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Nest to ‘brick’ working Revolv smart home hubs in May

Apr 05, 20164 mins
Computers and PeripheralsData and Information SecurityInternet of Things

Forget about that lifetime subscription for your Revolv smart automation hub as Nest will flip the switch to kill the devices in May. Should you worry about other Alphabet/Google/Nest products suffering the same fate? An alleged Nest engineer claimed Nest 'is already on deathwatch.'

A real security concern about investing in IoT devices is that it may one day no longer be supported as in vulnerabilities would go unpatched. You might then decide to switch to another device, but when a company decides to brick a working product then you surely would be concerned about the future of any other IoT devices from the same company.

In this case it’s Nest; the first thing Nest did after acquiring Revolv for the talented team in 2014 was to stop selling the Revolv hub. That team’s tech was poured into the Works with Nest platform. Now the $300 Revolv hub is about to become a dead piece of junk as the hub and app will no longer work.

Business Insider pointed out that Revolv posted the shut-down notice about a month ago. The notice suggests “Revolv was a great first step,” but “now Works with Nest is turning into something more secure, more useful and just flat-out better than anything Revolv created.” Forget about any more resources being allocated to Revolv as it is shutting down. Yet owners of the hub would only know about it if they visited the site. Owners that don’t catch wind of the news will be in for a very unpleasant surprise on May 15.

The decision to kill working Revolv hubs is “a pretty blatant f**k you to every person who trusted in them and bought their hardware,” according to Arlo Gilbert, CEO of Televero, and a Revolv owner. The warranty is up and “Google is intentionally bricking” the Revolv hardware.

In an angry post on Medium, Gilbert lashed at Nest CEO Tony Fadell. “When software and hardware are intertwined, does a warranty mean you stop supporting the hardware or does it mean that the manufacturer can intentionally disable it without consequence? Tony Fadell seems to believe the latter. Tony believes he has the right to reach into your home and pull the plug on your Nest products.”

Furthermore, Gilbert questioned:

Which hardware will Google choose to intentionally brick next? If they stop supporting Android will they decide that the day after the last warranty expires that your phone will go dark? Is your Nexus device safe? What about your Nest fire/smoke alarm? What about your Dropcam? What about your Chromecast device? Will Google/Nest endanger your family at some point?

You might not want to blow that off as an alleged Nest engineer claimed Nest “is already on deathwatch.” Nest is reportedly underperforming and top talent is jumping ship. The supposed Nest engineer said the “environment is toxic.”

On Reddit, the person claiming to be an engineer added:

Tony, you can’t hide anything from engineers. We know how many units are actually being sold, how many subscriptions lapse, how many fail or get returned. We know about that time-bomb flaw you ignored so people will have to upgrade. We can see the data in those executive dashboards you think we don’t know about. But go ahead, keep trashing us in public. We dare you to tell everyone just how much of that $340M was due to a simple Dropcam rebrand, and not the thermostats and smoke alarms. Good luck shipping that critical new project after restarting it for the umpteenth time.

There is no guarantee that every IoT device you purchase will continue to be supported, but before you jump into the internet of insecure things to automate your previously dumb house, you might want to consider that if Google parent company Alphabet will decide to brick one device, then it could do so to another since Google has a long line of products that it eventually pulled the plug on. Just because a product such as Revolv was sold with a “lifetime subscription” … that doesn’t mean your lifetime.

Choose wisely.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.