back to article Den Automation raised millions to 'reinvent' the light switch. Now it's lights out for startup

Den Automation, the once-promising UK smart home startup that raised nearly £4.5m via equity crowdfunding and boasted former Amstrad chief Bob Watkins as CEO, has agreed to go into liquidation, The Register can report. Documents seen by this publication show Wilkin Chapman Business Solutions Limited has been appointed as …

  1. Andy Non Silver badge
    Facepalm

    What?

    "the company's servers were switched off without warning. This rendered all previously sold switches and sockets useless."

    All your switches belong to them (evil laugh). Who would buy such a thing?

    1. BoldMan

      Re: What?

      This seems to be a common thing with IoT devices, the need to 'phone home' all the time. Where is the 'smart house' that was described decades ago which manages itself without having to report everything back to a central server?

      Oh yes of course, if you don't collect reams of your customers data you can't monetise it... surveillance capitalism at work!

      Now just fuck off! Glad you failed and boo hoo to the mugs who spent money on a stupid piece of technology.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: What?

        We can bookmark this articles URL and use it to explain that the IOT while sounding like a good idea is actually being implemented in the worst way possible.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: What?

        "the mugs who spent money"

        They're probably miffed about it so they could get together and form a Miffed User Group.

        1. Phil Kingston

          Re: What?

          Miffed User Frustration Forum?

      3. veti Silver badge

        Re: What?

        I honestly think there is more cock-up than conspiracy at work.

        Sure, the data about their customers is nice and all, but I bet not one IoT startup in a thousand has any coherent strategy to monetise that. The real reason for the 'always on' requirement is that they want to be able to push out updates to repair the critical flaws that they are all naggingly convinced are lurking just below the hurriedly-tested surface of their systems.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "to repair the critical flaws... lurking just below the..surface of their systems."

          I think is a much more succinct description of these architectures.

          Given the usual code monkeys who sling it together in some sweat shop from cutting and pasting stackexchange messages together they are probably right.

          </empathy mode>

          Still as I didn't gamble on this or buy any of these no harm done.

          <empathy mode>

          Of course I'd be pretty annoyed if some of my friends or family were f**kwitted enough to do so.

      4. Woody1130

        Re: What?

        Typically this is to get round those age old problems of users and usability.

        To communicate with your home they need to know where it is so IP, then which device so port forwarding. I’m more than willing to go through and set it up but most wouldn’t have the first clue so they decided to solve the problem by having the device check for commands from a server and the user to send commands to the server. It’s the same with Nest, Alexa, smartthings, hue etc.

        It’s not an immediate evil capitalist data capture but obviously if they can sell that too then you bet they will

        1. LDS Silver badge

          "need to know where it is so IP, then which device so port forwarding."

          Because users don't routinely punch holes in their routers without knowing using UPnP/NAT-PMP/PCP...

          All this stuff could be run by a pair of Pi-like boards (for fault tolerance) inside your home needing only a dynamic DNS system and a port which could be opened automatically - better if it's a VPN one.

          Just today everybody must collect data hoping it can resell them for some kind of marketing usage.

          1. tip pc Bronze badge

            Re: "need to know where it is so IP, then which device so port forwarding."

            "need to know where it is so IP, then which device so port forwarding."

            Thats what HTTP persistant connections and HTTP2 is for.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_persistent_connection

          2. AndyD 8-)&#8377;

            Re: "need to know where it is so IP, then which device so port forwarding."

            "needing only a dynamic DNS " ah ahah aargh AARGHH!!! hahhahhahhaHoHum..

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What?

        I'd imagine the need to phone home in some cases is arse covering...especially for stuff that is wired into mains electric etc.

        If a house burns down because of a wiring fault or a completely unrelated cause as a matter of course you'd want to be able to prove it wasn't your product.

        Of course there are products that phone home "just because" and capture far too much info.

        I'm not against sending telemetry data to a firm as long as I can see it somehow on my own kit (literally what they see) and I have the ability to completely disable it and/or customise the detail at my leisure to something I feel happy with.

        I don't care who knows that a light switch is being used in my house X number of times per day on average. But I do care if someone knows who is using the light switches and specifically when.

        The former can be used to assist with quality control on the product...because if the manufacturer is building for tolerances upto X switches a day but it turns out that their consumers are actually performing Y switches a day, they may need to take this into account.

        Basically, anything that can demonstrably be used for quality assurance...cool. If it's for marketing and/or selling...fuck off.

        If I can't view it, fuck off.

        If I can't completely disable it, fuck off.

        If it won't function without the internet to some degree, fuck off.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: What?

          If a house burns down because of a wiring fault or a completely unrelated cause as a matter of course you'd want to be able to prove it wasn't your product.

          That's where product certification comes in, not some nebulous 'phone home' logging.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: What?

          "I don't care who knows that a light switch is being used in my house X number of times per day on average"

          How many times you use a particular light switch is probably not that interesting unless the system knows where that switch is and what it's used for.

          With the infinite patience of a computer system, it doesn't take long to map out your household routine. Over the long term it could even see that you are always gone over certain holidays or the second weekend of every month. Subtle things like the kids rooms lights aren't used every other weekend with the same frequency which could mean shared custody. It all adds up to data about you that might be of interest to somebody especially if that data only costs a few pence in aggregate on a dark marketplace somewhere.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: What?

      "Who would buy such a thing?"

