be able to identify a license plate in case of a hit-and-run. I use security cameras to check on my pets and to make sure the dog walker isn't stealing anything. I also once found out my landlord was illegally entering my apartment.

You live in fantasy world if you think nothing bad will ever happen to you just because you have high regard for your neighbors.

People aren't dismissing it because they don't have it, they're dismissing it because the UX is terrible, it's too high maintenance, and the future of any individual solution uncertain.

In some ways it's like pre-iPhone mobile apps. They absolutely did exist, but were mostly too much hassle until they could be seamlessly downloaded from the App Store, sandboxed, and held to quality standards. We're still in the Symbian era of home automation.

(My wife worked at a home automation / security company about a decade ago. It had basically all the same problems back then too, but for a couple of years I had an internet-connected doorbell)

As a counterpoint, yet completely anecdotal, point of view, I've had none of the issues you describe.

Once I install a Z-wave light switch and add it to my hub (a very simple process) there is virtually no maintenance. I rarely use the phone app to control things but I reliably get push notifications for things I want to know about (forgot to lock the front door, garage door being opened unexpected, door unlocked by specific people, etc.).

Most of my interaction happens via Alex and it basically just works.

I have a decent amount of smart home devices, and I too have had none of the issues described.

It seems most people in this thread talking about the issues with Smart Home stuff have never actually used any Smart Home stuff.

How many people in your house know how to operate your (presumably non-smart) AV system, with its receiver and four different remotes? When someone new comes over, how long would it take them to figure out how to watch a movie?

There's a TV remote and a satellite remote. Press the "Netflix" button on the TV remote.

(Having said that, I failed to watch a DVD at the weekend; the Xbox wouldn't play it as it was region locked, then I realised that I'd not hooked up the DVD player in the six months since buying the television, and it flaked out trying to play on my laptop.)

None of this makes me think that a "home automation" system will be any more convenient or reliable. I've only just made my peace with the "smart TV". I wanted a dumb TV, but will admit that the smartness has mostly delivered. It even seems to have HDMI-CEC that works with the satellite box from a different manufacturer. It still occasionally nags about updates or informs me that something it shipped with no longer works or requires a new EULA.

I have dealt with the complexity of "AV recievers", whatever they are exactly, by not knowing why I might need one and not having one.

The one feature I may end up building is the ability to listen to the TV in the kitchen, which I may do by running thirty feet of wire.

Woah, that is a right. I'm thinking now of such common phrases when you visit someone's house: "Can you turn on the TV?", "How do you change the volume?", "Which remote do I use?".

Recently my sister's response was, "Actually, you use the X-box controller." What a future we live in.

Psst! They make XBox controllers that look just like a "regular" remote.

I don't have a smart home device and I won't buy it in a few years. And the simple reason is that there is no regulation for bad behavior. These companies keep getting away with massive privacy violations. We can dig into the big companies but at this time, that point has been beaten to death.

When there is better regulation and the software engineers are being jailed for violations of privacy, I will trust the system and buy it. Until then, I simply don't trust it. And won't buy it.

I don't hate the lights. It's great innovation. I am amused at the fact that you can turn off your ac from work in case you forgot. But privacy. Privacy is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. And I'd like it to be addressed before I let the companies run my data on aws.

> When there is better regulation and the software engineers are being jailed for violations of privacy,

Just like all those bankers who were jailed after the 2008 financial crisis that wrecked the lives of millions? Gimme a break.

And you’ve proven my point about not trusting the companies running these devices and devices.

Could you please let me know which laws they have broken?

s/software engineers/management team/

As a software engineer, I don't software engineers should be immune from prosecution if they knowingly violate laws. Your manager telling you to do something (even under threat of firing) is not an excuse if you know that it's illegal. For example, the guy who wrote the software for Bernie Madoff's company knew that he was helping Madoff perpetrate fraud, and ended up in prison.[1]

[1] http://static7.businessinsider.com/r-ex-madoff-computer-prog...

Not saying they should be immune, but rather pointing the focus at decision makers. Some of them could be engineers too.

Anybody. Who ever makes those negligent decisions that compromise systems.

I guess you also don't have a credit report after what happened to Equifax in 2017... In the meantime, for me my Vera works just great. Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty.

> I guess you also don't have a credit report after what happened to Equifax in 2017...

Not having IoT devices is an option. Not having a credit report isn't. (I don't just mean it in the sense that it's not practical; I mean it in the sense that, as far as I know, you can't stop this data from being compiled.)

Not having a credit report is an option. Just don't live in the U.S.

> In 5 years when all the crap is worked out and you eventually buy a system with extra security at your door or backyard, or a something to that effect I'd like you to come back and admit it.

Honestly I change my mind much faster than 5 years. I have no issue to admit that I changed my mind over something. Personally I even like to be taught better by something or someone as I feel I've learned something then.

All in all my comment is very tongue in cheek, but I really mean everything I said, because that is just how I personally feel today. I don't see much value in smart home devices today. Not a big fan of the products which are on the market, not a big fan from my own experience using them when I did and not a big fan of all the big issues that people constantly report when relying on them.

I'm not Einstein who invented some physics law which will stand forever. I have a personal opinion which is relevant today. If things change tomorrow then there will be a new HN discussion and perhaps I'll have a new opinion which will be relevant tomorrow. I don't see anything wrong in voicing my thoughts on this topic today as it stands today.

> In 5 years when all the crap is worked out and you eventually buy a system with extra security at your door or backyard, or a something to that effect I'd like you to come back and admit it.

It won't be worked out in 5 years, because the issues with IoT aren't technological, but business. Go to a random Hackerspace and half of the people you find there could build better IoT devices (and many are). IoT's main issue is garbage products designed as vehicles to lock you into some vendor's "ecosystem". It won't get better until it all gets commoditized.

A light switch is not fundamentally broken, it doesn't need any improvement, besides maybe including a little LED in the switch itself so it's easier to find when the room is dark. But no internet connection is required.

10 years won't change that.

And a lock, that depends in some way on internet access? You can FUCK RIGHT OFF.

That find in the dark feature was available in the 1970s, substituting a neon bulb for a LED.

Our dimmer switches (which are all slowly blowing out - maybe too much current? I don't know, I didn't install them) include this, but I've never seen it on other switches.

Weirdly some wall outlets have a little clear plastic section that looks like it should have a light behind it... but nothing. Asked a local 'builder' (I won't say electrician, because that doesn't exist here) and he had no idea what it's for either.

Interesting; neon bulbs have the advantage of working on (US) line voltage without anything else needed, sticking an LED in there requires more stuff. Both could have been squashed in the US market due to Federal energy regulations. Or that clear section could be for the GFI version of the outlet, the few years old one in my bathroom has a tiny clear window for a green light when it's not tripped.

Glow in the dark star stuck to the faceplate works about as well

If you want a security system, don't buy one that is glued to the side of an insecure IoT system.

I like convenience as much as anyone, but you may want to consider that it's paid for by continuous monitoring by someone whose business model is to manipulate your future behavior.

It will never be worked out. Desktop computing is how many decades old? And it’s still crap. Basic Windows desktop functions still have intermittent problems (that missing file issue in Windows 10). Computer controlled consumer stuff will never reach the reliability and predictability of dumb consumer electronics.

And how many times have you had a flat tire?

How many times has your toaster deleted your toast because Microsoft pushed a bad update?

(I had an Ecobee that just decided to try and freeze my family for funsies on a winter day when I was at work. Threw it out and replaced it with a dumb thermostat.)

Like twice in the 25 years I've been driving. Are you really trying to suggest that the failure rate of tires is comparable to that of computing devices? I lose one device or other about once every 4 months or so.

In over 60 years of driving maybe twice. Software doesn’t even come close. Read the part about merchantability and fitness for purpose.

Modern cars have a wireless pressure sensor failure instead.

So you're defending companies selling shitty products with the excuse of "in several years it won't be all garbage!"? Fuck that. For the price this iot garbage goes for I'd better damn well have a functional product for several years. Corporate shilling. I'll never understand it.

Honestly, I think that smart home stuff is really cool, and also that I don't want anything (okay, much) from the current spread of commercial offerings.

