back to article Why don't you rent your electronic wireless doorlock, asks man selling doorlocks

We should rent our Nest thermostats, Sonos speakers and August smartlocks, according to Jason Johnson, the CEO of internet-of-doorlocks upstart August. Speaking at the Collision conference in Las Vegas earlier today, Johnson bemoaned how difficult it was to get smart tech into the home and challenged the industry to come up …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rent a door lock?

    WTF? What if I stop making payments on it? Will you come take it out of the door? Or will you try to lock me out of my own house?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rent a door lock?

      " Will you come take it out of the door? Or will you try to lock me out of my own house?"

      The answer is easy. Put yourself in the position of the "lock provider". It is expensive and difficult to physically take the lock out. It's a press of a button (assuming you don't automate that) to lock 'em out.

      Sign up to any cloud data storage service and see how it works if you card payment gets skipped.

      I'm not sure what this guy's smoking, but it must be powerful stuff.

      1. BillG Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Rent a door lock?

        Johnson bemoaned how difficult it was to get smart tech into the home...

        ...because despite 20 years of hype, nobody wants smart homes, period.

    2. Dr Paul Taylor

      Re: Rent a door lock?

      Just what I was about to post. The alternative to locking the legitimate person out would be to let everyone else in.

      No. No. No.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Rent a door lock?

        A lot of people already possess remote locks on hire-purchase - the locks on their cars. The consumer is accustomed to walking away from a vehicle, pressing a keyfob, and having the car confirm that all the doors are locked and all the windows are closed.

        1. Da Weezil

          Re: Rent a door lock?

          ... and look how well thats worked for some high end car owners?

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Rent a door lock?

            Yeah, for *some* car owners. However, remote locking has been a near-standard feature on vehicles for over a decade, and so I stand by my statement that consumers are used to it, and appreciate its benefits.

            A poor implementation doesn't discredit the concept, especially when there is a history of it being implemented successfully.

            1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

              Re: Rent a door lock?

              "A poor implementation doesn't discredit the concept"

              Oh yes it does.

        2. Test Man

          Re: Rent a door lock?

          "A lot of people already possess remote locks on hire-purchase - the locks on their cars." by your logic that could also apply to a house with a mortgage. So what's your point?

          1. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: Rent a door lock?

            I have a remote lock on my car (unsurprisingly) - but the key also works.

            The remote lock doesn't because the battery has run out of juice. I've not bothered to put a new one in because the key also works.

            And here's the thing: It's not a major inconvenience to have to put the key in the lock to unlock it - because if I need to unlock it, I'm going to the car anyway. It's not as though I ever walk past my car and think "it'll be handy if I can unlock the car now, without going over to it."

        3. Jimmy2Cows
          Facepalm

          @Dave126 Re: Rent a door lock?

          Are you on crack?

          My car doesn't unlock itself, or prevent me from unlocking it, if I miss a payment. This is entirely not the same thing as was suggested could happen with a rented "smart" lock.

      2. BillG Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Rent a door lock?

        WTF? What if I stop making payments on it? Will you come take it out of the door? Or will you try to lock me out of my own house?

        Well, look at what automobile dealers are doing. They are installing remote GPS kill switches with 4G on new cars. If you miss payments, they disable your car.

    3. swschrad

      Re: Rent a door lock?

      there is also the possibility that if you don't pay and John Q Robber does, then somebody you don't want in your house will take it over and take what they want.

      or Billy Joe Hackathon will hit the database and auction off whole cities of locks.

      we have three effective technologies to secure our homes. (1) my own lock. (2) big-ass dog. (3) New Orleans Mastercards, with numbers like .38, .45, 9mm, etc.

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    IoT Doorlocks...

    And most will have the password set by the user to: "Open Sesame"...

    All smarminess aside... WTF? A key works very well. You buy it, it's yours. The downside is that someone's revenue stream doesn't continue.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: IoT Doorlocks...

      A key is fine if you have a free hand. Place yourself in the position of someone with hands full of shopping and a small child in tow....

      A lot of people are used to using remote locking systems in their cars. The peace of mind that would come from locking your house door and knowing that the gas hobs are off and the iron is off is not to underestimated.

      The concept is sound. The devil, as always, is in the details of the implementation.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Facepalm

        using remote locking systems in their cars

        How many of the newer ones are garbage security?

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: IoT Doorlocks...

