Last weekend, the company that sells smart lighting equipment Insteon abruptly closed its doors without giving any warning to users. Overnight, all of the company’s products including light switches, sockets, wall devices and smart home sensors lost their ability to connect to the system’s servers. The company also shut down user forums and removed leadership information from its website. Even when contacted via message on the LinkedIn platform, former Insteon CEO Rob Lilleness said he had no information to share and was no longer associated with the company.
This unexpected move angered Insteon users, who now cannot control the lights in their homes using a mobile app. Some of the company’s smart switches still function today with a regular on-off switch, but many other models are bricked. A few customers have attempted to reset devices with default settings, but have found that after doing so, the devices no longer function.
“This shows the dangers of handing over control of your home to a solution that requires a cloud platform”, said Ben Wood, chief analyst at market forecasting firm CCS Insight. “It’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
In the ever-evolving smarthome field, it is inevitable that online services will stop working as small companies are left out of the market. As a result, users may find it difficult to request service to support products in later years.
And Insteon is one of such units. According to estimates, technology consulting firm Omdia, Insteon has about 1.3 million customers. This is only a small part of the smarthome device market. The company hasn’t been active lately either and last released a press release in 2018.
But regardless of the company’s size or footprint, the sudden closure raises questions about the responsibility Insteon must have in signaling changes to users who have invested in and believed it. Trust the company’s technology.
For users who rely on internet-connected door locks, security cameras and light bulbs around the house, Insteon’s incident is a reminder that giving one company full control of the device can only is the illusion in the era of cloud computing. Many clients have invested hundreds or even thousands of dollars in these multimillion-dollar ecosystems. And according to experts, in the smart home industry, that’s a hard thing to avoid.
“I don’t think people should take this as a sign that the ‘market is dead’,” he said. Blake Kozak, principal smarthome analyst at Omdia. “There’s a lot of positivity and momentum behind the field, in terms of what brands are producing.”
However, as long as the market remains buoyant, some companies in the industry will stumble, fail, and disappear. When they do, their utilities, platforms, and apps will likely shut down, leaving customers literally “in the dark.”
“Abandoning consumers like this is not the way to do business,” Kozak said, “but it is inevitable that brands will be dropped.”
Refer to Arstechnica