What I do want to do is put a ESP board with an IR receiver and a servo on a lightswitch in my basement so that I can turn on and off the lights without moving from the couch.

Smart home stuff is really cool, if you build it yourself. Other than that it just feels like keeping up with the Joneses, with the notable exception of the disabled, for whom mass-produced smart home stuff must be a Godsend. So I guess all the geek/tech-posturing does have an upside.

Smart security system? Sure.

Smart everything else? Why? What happens when your internet goes down? What happens when criminals buy a $100 wifi jammer and ruin you?

Didn't anyone watch the movie Smart Home?

If your threat profile includes the kind of targeting that criminals with radio jamming hardware imply, you need a lot more than the $100 WiFi system you can get off the shelf on amazon.

And then what are the other options? It’s not that hard to build/buy cell jammers either.

>And then what are the other options? It’s not that hard to build/buy cell jammers either.

Analog locks opened with a physical key.

Smart doesn't necessarily mean wi-fi.

I find Z-wave to provide a much better experience than Wifi smart home products.

No, this is the kind of comment that appeals to people who understand that making simple things more complicated is not always desirable, needed or beneficial. If you want to buy a robot that can pick up your beer, twist off the cap, and pour it into your glass, more power to you! If you want to pretend that having such a robot is at any way optimal then you deserve to be ridiculed.

> In 5 years

They had x-10 in the 90s, maybe earlier. Never saw the need, but my place was small. Could see the use if I had a mansion. But that is selling to the 1%, not a huge market.

That said, I sort of liked the nest demo where it shows you traffic and weather in the morning before work. Might be useful if I still was still in the rat-race, but it's on my phone already, so meh.

I had it ( not the 100k version) and it worked pretty well. But he’s still right - the use case just isn’t there. At least it wasn’t for me.

I, for one, am enjoying my 'smart home' setup, where I can say "Alexa, turn off the TV", "Alexa, turn on Chromecast" and "Alexa, set the bedroom temperature to 72", regardless of which floor of the house I'm on.

I'd rather fiddle with updates and setup once in a while (I have never had to reconfigure the devices in 2 years), than look for that goddamn remote between couch cushions, press the power button and possibly switch audio and video inputs, especially if I'm on the second floor and someone forgot the TV on on the first floor. I would hate to make that trip downstairs, annoyed and grumpy.

> I would hate to make that trip downstairs, annoyed and grumpy.

My grandma always said "What you don't have in your head you must have in your legs".

My calculation is simple: Where do I expect to waste more time in my life? Periodically configuring/updating smart home devices, getting to the bottom of issues if something doesn't work as expected, or once in a while walk the stairs an extra time because I left the TV on.

So far I don't forget to switch off my TV often enough to justify the human effort of smart home devices. Maybe one day when I become older and more forgetful and not turning of TVs and lamps becomes a habit then I might re-evaluate my decision.

I have spent a non-negligible amount of my life looking for remotes. But the really big waste is the amount of time fiddling with 5 remotes trying to figure out how to get the f-ing AV system working.

I have a magnificent non-smart home theatre on my property, set up by one of the other co-owners. He's pretty much the only person that knows how to use it; the last time I tried, I had to call him. This stuff is a disaster. Over in my house it's "Hey Google, play some music".

I replaced my 60s-era manual mercury switch thermostat with a Nest. It's way better! More accurate, accepts voice commands, tells me the temperature, can be turned on before I get home, and can be turned off remotely when I left for vacation and forgot (yes, I've done this). Call me a very satisfied customer.

I'll take the smart home, thank you. If that makes me dumb, fine. I don't want to have to be a genius just to watch a movie.

Combine the AV system with the variety of places on might have audio or video, and it is even more confusing.

I'd like to see a web site or an app that lets you input what you've got and how it is connected, and then answers questions about that setup for you.

For example, I'd be able to tell it that I have:

  Denon AVR-1913 receiver
  Comcast X1 cable box
  Sony BDP-S390 Blu-Ray player
  Nintendo Switch
  Samsung 55U7000 TV
I'd be able to tell it that the receiver is connected to all the rest by HDMI, and that the TV also has an optical audio connection back to the receiver.

I'd also be able to tell it that I have an iMac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch 4, Surface Pro 4, and a Windows 10 desktop. I'd be able to tell it that I have WiFi that the all of those are on as is the Nintendo Switch, and an Ethernet that the iMac, Windows desktop, receiver, cable box, Blu-Ray player, and TV are on.

Finally, I'd be able to tell it that I have an iTunes library on the iMac, an iTunes account, a Netflix account, Amazon Prime, and Spotify.

The site would then answer questions based on that. Typical questions might be:

"I bought movie X from iTunes. How the heck do I watch it on my TV?"

"I don't own a copy of X. What are my rental/buying options using the services I currently have?"

"I have a photo gallery on the iMac. How can I view the photos on my TV? When doing so, how can I control the viewing while not at the iMac?"

"I want to listen to music while sitting on the couch. The music comes from a playlist on my iMac, and I want to be able to play/pause, and to skip tracks. How can I do this?"

Ideally the site should also be able to suggest improvements. For example, for the setup described above it might suggest that I connect the Comcast X1 directly to the TV, because they both support 4K. The receiver does not, and so my current setup can't do better that 1080p.

Have you looked into a Harmony remote?

Not the world's best UI for configuring, but when done, it works, and you define "Activities", like you described.

And at the start it does exactly that: "What devices do you have?" "When you watch TV do you control volume through TV/STB/AV receiver?" "What inputs on what devices are used?"

Periodically? I've spent DAYS of my life wrestling with my Harmony Home Hub. It's only worth it because my A/V cabinet is off to the side of the room with opaque doors, otherwise I'd just juggle the 5 remotes.

I have a very basic SmartThings setup to play with, and, same deal, days of my life for something that basically doesn't ever work. Every time I open the app I'm supposed to enable 2fa or sign up for a Samsung account instead, the prox tags never stay paired (and the batteries die almost immediately), the batteries on the sensors die constantly, and the actions only mostly work. It thankfully doesn't do anything that important to me, it's more of a silly side project I messed with a few times, but I've gone no further because it doesn't solve any actual problems, but it sure creates a bunch.

I definitely am not interested in getting into the business of figuring out whether I want to have light switches or smart bulbs that can change color, and how to ensure the SWITCH is on so that the BULBS always have power and can be activated via an app, or whether I need to now glue on a wall control, all so that I can.. have the same functionality it used to have.

I was pretty skeptical before trying it. I found that you don't spend much time configuring things and it's actually quite nice to just go to bed saying "Alexa, turn off living room". Not life changing, but definitely worth the investment. If something fails, you're no worse off than you were before. Also, smart sockets and switches are great items for a Christmas/birthday/wedding/etc registry/gift-list.

The key is the voice control. Trying to do it via an app, a remote, or even remembering the switch UI isoften too heavy-weight. Being able to say just "Alexa, living room 50%" is very nice. Same thing with being able to turn off my bedroom ceiling lights without getting out of bed. Sure, is it required? No. Can I get up? Sure. Was it worth $50 for the smart switch? For me, yes.

I know not getting up sounds like a good thing, but the logical conclusion to that are the couch potatoes shown in the movie Wall-E.

If your only exercise is walking to the light switch you have bigger problems.

It's cumulative.

Turning off the lights is negligible to your overall health. Automating it (or not) will not affect your obesity or other health outcomes. There are lots of reasonable arguments against IoT switches; this is not one of them. Let's move on.

Just pumping the muscles in your legs will decrease the potential for blood clots forming in them, according to a recent HN topic.

Assertions dressed as facts are not very useful either.

You mean like:

> the logical conclusion to that are the couch potatoes shown in the movie Wall-E


> If something fails, you're no worse off than you were before.

Well, you are already horizontal. In fact it's worse, because unless every single light source is hooked up, you now spend twice the mental effort.

Past: 1. Turn off everything 2. Go to bed.

Present: 1. Turn off everything that is dumb. Only dumb thing. 2. Ensure smart things are ON (physically have power) otherwise you won't be able to voice control them. 3. Go to bed. 4. HEY GOOGLE! GOOD NIGHT! to turn off everything and hope for the best.