        A key is fine if you have a free hand. Place yourself in the position of someone with hands full of shopping and a small child in tow....

        Been doing that all my life. Never needed an electric remote door lock on the house. I don't need one on the car but it's standard equipment these days....

      3. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: IoT Doorlocks...

        >The peace of mind that would come from locking your house door and knowing that the gas hobs are off and the iron is off is not to underestimated.

        Overestimated? Making Christmas pudding... the hobs are on for hours with no ill effect and no-one keeping an eye on them. I've accidentally left soup cooking for a whole weekend. The pan had to be thrown out but there were no further ill-effects. In fact, I've never heard of an unattended hob ever causing any problems. Its usually the humans around who do dumb things. I've discovered my iron turns itself off/down after being left alone for some time.

        The problem is that smart locks are worse than the manual variety. More expensive, more fragile in operation, less secure. At college we had swipe entry. Giving the swipe unit a hit on the side opened the doors without a card. Do we need to mention the latest DMCA issues? Does anyone think the IoT is a security dream? IT needs tending - no-one wants to read security advisories listings to see if their house is still reasonably secure. Look at the picture for the article - smartphone entry key? That would be the same smartphone running flappy-bird and a random "bejewelled" clone?

        Smarthome aren't popular because they just make things worse. If that's your hobby and you want to devote time and money to it, then fine, but you can bet my wife is going to be seriously unimpressed if I pop down to the shops to get some ingredients for her, and the hobs with the rest of the meal cooking on them turn themselves off.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: IoT Doorlocks...

          +1

          The problem they have is that they're trying to flog a solution to a problem that hardly anybody thinks they have. And an expensive solution, at that.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: IoT Doorlocks...

            @Credas - quite: it's a solution to a problem that exists only in the minds of the marketeers... we have perfectly good, robust, understood, and well-tested solutions to such problems as:

            - closing the curtains

            - maintaining house temperature

            - checking if the fridge has anything in it

            - locking the door

            - turning the lights on and off

            and many other delightful non-problems. While I appreciate, and indeed applaud, the design and the technology that allows us to play games with coloured lights or remotely access the fridge interior, that's all they are: games.

          2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: IoT Doorlocks...@ Credas

            "The problem they have is that they're trying to flog a solution to a problem that hardly anybody thinks they have. And an expensive solution, at that."

            Whilst I think you are correct, I can't help but think about televisions and the importance of renting in their success. TVs were a solution to a problem hardly anyone thought they had. They were expensive and complex pieces of kit which, certainly at the beginning, were barely fit for purpose. That they are ubiquitous these days has a lot to do with rental companies that would let you have reasonably up-to-date tech for not a lot of money*. This meant there was a steady turnover of TV/DVRs which probably drove development, at least to some extent. There may well be something in the rental idea for new house tech, though I won't be adopting it for some time, if at all.

            *If I remember correctly, my parents didn't own the TV in our/their house until well into the 1980s. Once every two or three years the old one would be taken away, and a new one installed. Our first two DVRs were certainly rented, and I think the only reason mum and dad went for purchase was because the rental company they used went out of business.

        2. BillG Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: IoT Doorlocks...

          The problem is that smart locks are worse than the manual variety. More expensive, more fragile in operation, less secure. ... Does anyone think the IoT is a security dream? IT needs tending - no-one wants to read security advisories listings to see if their house is still reasonably secure. Look at the picture for the article - smartphone entry key? That would be the same smartphone running flappy-bird and a random "bejewelled" clone?

          Smarthome aren't popular because they just make things worse.

          This has been my argument against "smart" homes for the past 15 years. Inexplicably, suppliers think it's a matter of price and not security. I wonder what kind of insurance these electronic lock vendors provide - if any?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IoT Doorlocks...

        Surely the smartlock would require access by nfc token/phone or by a command prompt from a phone - requiring a command to be input by the screen?... so hands free is still not an option.

        Just because its cool doesnt make it a good idea!

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: IoT Doorlocks...

          >using remote locking systems in their cars - How many of the newer ones are garbage security?

          The newer ones attempt to do more, and are poorly implemented. However, the Rolling Codes remote locking system has been near-standard in cars for over a decade.

          > Surely the smartlock would require access by nfc token/phone or by a command prompt from a phone - requiring a command to be input by the screen?... so hands free is still not an option.

          An NFC tag doesn't require the user to insert it into a lock, just have it in proximity - this is demonstrably an easier action to perform. Think of users with arthritis, for example.

