Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Alphabet’s Nest to Brick Revolv Products

Arlo Gilbert writing on Medium:1

17 months ago, Google acquired Revolv, a very cool home automation hub. It is a small circular device about the size of a small container of hummus that uses a variety of common home automation radios to communicate with light switches, garage door openers, home alarms, motion sensors, A/C controllers etc. […]

On May 15th, my house will stop working. My landscape lighting will stop turning on and off, my security lights will stop reacting to motion, and my home made vacation burglar deterrent will stop working. This is a conscious intentional decision by Google/Nest.

To be clear, they are not simply ceasing to support the product, rather they are advising customers that on May 15th a container of hummus will actually be infinitely more useful than the Revolv hub. […]

That’s a pretty blatant “fuck you” to every person who trusted in them and bought their hardware. They didn’t post this notice until long after Google had made the acquisition, so these are Google’s words under Tony Fadell’s direction. It is also worth pointing out that even though they have my email address, the only way a customer discovers this home IoT mutiny is to visit the Revolv web site.

This is terrible, obviously. But it is sadly not uncommon — as these “internet of things” devices operate within the same sphere as other tech products, they tend to have very similar legal stipulations and limitations, particularly with the software they use.

I took it upon myself to look through Nest’s terms of service, whereupon I found this nugget, pertinent to any existing Nest customer:

1. Overview, Eligibility, Customer Service, Term and Termination

[…]

(d) Term and Termination. These Terms will remain in full force and effect so long as you continue to access or use the Services, or until terminated in accordance with the provisions of these Terms. At any time, Nest may (i) suspend or terminate your rights to access or use the Services […]

Also this, which must be serious because it’s shouting at anyone who reads it:

8. Warranty Disclaimers

[…]

(c) NEST AND OUR LICENSORS AND SUPPLIERS MAKE NO WARRANTY THAT DEFECTS WILL BE CORRECTED OR THAT THE SERVICES: (I) WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS; (II) WILL BE COMPATIBLE WITH YOUR HOME NETWORK, COMPUTER OR MOBILE DEVICE; (III) WILL BE AVAILABLE ON AN UNINTERRUPTED, TIMELY, SECURE, OR ERROR-FREE BASIS; OR (IV) WILL BE ACCURATE OR RELIABLE. NO ADVICE OR INFORMATION, WHETHER ORAL OR WRITTEN, OBTAINED BY YOU FROM NEST OR THOUGH THE SERVICES SHALL CREATE ANY WARRANTY.

And this, while I’m at it, from their EULA:

3. Automatic Software Updates.

Nest may from time to time develop patches, bug fixes, updates, upgrades and other modifications to improve the performance of the Product Software and related services (“Updates”). These may be automatically installed without providing any additional notice or receiving any additional consent. You consent to this automatic update. If you do not want such Updates, your remedy is to stop using the Product. If you do not cease using the Product, you will receive Updates automatically.

The terms and conditions don’t appear to give Nest the option of terminating someone’s usage of their services for any reason — if you’re a bored lawyer who wants to work for free, why not take a look? But they do leave a lot of room for the company to say that they make no guarantees for their services or products.

Nest makes a surveillance camera, a thermostat, and a smoke and carbon monoxide detector and alarm. While it’s true that they subject these devices to federal regulations in the countries in which they operate, they’re subjected to different terms and conditions than “dumb” thermostats or smoke alarms because of the software and services they use. Bugs have already been pushed to users in software updates. Is the convenience of these products worth having the lightly-regulated software industry in control of your thermostat or smoke detector?


  1. Per Pinboard: “Can’t wait until Medium goes bankrupt and this guy’s poignant tale of not having control of his automated home disappears too” ↩︎