You’re really stretching to make this sound tedious and error prone. Obviously you don’t have to wait until you’re in bed but moreover in 2 years I haven’t once had to get out of bed to manually turn off a light. If you like physical switches, more power to you, but stretching like you’re doing to vindicate your preference is just bizarre.

> Periodically configuring/updating smart home devices, getting to the bottom of issues if something doesn't work as expected

Only people who don't use smart home devices think the experience is even remotely like this. Worse case scenario for any smart home device malfunction is flipping a switch on and off. You're just imagining problems that don't exist.

> Periodically configuring/updating smart home devices, getting to the bottom of issues if something doesn't work as expected

Software development in a nutshell. It's how I have spent most of my life.

The drive to get that extra bit of efficiency, eventually, for what is a time-wasting activity such as watching TV, is something that most people lack.

Most Americans could use that extra trip up and down the stairs.

> It's just not a problem which I think people have, but somehow the consumer industry has convinced so many fools to buy cheaply fabricated, badly secured, even worse programmed and often not long supported smart home devices which add absolutely no benefit to anyone's everyday life and cause lots of problems.

This. Every time I hear a friend or someone on a podcast talking about their smart home they talk about how now they just need to find a new smart hub/lightswitch/integration service and everything will come together and nirvana will be achieved. Life's too short to spend that kind of time and energy on turning lights on and off.

I had a very high maintenance roommate and friend who is really into the easy smart-home devices. My understanding is he just likes the world to bend to his will as he maneuvers around in life. The doors unlock automatically, Nest changes our home temperatures as we walk in, "hey Siri, change lights to dance party", "play top radio". "What's the news today".

Even though he earned a degree in computer science, he wasn't very interested in the hacker/tinker/development side of things.

> My understanding is he just likes the world to bend to his will as he maneuvers around in life.

That would be cool, I'd like that too. Problem is, this only exists in a) marketing material, b) sci-fi movies, and c) if you do everything yourself. In the IoT industry, competition itself is ruining most of the "smart" devices' utility. They won't be useful until apps, hubs and devices are completely independent and commoditized, and you could argue they might not be useful to regulars even then (cue the long discussion on why stable society is incompatible with interesting life).

I halfway agree with your comment. I think smart home technology is still in the realm of tinkerers right now, and investing in an ecosystem requires a lot of forethought.

I replaced all of my dumb light switches with zwave light switches, but the nice thing is that they still act as light switches. I bought dumb IP cameras that can stream RTSP instead of going to someone's "cloud". I feed all of this into a homeassistant server that, when it goes down, I shrug because this is a fun hobby of mine, not anything I expect to actually work.

When people ask "wow how can I make my TV do that trick" or "that is cool, what do I need to get started with home automation", I cringe a little because of how embarrassingly techy the industry still is. Even Control4, which is probably the premiere home automation ecosystem, requires a ton of upkeep to keep it running (though at least you can throw money down a hole to have someone fix it).

Also with regards to your comment about turning on the lights to your phone, there's something magical about walking into the living room and saying "Hey Siri, good morning" and having your TV kick on, automatically start streaming the morning news, kitchen and living room lights turn on, and blinds open. There's nothing that really saves a ton of time in it, but it's just nice.

So the answer for your friends would be "ask that company and buy their premium support package". And "that company" will ensure that tech industry bends to ordinary people needs. I don't know about you, but that's the way things work around me. Ordinary people don't know how to work on computer. They learned few buttons and sequence to push those buttons, but if they pushed caps lock, they instantly lost. So they call support and that guy comes to them and pushes caps lock, so they can continue to work. It could work with smart home exactly similar. Some company installing devices and maintains them. If you have a problem, you just call them and they'll help you.

> there's something magical about walking into the living room and saying "Hey Siri, good morning" and having your TV kick on, automatically start streaming the morning news

Magical in the sense that hell is magical?

I would say the TV example isn't really a great example from the perspective of utility.

In the dead of winter, it's still pitch black out when I take my dogs out first thing in the AM. The temperature can fluctuate quite a lot where I live, so I usually have two different winter coats. My winter "good morning" routine turns on my main floor lights and announces the outside temperature so I know whether or not to wear my heaviest coat.

While it sounds like a small benefit, I find it very useful considering how groggy I am at that time.

My former flatmate had some smart lights, and I wrote a little script that rigged them up to display the weather on a scale from deep blue to bright orange.

The city I live in has very erratic weather, and my apartment stays pretty temperate regardless of the outside weather. This makes it fairly easy to absent-mindedly dress inappropriately and end up sweating or shivering on the walk to work. I generally get in the habit of checking the weather, but after a week of warm weather it's easy to forget, and the weather here is such that it might suddenly drop 15 degrees from day to day. Having this information in bright visual form makes it easy to notice when the weather is suddenly unexpectedly hotter or colder: It took me about ten minutes to set up, and is a small improvement to my life that's tailored to exactly how I live it.

This, to me, is the advantage of the current era of smart home technology: incremental changes that can make little improvements to your day to day workflow. This thread is infested with an unfortunate combination of ignorance and lack of imagination (par for the course with HN...), where any evidence that smart devices don't fit into one commenter's workflow is evidence that it's useless for everyone (as the topvoted comment says, "smart people don't buy smart devices").

Honestly, I was skeptical of smart home stuff for the longest time. I picked up some Wemos (a mistake, I am now primarily on ZWave) and used them mainly to turn lights on and off while on vacation to make it look like I was home.

It wasn't until I got an Amazon Echo before I got any real value from my Wemos other than what I mentioned above. Since then, I've gotten into Zwave and invested more into smart home products. I admit that it's not life changing, but stuff like being able to check lock status, etc. has, as you say, made life incrementally better.

I don't understand. What is wrong with using technology to curate our experience in our homes?

You can make a nice experience for yourself without throwing privacy and security out of the window. It does take some network design and careful selection of devices (e.g. shunning Alexa and Google Assistant), but with the right setup you can do some very cool things while staying safe and not giving up your right to privacy.

This is pure FUD. I'm disappointed that it's got so many responses on HN instead of being down-voted in exchange for a better anti-IoT argument at the top instead.

But hey, sure, let's go through this:

- I don't care about some dude you saw on TV. A single anecdote means nothing. Even less when it's someone not representative of the population.

- A strawman convenience is another terrible argument. Sometimes it matters that you don't have to leave the room to fiddle with a device. Sometimes you're talking to someone and ask them "are you cold?" and would like to just make it warmer without leaving them.

- Being able to monitor your house's status remotely is helpful.

- Switches and light bulbs are low investment, low risk purchases. If they don't work, you have a simple fallback and it didn't cost much. The industry's developing and it'll take time, but it's generally fine because most of this stuff is such low risk.

> Switches and light bulbs are low investment, low risk purchases.

Outfitting my house with smart bulbs would cost about £400. I've better uses for that amount of money.

Nope, your comment is just rationalization disguised as exasperated criticism.

When a given product/technology just fundamentally doesn’t work, or even worse is a security nightmare, you don’t get to write it off as a risk that didn’t cost much. Especially since that last part isn’t true in most cases.

I'm frankly stunned that somebody could, with a straight face, turn to somebody else and say "No. You are wrong. That thing you like isn't actually worth it."

There are extremely serious and well known security problems with smart light bulbs. Compromising one's home network is in no way low risk.

I refuse to talk to the Siris, Alexas, and Hey Googles in this world. I simply don’t want to talk to a computer, not even on my phone. I visited my friend at home the other day, and every couple of minutes he would interrupt our conversation to shout some command to some voice assistant. It was frankly very annoying.

Everyone has different use cases. Some people just want to show a cool thing off to their friends, or even to prove they can do something at that scale. Silly? Perhaps, but who am I to judge their hobbies?

Personally, I do find things like HVAC automation nice. If I forget to turn the thermostat down when I leave for a trip, I can do so remotely and that is real savings. Everyone has their use cases though.

Absolutely agree with the HVAC automation. I love being able to remotely change settings and glean a little bit of data from my home when I'm away from home. The only other super tempting "smart home" products I'd be tempted to use would be electrical monitoring sensors to analyze phantom power usage and identify when devices are turning on and off throughout the day.