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: IoT Doorlocks... @ Dave 126

            "Think of users with arthritis, for example."

            This is becoming an issue for me, as rheumatoid arthritis is starting to make life tricky. However, as long as I can manage by making sure the doors fit properly and the locks operate smoothly (oh, and make sure I don't have Yale locks fitted), I'll be okay. I'll also look at the existing options before turning to dodgy electronic solutions.

            1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: IoT Doorlocks... @ Dave 126

              OMG, how on Earth do we get from the car to the house if we are carrying a bag of groceries, a laptop bag/briefcase while having 1-2 kids in tow!!

              All I can say is that my parents must have been human octopi or something, because I don't remember having to spend many nights huddled on the front doorstep because my folks could only deal with a bag of groceries in one hand and a housekey in the other.

              (Or perhaps they did something remotely clever, like hand me the bag of groceries or briefcase, while they got the other bag and their housekey, all the while telling my little brother to "follow us" to the front door.)

      5. Jimmy2Cows
        WTF?

        Re: IoT Doorlocks...

        A key is fine if you have a free hand. Place yourself in the position of someone with hands full of shopping and a small child in tow....

        My God how have we all coped until now?!?

        Seriously dude, come on. You're suggesting the smart lock would be entirely hands free? So it would have to be paired with a fob or your phone presumably. What kind of proximity are we talking about? Anything much above NFC range is inherently insecure. You could be around the corner from your house and the doors unlock, potentially letting anyone in.

        Pairing to a fob or phone or whatever with sufficiently low proximity requirements to not invalidate your insurance, means you still need a free hand to wave your fob or phone or whatever near the lock.

        And what if the battery in your paired thing goes flat? Locked out? Bypass code? Multiple singular access vectors reduce overall security.

        No thanks mate. I'll live with the 3 seconds of inconvenience associated with a simple key.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: IoT Doorlocks...

          My answers to your concerns would be:

          - The door would only unlock when you're close or when you press a button on the door handle.

          - You would carry a fob with a key in it as a back-up.

          I suggest this based on my experience of having 2 cars with smart keys.

          I also have a real lock with a real key which is now a bugger to get the key in properly, requiring a bunch of pushing and jiggling up and down.

  3. Eddy Ito Silver badge
    Facepalm

    In 3 - 2 - 1

    Let me guess, the "smart" door lock is cloud connected, knows when you're away and undoubtedly has a built-in backdoor (no pun really desired but how can you not) which is for maintenance purposes only, honest. What could go wrong?

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: In 3 - 2 - 1

      You missed out - they know where you live because you had to give your real address before you could register the lock and have it work.

      And all that information is sat in a database that, judging from past events, was built by someone for whom secuity is something someone else bolts on afterwards.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
    Holmes

    Colour me cynical....

    Are these the same smartlocks the DMCA injunction relates to?

    Security bods gagged using DMCA on eve of wireless key vuln reveal

  5. JohnFen Silver badge
    Alert

    My reason isn't in the list

    I'm very much into home automation, but I won't touch any of the devices he mentions -- Nest, his door locks, etc. -- because I don't trust them. To get the benefits from them, they require connection to a cloud or server that I don't have control over. As long as they send any data about me or my usage of the devices to someone else, I won't be using them.

    1. Fink-Nottle

      Re: My reason isn't in the list

      > they require connection to a cloud or server that I don't have control over. As long as they send any data about me or my usage of the devices to someone else, I won't be using them.

      Tin foil hattery! If your home uses utilities such as water, gas and electricity then your provider already has data about you and your usage.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: My reason isn't in the list

        Not really.

        My home uses water, gas and electricity. I'd be quite impressed if, with the installed hardware they could even tell when I got home of an evening.

        Old-fashioned spinning-disk electricity meter connected to a phase shared with every third house on my street. Gas on a mechanical tick-over meter, again shared with the street. Water on no meter whatsoever, again shared with the street.

        I'm sure if they wanted to they could cut me off temporarily, slap some specific monitoring device further up the line, just to collect that data but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be worth the effort. That's why the electricity companies want to put a smart meter in your house but, pretty much, want someone else to pay for it.

        Total usage, maybe, but for the last two years I've been the one sending the electricity/gas companies the numbers from my meter cupboard, and my water is metered based on house size from what I understand.