It's sad because the concept of IoT in the home has such great potential, but the execution so far has just been atrocious.


I just can't see the potential. Increase the complexity of the system and you increase the risk of failure, and when things are failing at home, that means you've got more housework to do. Who wants that?

I spent a bunch of money replacing every light bulb in my house with an LED so that I'd never have to deal with burnt-out light bulbs again. That was a use of improved technology that simplified my life.

If you hook your household devices up to the internet and make them dependent on external services they will always be prone to breaking. If I get some fancy internet-connected light bulb and have to spend even so much as ten minutes, ever, in its lifetime, figuring out why it stopped working, then it has already become a worse value proposition than the passive, non-internet thing it hoped to replace.

Yeah, the first mistake was _and make them dependent on external services_. An internet-connected light bulb's failure mode should be "temporarily become a regular light bulb".

"I like an escalator, man, because an escalator can never break. It can only become stairs." --Mitch Hedberg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n1ryH3igKc

I mostly agree. Why do I need WIFI on my lights, coffee maker, or dishwasher?

A thermostat is my personal exception though. Being able to program it on my phone is a huge UI improvement over prior thermostats. Also, being able to change it without getting out of bed in the middle of the night is a bonus.

I just don't understand why programming a thermostat needs to bring Google into the loop? It's not needed. My data should stay with me if I so desire (without needing extensive mistake-prone config).

They've had programmable thermostats for years. Having your house cool down at night/when you are at work is not a new concept that IoT suddenly made possible.

I only recently, as in two weeks ago, purchased my first home automation product in the form of a few Philips hue bulbs. Not so much for the automation aspect, but the ability to control the color temp and brightness. The automation will be nice when I take my next vacation and want to give the appearance of someone being home during that time. As for what happens when the WiFi goes down or the bridge fails, simply power cycling the lights returns them to a default color/brightness state like a normal bulb.

Is Philips hue also connected to Google? If not this is a big positive point as there is a hard separation to other data (e.g. retrived via Android).

I also like smart thermostats. Similar to a remote autostart for my truck in the winter snows, which warms up the engine and the cabin, being able to turn on the AC before I get home from work (or heater) from my phone is a perk.

An automatically turning on coffee maker synced to my alarm is awesome.

>> Why do I need WIFI on my lights, coffee maker, or dishwasher?

Well, you don't. WIFI is definitely one way to go, but Z-wave is a better way, imo.

Here's a use case for me -- I think last year DHH did a podcast where he talked about air quality and the effect of CO2 on cognitive function. After listening to it, I got a CO2 detector and wired it to a Pi. I had it set up to fire a webhook to IFTTT to turn on my HVAC fan via a NEST connector when a certain CO2 threshold was hit in my bedroom (it would get quite high overnight).

I have since found out that my ensuite bathroom fan is more effective than the furnace fan in lowering the CO2 in my bedroom, so having a smart wall switch on my ensuite fan allows me to automatically turn it on or off based on the air conditions.

"Smart people don't buy home devices"

Yikes. I mean sure, your points on why you don't see their value are valid. But calling people not smart because they enjoy being able to automate their homes is a leap and a half.

It's like you're purposely describing the least useful application of smarthome devices.

Setting up geofence triggers, time/event-based triggers, etc. is the real power of smart devices. I have automations set up so if I arrive home when it's dark, lights in my house turn on automatically so I don't have to fumble for light switches. I have motion sensors so if I walk into rooms, the lights turn on automatically and then turn off after I leave. I can set up schedules to turn lights on and off while I'm not at home so my house looks occupied.

Also, with Apple Homekit, there is a control center widget so you just swipe up, tap home and your "favorite" devices are very quickly accessible from anywhere in the world.

I use astronomical timers for outdoor lighting and indoor night lights. The rest of your uses look more like “because I can” and are not filling an actual need. Besides, my pets jumping on and off furniture would trigger those senors more than I care to admit.

Lighting hardwired to a stuck system and touching physical controllers (phone or otherwise) as you describe is one possible setup. On the contrary, I just have some table/floor lamps with smart outlets between their plugs and the outlets that can be quickly removed in case of failure, and touching my phone is only in case of voice (Google Home Mini) failure. Neither of which fail often, like much less than once a year. The convenience when half asleep is great.

Yeah, that's my approach as well, smart but with dumb fallback in case. Increases the WAF significantly.

I totally agree, and it's hilarious how many engineers fall for this Smart home BS.

We are all supposed to be keeping K.I.S.S. in mind because we're engineers.

Smart home crap is the complete opposite of K.I.S.S.

Smart home setups are the guy on your group who wants to write a java program dependent on spring to solve a problem that a shell one liner can solve. Smart Homes are prepping the space shuttle to go down the block to the drug store.

Rarely do we ask ourselves how short-term conveniences may harm us in the long run. Chores are important. Discomfort is important. Mild annoyances are important. Physically moving is important. Focusing on unexciting things is important.

This is funny because we lost the remote controller for the soundbar I have for my TV about a month ago, so now we get up and turn the volume up and down. It was slightly annoying at first, but now nobody cares. Eventually the remote will show up, but nobody cared about having to get up and change the volume enough to find it.

One of the kids probably took it outside with them and left it laying around the farm somewhere. To be honest, it's probably done us more good than we'd care to admit. The TV isn't quite so convenient, with the smart TV, without the remote it's all but impossible to drive.

I agree with this mostly, but I do vaguely pay attention to the space in case there is some smart home application that does end up proving truly useful. I haven't seen anything yet that is compelling to me but it could happen!

Useful home automation mostly involves robots of one kind or another. Stuff you might pay a person to do because it's so time consuming and tedious. Cleaning, washing & putting away clothes, lawn care, maybe cooking. Basically anything rich people tend not to do themselves, brought within the reach of the working class by robots.

The problem is all the solutions so far kinda suck, and most are still expensive. If they weren't, absent regulation killing the spyvertising industry (oh please oh please oh please), guaranteed to be spyware wholly dependent on sending everything you or they do to "the cloud", I'd say Asimo-style general purpose home robots can't get here soon enough.

Light switches, coffee makers, thermostats? Anyone who cared could already get 95% of the way to as-good-as-IoT with motion sensors and timers on existing, cheaper, out of the box solutions, without all the spying and "I'm sorry I can't reach my server so even though we're on the same local network and I'm more powerful than a late 90s desktop PC I still can't talk to your smartphone because I am a piece of absolute garbage."

Your comment reminded me of https://vas3k.com/blog/dumbass_home/?ref=sn

If you're looking to IoT devices to fill your life with meaning and purpose, yes, you'll be disappointed. If you want meager quality of life improvements and aren't overtly trying to have a bad experience (as you describe in your last two paragraphs), you'll probably be pretty happy with your purchases.

My wife and I use smart sockets and switches to turn on and off lights by voice command rather than walking around to every lamp and hunting around for the switches as we used to do. Was it a massive time savings? No. Did it change our lives substantially? No. Was it a small quality of life improvement? Yes. And yeah, there are issues--Alexa gets confused when you try to change the label associated with a device. But the issue was easily fixed and we were no worse off than we were before the purchase.

Ignoring your insults, I think there are many valid use cases for smart home devices.

For example, automatically turning lights on and off on a schedule, changing light color to red at night, being able to casually set reminders without bothering with a phone, controlling your TV without needing your phone (e.g. for netflix), being able to change temperature on a schedule, all kinds of things.

Just because they occasionally have bugs for some people doesn't mean they are entirely useless. Many people (myself included) have few to no problems with their smart home devices.

"It's just not a problem which I think people have, but somehow the consumer industry has convinced so many fools to buy cheaply fabricated, badly secured, even worse programmed and often not long supported smart home devices which add absolutely no benefit to anyone's everyday life and cause lots of problems."

I'm not a big fan of smart devices, but I've had several issues that were solved very conveniently by smart devises.

The temperature in my second floor bedroom and my first floor living room is usually totally different. The thermostat is in the living room. So all too often we'd be laying in bed and the temperature is wrong. So now you have to walk down stairs, adjust it and hope you got it right. We never bothered doing anything like turning on the vegetation function for 30 minutes. Nest thermostat was a total game changer. Sometimes it does annoying stuff and isn't nearly as smart as I'd like it to be, but it's so much better than the old thermostat.

Similarly I have ceiling fans with light bulbs. You can turn the whole thing on and off with wall switches, but only control lights and fan with a strong that hangs from the fan. Unfortunately the builder or previous owner put these in a room with cathedral ceilings. So I'd need a ladder to control these properly. I put smart lightbulbs in and now at least those can be controlled independently.

Ecobee was (I think) the first one to have remote temperature sensors, and now Nest has them, too.

Yes, they're (still) smart devices, but this can work without the smart functionality. The sensors detect which room humans are in, and adjusts so that the thermostat controls the heat to get the OCCUPIED room to the desired temperature. So, no 'device with an app' required (eg, this could be replicated without internet functionality).

Most fans these days ship with wireless remotes. Even my wall switch is a wireless remote. So the light and fan can be controlled separately -- no IoT required here as well.

Smart homes are indeed mostly build out of supporting laziness, but there are ways to avoid some of these problems.

If you've already sold your soul and have a home device with speech control, it's actually pretty easy to go and get a smart outlet device to control some lights. A single phrase without any screen or authentication and you're controlling your lights. If it breaks or gets outdated, you can always take it out in 10 seconds. Basically, if you do go for a smart home, keep it dumb and overridable.

> Smart people don't buy smart home devices.

Insulting everyone you presumably intend to convince with your argument is not a smart move.

Convince? This is just posturing for karma from the other low-effort kneejerk contrarians on HN

I think it's more about managing expectations. I for one have not had a scenario where I haven't been able to turn on/off the lights because of a service outage... because I'm not dumb and I don't buy smart bulbs. I replace switches that can work independently from their smart features.

I'm at the point where living without smart lights is very inconvenient. I was at my parents the other day carrying a heavy can of garbage through their completely black basement. Instead of just being able to tell my voice assistant to turn on the basement lights, I had to fumble around to find the right switch that actually lights the room.

As far as being on topic with Nest... I've never "gone cold". The device works fine without their service and I would say works better than most other thermostats when it comes to actually performing the task of a thermostat.

>I was at my parents the other day carrying a heavy can of garbage through their completely black basement. Instead of just being able to tell my voice assistant to turn on the basement lights, I had to fumble around to find the right switch that actually lights the room.

That's a highly specific scenario that I personally would solve with a motion sensor light if I felt it was likely to happen often.

This is overstating the case a bit, imo. There are plenty of smart home devices that are either objectively terrible or worse relative to their "dumb" alternatives–I'd happily concede that this is the majority of the smart-home market. But there are some genuinely good products mixed in there too.

In the same way that dishwashers and washers/dryers have endured while other 70s smarter-home tech didn't [0], I would guess that some modern automations that actually provide value (e.g. robot vacuums) will continue on even as the hype dies down.

[0] For example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeywell_316#Kitchen_Computer

Por que no los dos? Why not have perfectly functional on their own devices that can also be software addressed? Got that in my house and I'm a happy camper, when I have renters they don't even notice/have to use the smart features!

You're talking about a consumer luxury product as though it's being marketed as a food staple or some other necessity. It's not. People get these things because they think it'll be more convenient than the alternative.

As a comparison, I didn't really consider typing in my phone pin every time I wanted to unlock my phone a disaster. But now that I've got Face ID and it works reasonably well (yes I know not everyone feels that way) it'd be annoying to go back.

You can critique the current implementations but when someone comes up with a good ecosystem to integrate with these products will gain steam.

It's not a binary thing, though. When my IoT smart lights don't turn on from a voice command, I can always walk over to the switch and flip them on. My IoT smart home makes things more convenient, not unusable.

I use Zwave smart switches in my shop, tied to smart power strips for various lighting, fans, and tools at different stations in the shop.

Instead of having to rewire switches physically everytime I move something, I can program different routines depending on my needs, and nothing is tied down in my shop, I can always reconfigure the layout to make it more efficient if need be.

It’s been a life saver and it’s saved my energy bill also.

I’m in there 10 hours a day sometimes, and I love the home automation stuff, I just use it not in the home.

to counter point this post and your assumption that I am not smart - I use of home automation and smart devices extensively. I use Alexa, smarthings, z-wave switches, and various things.

1) "Alexa, turn on kitchen". Turns on the various light switches that are collectively the kitchen. 2) all things turn off at 11PM during the weekdays. Make sure that the various lights that were on get turned off. 3) When turning on the basement light switch it automatically turns on the lights in the utility room where the laundry is. 4) When turning on the basement playroom light switch, in turns on "all the lights in that room", because that's the common use case. 5) outside lights come on and turn off automatically 6) Christmas tree lights outside come on and off on a regular basis. 7) Inside christmas lights come on and off 8) Front door opens automatically and locks automatically based on kids schedule. 9) Custom key codes for the front door for contractors 10) "Alexa, announce dinner". Announces dinner everywhere in the house. really useful. 11) Nest goes to eco mode when no-one is in the house. 12) Lights turn on automatically in the kitchen when you get home.

etc etc etc. It all works and doesn't require much work. The mobile based alerts are the weakest link in the system as they don't always work.

I love having voice activated lights. I live in a loft where all the lights are upstairs to keep the cords away from my toddler. When we get home, instead of needing to go upstairs, I can turn on the lights from downstairs, and have also set it up to only work when you say “please” to teach her proper manners.

I love my Hue lights. They always work.

Thanks for calling me not smart. I live in DC but have a second house in the upper Midwest (close to family). An internet-enabled thermostat lets me keep an eye on the temperature remotely, and adjust it to cold and warm spells. It was -25F for a few days this past winter.

This was my experience with Philips Hue lights. They were cool for awhile, but light switches stay in one place, while my phone does not. I eventually got their wall mounted buttons, and ultimately replaced them all with normal bulbs.

that's why the big profits, smart people is still a minority

If I had a 100k cinema room ... I would ask myself some hard questions about my priorities in life.

It's a sort of thing that you build when money is meaningless. And at that point you can still have very valid priorities - helping other people out, setting up charities, etc etc. Your house just happens to have a cinema room - it's no different "luxury" than having underfloor heating in your bathroom. It's comparably unnecessary, just on a different financial scale.

> it's no different "luxury" than having underfloor heating in your bathroom. It's comparably unnecessary, just on a different financial scale.

Underfloor heating is not unnecessary, in fact it is about 10% more efficient in operating cost[1] as it can operate at lower inlet temperatures (30-35 °C, compared to 60+ °C for conventional radiators). In addition conventional radiators are often placed on the outside-facing wall below a window, which means that much of the generated heat gets lost.

As for the installation costs, for new construction conventional radiators and underfloor heating are approximately at the same price level.

[1]: https://www.t-online.de/heim-garten/energie/id_73373816/fuss...

And $100k home cinema is more efficient than having to go to actual cinema. Still, a luxury.

No, you want a heating in your home regardless, and if both options have the same cost, then it is not a luxury, it's standard (at least when compared to other modern countries, though)

If you were a billionaire, and 100k was 0.01% of your net worth? If someone owned a €300k home with neither mortgage nor investments, that’s the equivalent of €30.

I’m may not be impressed with their blasé attitude to money, but I bet I looked more wasteful than that to a Nairobi friend of my partner when I visited on a plane ticket that cost half their annual rent, £350.

We are all used to SaaS randomly getting obsoleted, but when you buy a physical device you kind of expect to own it forever. But no, cloud and IoT means even your physical stuff are SaaS products. Just stop buying the trash.

Can't help but quote: «“the "Internet of Things" won't work until the "Local Area Network of Things" works», seen here on HN [1].

There's significantly less money in it, though, and more hassle. It's not going to become popular enough until people get burned enough with vendors going out of business, or just stopping support, and making their convenient $199 gadgets obsolete.

In a sense, a large company like Nest pulling his off is a good thing: it sends the signal.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15721911#15726960

It's hard to decide which nickname is better between "the Internet of Things That Don't Work" and "the Internet of Someone Else's Things".