        And even with a smart meter, the usage pattern of a standard daily peak in usage tells you pretty much nothing of what's actually happening in a home compared to - say - sniffing the packets of when you actually, physically unlock a door live via a cloud server.

        Three totally different levels of information.

        1. Fink-Nottle

          Re: My reason isn't in the list

          > Three totally different levels of information.

          I quite agree there is a difference in the granularity of the information - but information is, nevertheless, gathered currently and my comment was made in response to OP's concern regarding the sharing of any information.

  6. kain preacher Silver badge

    Bad Crack

    Any one that rents one of these things should be in the phyc ward or in drug rehab. Oh renting a thermostat is equally crazy.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Bad Crack

      Renting a thermostat isn't totally crazy - imagine buying a service that handled all of your HVAC system (servicing, filter replacements, repairs), along with a deal based on how much electricity they save you with their fancy new thermostat.

  7. Triggerfish

    Comcast

    My impression is people use Comcast because they have to if they want internet, and I can understand that.

    But at what point do does a smart lock to improve your life enough to have to deal with a company like Comcast?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where's me calculator?

    I got the numbers rong last time I tried. Wish me luck.

    Pay up front: $830.

    Pay monthly: the suppliers have their $850 after 17 months, and then you carry on paying them $50/month.

    No wonder the suppliers like the concept.

    Mind you, this is how Pipex kickstarted the UK mass market broadband scene almost a decade and a half ago. Hide the upfront installation costs in the monthly rental, and then carry on charging the same amount after the upfront costs are paid off. It worked back then.

    Not convinced it would work today. See e.g. SIM only phone deals. People have wised up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where's me calculator?

      Yeh, this shit is jacked up, WAY UP. So on your 17th month, you can exchange the locks for new ones, but why? If the old ones are no longer secure, then clearly they either A. Should never of been made/sold. Or B. You're in the middle of a scam. In all honesty Rent-To-Own bullshit is a cheaper option, which makes this look laughable.

      Also, I see no mention of what happens when the lock is hacked. Can I sue them for the breach, or are they just selling the illusion of security?

  9. Christoph Silver badge

    Is this lock at least as usable as a physical lock if the power (or data connection?) goes?

    Is this lock at least as resistant to hacking as the best physical locks?

    I strongly suspect that the answer to both is likely to be 'No'.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Even most British Standard, home-insurance-compatible physical locks can be defeated in a matter of seconds if you've any kind of practice at that (e.g. a bunch of old locks in your bit-box and a quick Google search).

      Electronic locks are slightly better in some regards - if nothing else they often combine "lock" and "door open / tamper alarm" in the same product, and if they are all cloudy, they could actually tell you if someone had bypassed them, or even just fooled them into opening.

      I don't use electronic door locks in my house, but in some workplaces etc. they are much more common than key-locks. I have one on my garden gate, but that only gets you into the side-alley. It's probably quicker to jump the gate than piss about with that lock, especially as it alarms.

      But the main reason I wouldn't rent access control is exactly why the manufacturer's would want it - once I've "paid" for the hardware, they are just making pure profit from me for little to no service. Hell, maintenance contracts for access controls systems I manage in work are severely cut down every time we look at them as, unless something goes wrong or someone breaks in, we are just losing money on them. And when something does go wrong, the cost of it is the least of our worries at that point anyway, and doesn't come near the annual average cost of the maintenance.

      Monthly payments - no. Do not want. I don't want to rent my life, thanks. That applies for everything from software-licences to houses.

    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      "Is this lock at least as usable as a physical lock if the power (or data connection?) goes?"

      As I undersatnd it, this lock replaces the inside lock knob. You still have a key hole available on the outside (for backup). On the inside, this lock can be actuated by physically turning the lock/unlock ring or remotely with a Bluetooth app. So it is exactly as secure or insecure as the pin and tumbler cylinder that you select for the outside.

      Security is still a question seeing as how some automobile RFIF locks are somewhat less than secure.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Yep, the physical key can still be used as backup - just as with most cars.

        Curious observation: US tech blogs often occasionally feature stories about high-end physical locks being defeated by Biro-lids or paper clips... or how the physical key can be recreated from a photograph of it.

        No lock is perfect - I've seen combination locks on doors with what is widely knows as Shiny Button Syndrome, the buttons used to enter the code having become shiny through use. SBS makes it clear to an intruder that they only have to try 16 combinations instead of 1000 (given the code is four digits long)

        1. Jimmy2Cows
          Holmes

          Shirley you mean 10000...