I can see a half dozen solidly practical uses for a smart home setup, mostly scheduling tasks to be done while I'm sleeping or not at home. Beyond that, I'd have a lot of fun just building silly hobby projects with cheap sensors, wifi-controlled lighting, etc. But I'm not going to touch any of it until I can get a system that's happy to run locally, and only calls out to the rest of the world when it actually needs to. At this point, I'm even going to hold out for adaptable integrations; if some service I'm talking to shuts down, I should be able to substitute another one honoring the same API. Anything less looks like a privacy, security, and ownership nightmare.

https://twitter.com/internetofshit ?

"the Internet of bricks" succintly conveys your first suggestion. "Internet of taps" for the second?

I would say that the Local Area Network of Things has existed for decades, but the intricacies of its deployment means that so far, it’s required a network admin to set up.

The most classical example of such “things” are softphones. They need their own vxlan and switch QOS policies and so forth, to function the way people expect phones to work (rather than flaking out when someone is torrenting.) Softphone deployments exist in plenty of enterprises, but have you ever heard of a SOHO deployment of softphones (where the phones are PBX extensions and can call each-other over the LAN; not where the phones are distinct phone-company DIDs sending IP packets through the gateway, out over the internet, and to the the phone company’s PBX terminus, just to talk to one-another)?

Until we get SOHO router-gateways smart enough to make such a SOHO softphone deployment “installation-free”, we’ll probably never see LANoT.

Internet routing in general used to require some solid engineering knowledge. Still, home routers that mostly work out of the box exist, and the learning curve is approachable for people with enough special needs not covered by the default settings. It took some protocols to be designed and widely deployed, from DHCP to mDNS and STUN. But this has been done, and it mostly works.

Running a RAID array was once as enterprisey as it gets. Now you can buy a RAID-ready box (something like Synology) and have a reasonable default configuration, or configure to your taste if you have a general knowledge of what you're doing.

I suppose that LANoT is going to develop eventually into something easy enough to deploy, too.

Re softphones: since US cable providers effectively sell softphones as a part of the cable package, they have every incentive to prevent home routers from allowing to easily set it up for free. OTOH the QoS settings are there in the routers firmwares for that same reason, and desktop / mobile softphones (aka "internet messengers") can use that if they care enough.

The home phone example is a good one, because as you say the softphones are too much hassle - but in this one case, because you're connecting to the real regulated phone system, the ""cloud"" solution of using your cellphone to make a call across the house Just Works (+). All of the anti-competitive nonsense about not interoperating with different phones or deliberately obsoleting the service goes away. The hardware manufacturer and the service provider are separated, and you can choose a new service provider by swapping the SIM.

The tradeoff is that the quality is kind of bad and the ongoing fees comparatively high relative to IoT.

There's even the old DECT phones, if anyone's still using those.

(+ except where the internet companies have tried to break this by routing you through Hangouts or some other thing that isn't the phone system)

LIFX bulbs work without the need to connect to the internet. They have a LAN protocol that's pretty easy to use.

I believe Philips Hue also does this correctly. I don't own any of the Hue products, last I looked (a few years ago) they had an open API. Currently it looks like you have to sign up for a developer account, I don't know if this is purely for email marketing or if they have know restricted API access. The downside to Hue was always the bridge, which is what exposed the http API.

LIFX looks nice though. The UDP Lan protocol is really neat, and the documentation is better than I remember of Philips Hue.

I have a Hue setup, and you only need to signup for a developer account to use their cloud API. If you're on your local network, the bridge has a REST API exposed and you can just start issuing requests to it without any signing up for anything.

In my experience, when I researched some of the official forums some time ago, there was no public documentation of the protocols. I still have to use the Android app to onboard a bulb (which will fail if you forget to deactivate mobile data on your phone). Then, I was pretty satisfied using lifxlan in Python (https://github.com/mclarkk/lifxlan)

There is absolutely public documentation [1] and has been for years. I've used it extensively to help maintain a Go connector [2]. It's a binary protocol and it's just a matter of spraying your network with broadcast UDP packets.

1. https://lan.developer.lifx.com/

2. https://github.com/2tvenom/golifx

Thanks, I need to go back and re-read those docs. My problem was with the onboarding. From a quick look your library assumes the bulbs are already onboarded, like the one in Python?

My former flatmate bought a nanoleaf Aurora, which we used primarily as a visualizer for our sound system. It had a pretty well-documented REST API though, and I did a couple nifty things with it

Ah, the “digital transformation”, where hardware becomes a service, and you lose control of it, and corporations extract an income stream from you ad infinitum.

While great advances come from availability of technology at a reduced up-front price, at what cost to the basic principles and advantages of ownership, privacy, cost depreciation, long term use of assets, etc. has our new world come?

This is a good reminder that “all magic, comes with a price”!

Microsoft used to run Zune ads to the effect that it "cost $30,000" to fill an iPod, while you could get everything you wanted on a Zune for just $15 a month! As many people pointed out, what this actually meant was that a permanent music collection for a Zune cost infinity dollars. Admittedly, at $15/month you could get 166 years of subscription for that $30k. Unless, of course, Microsoft shuttered the program - which they did within a decade. Meanwhile, my decade-old iPod nano still works fine and is still a pretty good music player to take on runs.

And really, that was the best case. Microsoft supported their legacy setup long after they stopped selling it, then finally offered refunds and support for importing playlists to Spotify. Newer, post-transformation services have dropped all pretense of guarantees or ownership; the Kindle Store revokes access to titles or whole collections so casually that the words "your library" are essentially a bad joke.

Even news has gone the same way. I had a very bad moment the first time I went to link someone to an article and found that the body had been completely rewritten with no editor's note (and not for correctness). News companies aren't profiting on the transition like music sellers did, but basic concepts like newspaper archives and the "paper of record" are thrown into doubt by the loss of ownership and content stability.

The story about farmers hacking back ownership of their tractors is surprising only because it's a bit ahead of the curve on hardware. We're still in the early days of this hardware-as-a-service transition, and it's going produce much uglier surprises than the ones we got with software.

You might enjoy Cory Doctorow's recent book "Radicalized":


The protagonist starts out by jail-breaking her toaster, which was designed on only toast authorized bread. However, the company that produced it went out of business (taken over by a hedge fund), and the authentication servers were shut down, so now the toaster couldn't toast anything.

That's hilarious, if not sad.

Hilarious and sad describe much of Doctorow's work.

Though I'd characterize "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town" as superbly creepy.

All my smart home devices (excluding Alexa, one day I'll get around to setting up snips.ai, but for now at least it's only an extra interface and nothing I depend on) will keep working without internet – without a problem. The problem is with the always-on things. It's the same with computer games. But as long as people keep buying singleplayer games that require an internet connection and smart home devices that stop working without one, companies will keep producing them.

> But as long as people keep buying singleplayer games that require an internet connection and smart home devices that stop working without one, companies will keep producing them.

Wish it was that simple.

With IoT, companies practicing dishonest and abusive business practices, like tying appliances to their SaaS and turning them from products into services, can get VC investment and simply outmarket the honest companies. Meanwhile, society develops antibodies slowly, so regular people are mostly unable to tell they're being taken advantage of (though cases like this help build this awareness). Consumers don't "vote with their wallets" for perfect solutions, they choose from what's on the market - and the market is saturated with bad actors right now.

As for games, it ain't easy either. Games are not commodities. The choice isn't between buying single player games requiring Internet connection and single player games not requiring it. The choice is between buying such Internet-tied games and not buying the next installment of your favorite franchise at all; between accepting abusive levels of DRM and the fact you're only renting, or not participating in the gaming culture.

Wait, are Nest products no longer functional after this change?

Initially Google said that Nest devices would no longer have 3rd party integration, you could only use them as part of the Google Assistant ecosystem.

Probably the 2 most common people that got screwed by this are people that use IFTTT and people that control their thermostat with an Alexa. Google is walking back some of their earlier statements and saying they may allow certain "trusted" partners to keep using the old API, so Alexa users may end up being OK. Another less common use case (but one that affects me) is using their developer API to take a bit more control over things. I use it to log temp/humidity data for my place, and to control my thermostat using Home Assistant.