          SBS makes it clear to an intruder that they only have to try 16 combinations instead of 1000 (given the code is four digits long)

          Assuming a 0-9 decimal keypad and a four digit combination that is 0000 to 9999 which to even my distracted brain is 10000 possible combinations.

          1. fishman

            Re: Shirley you mean 10000...

            You only have to try the four buttons that have alot of wear on them. So there are 16 possible combinations.

  10. stoobthealien

    Tado smart thermostat is a rental model if you want to - got me hooked!

  11. AceRimmer

    Philip K Dick Warned of this Nonsense

    The door refused to open. It said, "Five cents, please."

    He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. "I'll pay you tomorrow," he told the door. Again it remained locked tight. "What I pay you," he informed it, "is in the nature of a gratuity; I don't have to pay you."

    "I think otherwise," the door said. "Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this conapt."

    ...he found the contract. Sure enough; payment to his door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip.

    "You discover I'm right," the door said. It sounded smug.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Philip K Dick Warned of this Nonsense

      Almost all good to great sci fi warned us of the modern world we live in.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Philip K Dick Warned of this Nonsense

        Or die in.

  12. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

    I'm sorry Dave ....

  13. Clive Harris
    Big Brother

    If a monthly payment is missed....?

    Another thing to think about is what happens if, for any reason, your monthly payment is delayed or missed. The standard policy over here in Australia is that access to the the product or service is immediately suspended, before any attempt is made to find out whose fault it is.

    I just had this exact problem yesterday with the company providing my telephone and internet service. A "technology update" at the bank meant that my monthly payment didn't go through on time. The internet company flagged the issue at 7AM. At 7.30 they turned off my phone and internet. They then (as I found later) sent me an email asking me to phone or email them (anyone see the problem there?). By mid-day I was back on line, after spending the best part of a hour trying to contact them on my mobile, with the bank and the internet company blaming each other for the problem. The internet company was adamant that their action in cutting me off was "automatic" and entirely proper.

    Imagine that sort of thing happening with your door locks. Either you're locked out of your house (or locked in it), or the doors are opened wide for everyone, whilst you argue with the bank and lock supplier about whose mistake it was.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: If a monthly payment is missed....?

      In the UK, households can *not* have their water supply cut off for non-payment.

      1. Jimmy2Cows
        Headmaster

        Re: If a monthly payment is missed....?

        In the UK, households can *not* have their water supply cut off for non-payment.

        No but the OP wasn't talking about water.

        Christ, is your living based on selling these things? You seem to be pushing very hard despite the numerous, obvious drawbacks and the overwhelming view that smart locks solve a non-existent problem.

        1. wdmot

          Re: If a monthly payment is missed....?

          No but the OP wasn't talking about water.

          But a law could be enacted which provides the same protection for lock rental, if in fact the lock could be controlled remotely (rather than just a fob or NFC-actuated mobile app). However, more likely the electronic/hands-free functionality would be suspended when a monthly payment is missed, and you'd have to resort to a physical key. The lock itself wouldn't stop working or stay unlocked. Just don't get in the habit of not carrying your real house key with you because you normally only use your phone for access!

  14. mevets

    a knob selling locks....

    Most people have an occasional epiphany, a giddy moment of clarity and insight where they see the whole world entranced by their hobbyhorse. Often, it is between the Doritos and the Bruce Lee movies, and mercifully is lost to the cobwebs before sunrise.

    I am sure there is ample opportunity in inventing new ways to fleece unsuspecting souls, but I doubt the indifference to <insert inane gadget here> is due to dull shears.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: a knob selling locks....

      "Anything invented before you were born is just the way of the world. Anything invented before you have reached the age of thirty is new and exciting, and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you are thirty is new-fangled rubbish and you should have nothing to with it. "

      - Douglas Adams

  15. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Problem is simple: You cannot sell pre-made custom solutions

    Every installation is different and in order to make a truly useful system you need devices to talk to each other. That's one reason why some vendors try to use cloud services. It's comparatively easy to make one cloud service talk to another one, much easier than having different devices talk to each other directly. However obviously that's not acceptable to most people.

    What such companies would have to do is to provide simple and open interfaces to their products. Then others, particularly integration companies will provide the glue between those systems.