They still work, there is also Works with Assistant (instead of works with Nest). Though the new API isn't as low level, so if you're doing DIY smart home some functionality isn't there.

I actually welcome some of these (one google account, instead of separate nest+google accounts) changes, as it will make things easier to setup for my parents, etc.

This is why I would never invest too much into Smart Home. While my phone may be expected to last for a few years only, I don't want my house deprecated because of a takeover/bankruptcy of a company.

I definitely would invest into Smart Home, but only if I can control it 100% from the server in my basement without the appliance having any internet access at all.

All my IoT devices are in a wifi without any internet access.

This is why I can't buy Apple products.

It's the opposite of interchangeable.

I buy only Apple devices.

It's true that they're mostly proprietary, and Apple runs its own services, and I hate iTunes these days.

But—and I realize not everyone feels the same way—but at this time they are literally the only b2c company that has any credibility around privacy.

They feel to me—and again, not everyone agrees—they feel to me like the only hardware company that thinks of their users as their customers, and not as cattle to be sold to crapware vendors and search engine behemoths.

>but at this time they are literally the only b2c company that has any credibility around privacy

I can think of a few: Purism, System76, OSMC, Mycroft... they're smaller and less well-known than the big players of course, and they're not all perfect, but they treat their users as customers unlike many companies these days.

Thank you!

Busy at work, but when I have a chance I'm going to do some DuckDuckGo-ing of these names.

And since were mentioning smaller but still highly useful vendors who treat their users with respect, DuckDuckGo.

If I wouldnt be using Android Phones with custom Roms and no Google at all, I would proably also be using iPhones. I just try to stay all open source. I pay for my email, I have my own servers with services I use etc.

Devices that don't connect to a 3rd party servers in the first place aren't dependant on the good will of the manufacturer to remain privacy conscious.

Right now Apple makes buckets of cash from their hardware, but if they ever need to tighten their belt you can bet that the extra revenue from selling your data will be extremely tempting.

Apple doesnt sell products, they sell a lifestyle.

I don't touch 90% of WiFi smart devices unless they are Tuya controlled and even then I'm iffy. I vastly prefer z-wave/zigbee because if SmartThings goes belly up I can switch to Wink or any other compatible hub fairly easily. And while my Alexa devices are probably where I am "weakest" I have a lot of stuff running through HomeBridge and if I needed to I could move to HomeAssistant if I needed/wanted to.

Not really an 'internet' of things then is it?

More like 'WLoT' (Wireless LAN of things)

"Intranet of Things" is probably reasonably accurate, and hey, we get to keep the same acronym!

Honestly? That would be awesome. I already have security cameras set up like that (although not wireless) - just home devices that do things for me and report back to a central server in my home. That server can connect to the internet (when I want it to), grab new firmware for the cameras, then disconnect and send out the firmware.

That's pretty much all I want from home automation as well. I see the value in being able to say "Alexa, turn down the lights" and having AWS do the voice recognition - but given that I can't trust services to stay more than a few years, I'm not going to invest in it.

Well, IoT never was a customer term, it was an industry term. And just because something keeps working without the internet doesn't mean it cannot benefit from connectivity.

Technically, I can still access the devices from the internet, but simply through the open source software that manages all the IoT shit.

Most things in your home don't need to know that much about things outside your home, or could have a well-defined standard API for getting that information from any source. If you could write wrapper scripts for obtaining weather information or traffic information, for instance, then you could have a self-contained system that required no monthly fees unless you opted to pay for high quality information, etc. but still gained all of the benefits of outside information, is high security, and would probably end up working even better. You could have default information endpoints for ease of setup, but why not make it all customizable? A good company with customer needs in view would be fully capable of making such a system.

In office buildings, devices already talk to each other using a network, so you don't have miles of cables from each switch to light or window-blind. In cars too, with CAN Bus.

Apple sells Apple Home Hub, I wonder if that's their "central control system" so that the Apple Home devices can be a bit dumber, but also it means there's a central firewall and system that can look for updates.

Also if you can install the "cloud-end" on your own device, when the company goes Nest, it means you can at least run an old version to keep your "IoT" gadget running, and it'll be running on the (hopefully) firewalled local hub.

> Apple sells Apple Home Hub

Apple doesn't sell a "home hub" product. But their smart speaker (HomePod), TV set top box (Apple TV) and tablets (iPad) can all function as a gateway for HomeKit devices to be securely controlled from outside the LAN without the devices themselves having to be very smart or secure.

IIRC, there was AirPort, which was / is a wireless router that had options for things like storing device backups or similar.

Totally feasible to make a killer wireless AP that's Apple branded and connects better to the ecosystem, but that doesn't seem to be the direction Apple is going.

Yep, they had a range of WiFi routers, including one with a built-in harddisk for backups. They stopped updating them before they launched HomeKit though, so it never supported that.

It's a shame they stopped investing in them and missing the whole mesh Wi-Fi development. Also in this age where they're touting "privacy first" and iTunes is on the endangered list, not supporting iOS device backups over a LAN is a huge deficiency.

Sure it is, you can connect to your server from internet and relay any commands if you like to.

Can you offer up a list of items that you were able to configure like this; or a reference point I could use to get started?

For lightning I use the Ikea Tradfri brand, but afaik Philips Hue also works. (as do most ZigBee products with various bridges)

The management solution in my home is OpenHab2, but Home Assistant also works fine.

https://www.home-assistant.io/components/ https://www.openhab.org/addons/

There are a few other products I use (for blinds, windows, heat), but you can often simply search the above two lists and read through the documentation whether they need internet (or "cloud") access or whether theyre totally local.

Worth noting - if you want cloud access, it's a paid subscription (reasonably priced) add on for Home Assistant, and it's free for OpenHAB.

I personally prefer OpenHAB over HomeAssistant, but the thing that annoys me about OpenHAB2 is that it doesn't have even rudimentary built in user management with authentication. The docs basically tell you to use something like Nginx to do that for you.

> Worth noting - if you want cloud access, it's a paid subscription (reasonably priced) add on for Home Assistant

if you want a super simple setup, they have manual guides for setting it up. And if you just want remote access and don't need Alexa/Google integration, it almost as simple manually.

I'm just getting started with Home Assistant and been busy with $10 wifi energy meters: https://blog.quindorian.org/2019/02/home-assistant-10-wifi-e...

Following a nearby lightning strike that destroyed our broadband router, I was pleasantly surprised to find that our Hive controllers still worked and scheduled water and heating correctly. Did also make me find the physical buttons for turning stuff on/off as well - though that didn't turn out to be necessary.

I'm mainly going for Z-Wave plus, using Home Assistant as controller for now (though still evaluating that).

My A/C is on Wifi though, and the cloudy controller web page is using a REST API (undocumented but simple enough to sniff and fake), so that's the only outlier so far.

I really want to love HA, but I find doing things in Node-Red so much quicker and easy to comprehend due to its visual nature. After a gap of about a year, I installed HA again a few weeks back and tried to setup geofencing using first bluetooth and then third party location services, but gave up due to the inconsistent determination of whether I was home or not. Using Node-red and a couple of tutorials I had things working very quickly. YMMV.

Yes, I find HA a bit clunky to use as well. Mostly because the scripting is quite tedious and relies on templating yaml files.

I'll have to give Node-RED a go once I find some spare time to tinker.

I'm doing this as well. Z-Wave+ and a Raspberry Pi for the hub for my first automation device, an RGBW LED strip for my home office lighting.

Even if I wanted to pay a subscription fee to some external service for my hub, the risk of service disruption, hacking of my network, and/or misappropriation of my personal data are just too high.

Tor Hidden Services provide fairly secure access to your IoT things over the Internet: https://github.com/n8fr8/talks/blob/master/onion_things/Inte...

Isn't just having a vpn endpoint at home more than enough?

Or end up like people investing in “smart homes” in the 90s.

Remember when built in intercom systems in the home were considered advanced?


They had quite advanced smart homes back in the 80s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BHIknNa6Eg (and to Nest shame, they still service it! http://unitysystemshomemanager.com/)

Holy shit, the UX on that video is better than what typical apps today deliver. Nice find!