    It would be just like modems or printers. You don't need special support for them from your operating system or application, but they have just "clustered" together to certain standards so nearly every laser printer can be supported by the "HP LaserJet" setting, or virtually every modem can be accessed as a "Generic Hayes".

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Problem is simple: You cannot sell pre-made custom solutions

      Simper than that. Most of these devices are absolute garbage and nobody wants to be locked in with a $2000+ contract with them. Johnson is partnering with Comcast. Enough said.

  16. Czrly

    Who wants MORE recurring payments? More importantly, who wants recurring payments for something that is certainly LESS functional than their existing, mechanical lock?

    There are two problems with this whole IoT malarkey - and that's the right word indeed, google it.

    The first is privacy: no company is going to manufacture a smart Thing and spend the effort making it compatible with some hypothetical standards (still to be defined) so that it is able to talk to your smart Other Thing, by another manufacturer, and allow you to buy it and run it offline, on a private network, owning your own data. The only reason they'd ever collaborate would be if they got the data. Collaboration will cost them, but it is necessary for IoT to succeed. They will want data in return.

    The second is usefulness: quite simply, a smart door-lock is not a functional improvement. Electronic locks on a car make sense because every passenger enters through their own door and all those doors must be controlled, together. For a house, it adds no value.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Just imagine when your smartphone is full of apps to control all the IoT things... "Oh no, I was trying to open the front door but opened the roof windows and it's raining hard [the windows are not smart enough to not open when it rains, you didn't rent the sensor], no, this is the fridge app - why I let Bobby get the smartphone and move all the pretty icons around??? - this is the oven, the washing machine, this is a bulb, not an handle, was it this? It has a lock on it... no, this is the password manager... oh, here it is!

      [Enter]

      The house has been robbed... the fridge is popping out ice on the floor, while the oven is set at 300° and is beginning to burn the furniture - while the washing machine is turning at 3000 rpm - the smart TV flashes "you've been p0wned - all your keys are belong to us".

  17. LDS Silver badge

    Maybe he should have waited for DEFCON 23 to tell it?

    It looks their going to look into these IoT things...

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/05/06/defcon_23_to_host_internet_of_things_slaughterfest/

    1. Christian Berger Silver badge

      IoT and the companies doing it

      I've worked in the IoT department of a large household appliance manufacturer. The problem is that people who worked there have little idea how to do things as simple as possible.

      I mean any household appliance essentially is a finite state machine with some servo controls regulating things like temperature, a bit of networking to have distributed sensors and actors inside your machine, and a user interface. This is comparatively easy, that's why for decades those systems worked even without micro controllers. Since you have a huge development department anyhow and nobody wants to downsize, you have no incentive to make it easier. For example even though there was a movement for a common internal bus used in every device, every department uses it in a completely different way with completely different parameters.

      Now there are new systems to be bolted on, and even systems which might have a little bit more intrinsic complexity in them. However since the rest of the systems are so diverse and unwilling to compromise a meaningful amount of their diversity, while still wanting to claim to support the same interdepartmental standard, the interdepartmental standards become highly complex.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just who needs 'smarthomes' ?

    I don't have ten kids and fifteen bedrooms, I don't run a hotel or b&b. I merely have a 3-bed semi with a timer for the heating - simple, reliable, cheap and private. I love tech but this is just frivolous tat.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Just who needs 'smarthomes' ?

      A timer for heating.

      OK. Do you tell it what time you want it to come on, or do you tell it what temperature you want it to be at 7:15am?

      The latter type is smarter, more consistant and more efficient.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Just who needs 'smarthomes' ?

        I want mine to be warm when I'm there, a little cooler in the morning and warmer in the evening. A 'be at 20C by 05:30' is overcomplex; the difference is presumably that it changes the start time earlier or later slightly depending on the ambient temperature? It's a difference without a significant distinction: if the temperature has not reached 20C when I want it, it's a degree or so cooler and the heating is still on; if it has, then the thermostat has turned it off.

        Consistency is not, for me, a driver; the efficiency difference I would have to measure to see whether it was worth it, but I doubt it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 'be at 20C by 06:30'

          What used to be called "optimum start" heating controls have been around since at least the 1980s.

          I fitted the modern equivalent instead of my original central heating stat a few years ago. Cost something like £70, direct replacement for existing stat, and even understands that weekdays and weekends are different.

          A temperature sensor and a microprocessor allow it to switch the heat on earlier if the house is cold, or later if it's warmer. Thereby avoiding fuel (and money) wasted by switching the heat on earlier than it need have been. Does proportional control during the day to reduce undershoot and overshoot, and at the end of the day can switch the boiler off earlier if the temperature stays high when the boiler is off (ie if it's not cold out).

          Does the job. No Interweb needed. No security implications. Just a couple of AAs to replace every few years.

          Would love to understand how it interacts with a modulating (variable output) gas boiler. Exercise for the student...

          1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
            Meh

            I'm a Luddite...

            ...when it comes to locks. I like the simple satisfaction of turning a key. And this applies to cars too. True, I can't look at my phone and tell that the house is locked, but I also don't have to change batteries, worry about the vendor's cloud site being hacked, and still carry a spare key in case it stops working. And I LIKE keys. It might be handy if I have a ton of groceries to carry in and I can just unlock the door before I leave my car, but it's not that big a deal. Where this might be handy is in large commercial facilities where instead of re-coring locks whenever someone leaves, you can simply manage access from software and instantly see the state of the entire building. THAT, I think would be the 'killer app' for this, not residential.

            I do have a WiFi-connected thermostat and I love it. (it's not a "Nest") It's great to be able to see what the temp is inside my home and bump it up or down if I'm going to be home early, late, etc. It's also a little bit of peace of mind if you're away in the winter to know pipes aren't going to freeze because you can hopefully see a malfunction before it turns into a real disaster.

            For the person that mentioned: "Would love to understand how it interacts with a modulating (variable output) gas boiler. Exercise for the student..." --I have a standard gas boiler and the answer is not very well at all. My old 'smart' thermostat's anticipation feature was very confused. It would not account very well for situations where the system had been off long enough for everything to cool down vs. days where it runs near constantly and the radiators stay hot. Maybe with enough sensors it could. I would just set the heat to come on a bit early and adjust a bit for really cold days.

            1. Dan Paul

              Re: I'm a Luddite...@Unicornpiss

              In reference to last paragraph. There are boilers that come with a special "Outside Air" temp sensor that is (wait for it), located outdoors and provides a different ramp rate for the heating equipment if the OA temp is wamer or colder.

              Thats what you are really looking for.

              Turning the setback or away temp too low will result in having to heat the whole system up everytime the boiler fires. Boilers do not like cycling and you are damaging the boiler tubes by doing that. Not to mention that you are wasting fuel and electric because the on time is greatly increased.

          2. Dan Paul

            Re: 'be at 20C by 06:30' @AC

            Depends on the thermostat whether it has a "modulating" output that is compatible with the gas valve on the boiler and it's electronics. There are several types of "modulating" output and input signals available. This is an area that should be covered by the HVAC company that put in your boiler or funace. They should have provided the right T'stat in the first place. Many times the electronics in the boiler/furnace takes an "ON/OFF" signal input and modulates the fuel accordingly.

            In any case, a thermostat does not need an outward facing internet connection to operate.

            Scheduled or timed operation is simple and has been available in simple programmable thermostats for years. Just be patient enough to program the start/end times for 7 days and you are done. Takes about 15 minutes if you RTFM that came with the T'stat. One setpoint for day and one for night is really all you need although some t'stats do have more capability.

            Thermostats don't need to "learn" anything about your daily habits unless you are supremely lazy or ignorant of their operation.

            Active Occupied/Unoccupied operation can use an "Occupancy Sensor" (whodathunkit) instead of timers to determine if anyone is home and thus will save money for the single person who is gone most of the day by not raising the temperature beyond "Night Setback" temperature until you get home.

            It's only going to save money over timed operation if you have an erratic schedule and no one else occupies the home.

            Moronic ideas like giving the Gas or Electric company remote internet access to your thermostat will not save YOU any money, only the Utility company. Renting ANYTHING from a cable TV/Internet provider is an even worse idea.

            1. jfm

              Re: 'be at 20C by 06:30' @AC

              Sensing whether a space is in use and saving energy accordingly is not always straightforward. Many years ago, my battalion was training for a deployment. This involved lectures to 600 people, and the only sufficiently large space was the gym.

              Some bright spark had improved the energy efficiency of the gym by installing movement-controlled lighting - after all, people are always moving in a gym, aren't they?

              Thankfully the Regimental Sergeant-Major had a solution to the problem of sudden darkness 5 minutes into each lecture: instead of the usual barracks-cleaning and other punishment details, the day's defaulters were lined up at the back of the gym to do PT and keep the lights on.