They have in fact an updated system, which looks terribly crappy: http://www.unitysystemshomemanager.com/seriesII/Series%20II%...

I've occasionally pondered screwing around with various wifi-embedded things like the Arduino, but then I think about how long the light switches have been in my house already, and I find myself wondering, will even Wifi last long enough? Will today's Wifi still be going in 40 years?

Dunno. Maybe. But for me to be interested in something it still has to be something that is going to pay back my fiddling in probably ten years, where I can expect to have to replace it, and I'm still not impressed by any of the the demos I've seen. I'm just not that inconvenienced by having to turn on lights.

I had my house wired with gigabit Ethernet when it was being built. I don’t know how long will that be enough.

According to Wikipedia Cat5e became the common ethernet cable around 2001, it's still in common use and capable of carrying gigabit, or over short distances even 10Gbit ethernet. Today at least in my bubble I see Cat6 and Cat7 deployed instead for 10Gbit and beyond.

I think everyone is getting at least 20 years out of their Ethernet connections, likely more. That's not as durable as electical cables but good enough for most cases (plenty of things need updates after 20 years in a building).

You can tie a new generation of wire to your existing wire in the wall already and pull the new wire through end to end that way to upgrade your connections behind the walls.

All the dot-com bubble era business ideas are new again.

- digital currencies

- smartwatches

- smart homes (Bill gates had his house 'smart homed' to the wazoo with tens of NT servers taking care of everything, like switching lights on and off)

- food delivery startups Webvan, Kozmo,

- livestreaming (JenniCam)

Let's not panic too much here. A smart thermostat or garage door opener is modular, plug-in replaceable. The equivalent of a fancy toaster. You aren't locked in to anything.

And how about my long unused (over 35 years!) but still working 1967 (built when my house was constructed) central vacuum?

Why don't you use yours? I would love to be able to just carry a plastic tube over lugging the vacuum around the house.

1. It's noisy 2. The coupling and uncoupling effort is significant 3. The anticlimax of having to go down to the basement and empty out the canister after having completed vacuuming

Reconsider. I'd say these are two safe options:

1) Go with a cloud service using products exclusively made by a single major company, like Google or Amazon. This is simpler to setup and maintain but more expensive.

2) Go with an open source solution, like Home Assistant. Cheaper option with more control but requires a lot of time to learn, setup and maintain.

Both options should be considered safe at this point.

Edit: added emphasis on "made by" since many were missing that nuance. Buying a single brand of HA from a single company should be considered safe.

I'm not talking about buying compatible devices made by other manufacturers, this API issue shows is that isn't safe.

There's no safety going with products from a major company. They pivot all the time, not least Google. The only benefit is that one might get a refund when they do something egregious.

And in this case, Google just gave all their customers using the Nest API the finger. How is it safe to trust them going forward?

That's why I specifically said "made by a single company", not "made for a single company". Products using the Nest API were "made for".

Irrelevant because you will always get screwed unless the company has a huge track record in backwards compatibility and very conservative slow changing management.

Get open source hardware and software that you can maintain yourself or suck it up and cough up the dough.

What are you talking about. This whole situation is a one great counterexample to your 1).

Making any company a single point of failure is a bad idea. You are basically giving up your freedom of choice for maybe some convenience, but don't confuse it with guarantee of sustained service.

I'm talking about buying a single brand of product. Not buying things that are compatible with that brand, buying specifically just that brand.

Again, unless that company has a great track record, you'll probably get screwed rather quickly. Google is not such company, for example. Also, any startup is out of the question too; half-life of VC-backed SaaSes is on the order of a year or two.

IMO buying any hardware tied to a SaaS is a dumb idea.

If you don't want to deal with 2), I'd add:

3) Find a local home automation company and look at their offerings. There's a chance you'll find people willing to sell you actual products that are optionally Internet-connected, but not Internet-first, and are not tied to a garbage SaaS. They'll install and service them for you too. Key words here are "home automation"; I find looking for this phrase instead of "IoT" to weed out a lot of garbage.

> Go with a cloud service using products exclusively made by a single major company, like Google or Amazon.

You mean like Nest? Not a good example.

Better advice is buying something non-cloud based which uses established standards and which works entirely within your LAN.

If the company goes down, at least you can interact with the devices using the standards they were built on (Zigbee, z-wave, etc).

Why is best not a good example? If you buy exclusively Google made products you're still fine.

Reread my original comment. I say you'd be safe if you buy products made BY a single company. This API effects those who bought things that are made by other manufacturers.

That's correct. If you would be pissed if it stopped working, don't buy it. Same for other "smart" products like smart watches. They have to have plastic bodies because they have radios. Because they have plastic bodies, expensive materials in the bezel or band make no sense. Their electronics and displays will be out of date within 3-5 years even if the OS continues to be supported. If you can't treat it as disposable, it's not for you.

My "smart home" is just installing IR blasters to control all my existing IR-controlled ceiling lamps and air conditioner units. In the worst case, I can always revert to using the IR remote controls (or wall switches).

They're firewalled to my LAN and integrated into iOS using Homebridge running on my Synology NAS.

Amazon/Alexa eco-system seems much more stable than the alternatives. Maybe Apple, but it's overpriced and guaranteed to deprecate.

Or Google products

I kind of like how Google is moving all the home related products to the Nest brand. We always talk about Google branding being the worst but I think this is actually a logical move to one brand for everything Home.

I also like that I'll be able to use my google login for my Nest products in the future, and the author even agrees that the Nest app is not great and the Google Home app is what I currently use anyway for my Nest products.

I feel like the only real downside of all this is the Works With Nest platform is dead? Looks like they're working with Amazon on Alexa integration so that is nice, hopefully that will be ready by the end of August and work with more companies about integration.

Yes, I agree. The brand consolidation is long overdue, as are any meaningful updates and fixes to the Nest app. Those are two definite positives of this move.

Moving to Google Accounts is more murky: I can definitely see and sympathize with arguments on the basis of Google's overall business model and how it seems off for an ad company to be creating products for the home. With that said, Nest accounts (like the app) are woeful and only support the weakest of 2FA methods. (And in fact, I had that break for me on their desktop site -- enter the 2FA, then infinite loading.)

And the definite downside everyone seems to agree on is that killing Works with Nest (especially on a, IMO, short timeframe) shatters the trust placed in that ecosystem. Clickbait comments are focusing on the short-term which is going to be messy and involve a lot of people ditching Nest, but (whether I agree with it or not) I don't see APIs which give direct device access like Works with Nest even being a thing in the future.

In a world where the WSJ is sounding the alarm at people adding benign add-ons to Gmail by their own hand, not to mention people blaming Nest for their own weak passwords, it may be that even basic security principles need to be re-examined and in a way "dumbed down." An example of this dumbing down is removing the ability to turn the recording light off moving forward.[1]

"Dumbing down" is a negative term, but I'm trying to apply it as neutrally as possible. It makes sense to Google to remove that ability, since any blowback would fall on them. I'm honestly surprised we haven't yet seen the headline "Google's Nest Cam recorded me even though it looked turned off," when the real story there would be an ex-SO or roommate opted to turn the light off and start recording.

1. https://www.techradar.com/news/exclusive-googles-security-ca...

Agreed. I don't personally have any Nest hardware in my home, but I do have the app on my phone for family members' home, and the app is definitely kind of meh at best.

For all the backlash Google has gotten lately, it really does seem like they're trying to be more open with their privacy controls lately (disabling the option to turn off the camera light), as well as encouraging more security.

Agreed with everything you said, especially the "dumbing down" of the access to some of these devices.

The entire Cambridge Analytica/Facebook debacle was possible because users granted certain apps access to their data in the first place. And with the Works With Nest program we have users granting access to their cameras/smoke detectors/thermostats and just assuming/hoping that everything will be OK. Just a matter of time until something goes wrong and Google is better off scrapping the old way and creating something new with more security - even if it means losing certain features that were possible before.

I think the more significant integration is on the development side. The cloud services will be integrated with Google's AI platform (and people), while the hardware will benefit from the Google Home team.

More people, know-how, and money are always good things for a product.

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