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Just who needs 'smarthomes' ?

        > OK. Do you tell it what time you want it to come on, or do you tell it what temperature you want it to be at 7:15am?

        In a modern home (reasonably well insulated) and with sensible controls (eg TRVs), there isn't all that much difference any more. Yes there is a bit of variation - but then there's variation in my habits (I don't always go to bed at the same time, and so on). And good luck trying to "predict" heating needs based on SWMBO's random shift patterns !

        Yes, it used to make a big difference back in the days of thermally balanced systems that were slow to reach the "setpoint". What's that noise I can hear ? Oh, it's the 1960s calling.

  19. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    just say NO

    Another solution to a non-existent problem.

  20. Bob Dole (tm)

    Here's a better idea:

    Charge less for the product. Seriously - even basic thermostats are *incredibly* expensive with respect to production costs. A Nest thermostat runs $250 USD. If they dropped the price to something reasonable like $80 then I'd have one. At $250, no thank you. I can buy all sorts of awesome electronic gadgetry for that kind of money.

    Same thing with most of the other "smart" devices on the market. Lower the price point and watch sales go up.

  21. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Hype and usefulness

    "The problem is that, even with much hype and excitement around things like the Nest thermostat and the Sonos multi-room wireless speakers..."

    Well, that's the nature of hype. Those who hype the products think everybody will be just BEGGING to get the products they are hyping if they REALLY understood how they worked, or whatever. Sometimes others really DON'T understand the new product, other times they understand it very well and are simply not interested. (Note by "Those who hype the products", I don't mean just salesmen or people working for the company... there are almost always some... lets say very enthusiastic customers.. also known as fanbois depending on how big a fan they are.)

    A) No, I'm not going to rent my door lock and thermostat. I mean, come on!

    B) The suggested terms aren't even that good. $50 a month for $800 in gear? The cell cos here (which are widely considered a rip-off) seem to be perfectly happy to take $30 a month over a 2 year term, for a $700 device (that'd make it $33.33 a month for an $800 device.)

    C) The very same people who can't save up $800 for a Nest, and a fancy doorlock, and the other thing, are also not going to want to pay up $50 a month either. They may also not have a smartphone to control it anyway (I thought nearly everyone did, but the place I work now -- which is not high paying -- the number of flip phones is absolutely shocking).

    D) I think most people are not buying this stuff because they don't have a use for it. These guys have deluded themselves into thinking they've created new markets, when in reality they have come up with (sometimes better) ways to do things that people just weren't doing that much to begin with.

    For example... I have zero interest in multi-room speakers (if I want to hear something from the bathroom or kitchen I can just turn it up a bit.) People have been able to run some speaker wire room-to-room since the beginning of time (as it were) or use short-range FM... and people don't do it much that way either.

    I have light switches to control my lights; the Hue light might be a fair replacement for anyone who is using tinted bulbs and mood lighting but I've seen very few people do that either.

    I have no idea why I'd want a remote-control thermostat. Mostly, people just turn the heat down or A/C up (i.e. less run time) when they go on vacation, and have programmability for when they are there. (Personally, I just have a dial thermostat.) I simply can't see spending the kind of money these cost just to be able to pre-heat or pre-cool the house if I was coming back from vacation. Or renting it.

    And, finally, I don't have a garage door. To be honest, a phone-controlled garage door opener probably is a genuine improvement over one that requires a proprietary remote as most do. But, it depends on cost... if the phone-controlled one is so much more expensive I could lose and replace my proprietary remote a dozen times, it kind of negates the advantage.

  22. Trokair 1

    No value for cost

    "Smart Home" appliances are not life improvements, they are toys.

    I can buy much better toys for the prices they are asking for.

    I don't want my house (or most of my toys for that matter) plugged into the internet. Have you been there? It's the least secure place EVER.

    Now, build me a washing machine/dryer that will fold my clothes for me and now you've got my attention.

  23. Tcat

    Suspending questions such as value and costs...

    Are you *seriously* asking me to trust this firm

    With letting me into my home? Based on my

    Always have money pre-paid in so I don't have

    To think about them?

    If you answer yes, you are bent in the head.

    I pre-pay for peace. I don't want to think,CI want

    Something to just be there, like electric and water.

    Comcast still couldn't do that when I left them

    360 days ago. Why would I want to ask for the change

    To have Comcast lock me out of my home as well?

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