      Well, according to the article, somebody bought £700 worth of them. She sad so in Facebook. Somehow the combination of the two doesn't surprise me.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        "Who would buy such a thing?"

        The same type of mugs that would buy Otto doorlocks, Revolver home automation and NEST stuff. Probably even some of the actual same mugs that bought those, undeterred by the temporary and permanent failures they encountered with those.

      2. VulcanV5

        Re: What?

        Thanks you, Doctor Syntax. I've been wondering how best to describe what passes for intelligent / intelligible discourse on social media. Your revelation that on Facebook, he sad so / she sad so / they sad so is much appreciated.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: What?

        She sad so in Facebook

        A typo that unwittingly reveals the truth :-)

        1. shedied

          Say what?

          Me speed reading through the post misread it as ---

          She so sad on Facebook

          which still made sense, whereupon I figured it was more speed reading and lurching than just plain reading and re-reading.

    3. Dan Wilkie

      Re: What?

      I'd imagine that they didn't stop working per se - it's probably the same as the Hue lights I have at home. If I want to turn them off with the switch, it's all gravy. If i want to turn them off from elsewhere over the internet, then it needs some way to be accessible. If Philips suddenly went bust tomorrow, I could still control my lights in house, or via the switch. But I would lose the location awareness or the ability to turn them off from Sweden when my parents phone to tell me I'd left them on.

      Sure I guess you could have a direct connection all the way back with portforwarding or a VPN, but that relies on a level of consumer knowledge which isn't generally present.

      TLDR; The remote accessibility will have stopped working, but they'll still work as a light switch or a socket. Unless I'm wrong, in which case I agree with you 100%

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What?

        That's the trouble with systems that require a server somewhere. Same thing happened with TCP and their smart bulbs, one day they just switched off the server. Luckily Bren wrote a php webserver you could run yourself. Now, as long as you are capable of running your own server all your smart bulbs are back in action. Ah, the wonders of reverse engineering and open source. https://github.com/bren1818/TCPLightingWebInterface

      2. Neoc

        Re: What?

        If it wasn't for the fact that they use proprietary protocols, there are a number of pi-based home-hubs which quite happily control your Hues, Zigbys, etc...

        If my Samsung Hub ever dies, I have a spare Raspberry Pi ready to be converted to a home-automation hub. ^_^

    4. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      This rendered all previously sold switches and sockets useless

      So they were in series with a single Den master switch.

    5. Andy3

      Re: What?

      Quite. I would never make my home's systems dependent on some outside software server, it's asking for trouble.

      1. AndyD 8-)&#8377;

        Re: What?

        Quite. I would never make my home's systems dependent on some outside software server, it's asking for trouble. " You haven't saved the planet and/or enough electricty to run a small town by installing a Smart Meter then? <g>

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: What?

          You can still use your electricity even if your smart meter fails.

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: What?

      when I read that I knew where the design problems were.

      I would just like to say one word: "inexperienced".

      This is why companies hire ME to do contract work for development rather than some youngin' that's right out of college. DECADES of experience tell you that you must focus on things LIKE reliability and safety and security when it comes to IoT devices.

      a) it must have a safety shutoff (especially to be UL listed in the USA), whether thermal or 'guaranteed off' or a physical switch internally, or whatever. SAFE.

      b) it must be possible to operate it WITHOUT THE INTERNET

      c) it must NOT be vulnerable to cracking, like so many other things have been (smart light bulbs come to mind)

      you focus on these things in the initial design. You prototype it with THESE THINGS WORKING when you solicit major funding. You do NOT rush to market.

      But hey, the young and inexperienced must (apparently) do it the HARD way, even in an age where 'teh intarwebs' is SO full of information where you can learn from OTHER people's mistakes...

      icon, because, facepalm

  2. JohnFen Silver badge

    Of course

    This product seemed destined to fail on a number of points. The largest is that it used a proprietary protocol, making integration with other automation devices seriously problematic (supporting IFTTT does not mitigate this problem). Then, there's this bit of idiocy:

    "On 5 October, the company's servers were switched off without warning. This rendered all previously sold switches and sockets useless."

    IoT devices that require the manufacturer's active support in order to continue functioning are simply brain dead. It's unnecessary, risky, and provides no actual benefit to the user.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Of course

      IoT devices that require the manufacturer's active support in order to continue functioning are simply brain dead.

      And I'm sure the sales bumph clearly stated that risk, in very small print on the final page underneath an aluminium-tape sticker labelled 'Beware of the Leopard'.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Of course

      The largest is that it used a proprietary protocol, making integration with other automation devices seriously problematic

      Butbutbut, then people would be able to buy Other Stuff and have it work, instead of buying it all from Den.

      IoT devices that require the manufacturer's active support in order to continue functioning are simply brain dead. It's unnecessary, risky, and provides no actual benefit to the user.

      Revolver's spiel was that you could build complex interactions between the sensors, switches, actuators and stuff installed at your house, all in the Cloud and with just an app on your phone or tablet. Which they touted as ease of use and not having to maintain your own server. Of course that required a subscription which would guarantee a steady income for Revolver, preferable (to them) to selling just the bits of hardware.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Woodnag

    IoT devices that require the manufacturer's active support in order to continue functioning

    Like the TV that I returned because all internet access went through the TV company's servers. In Japan.

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: IoT devices that require the manufacturer's active support in order to continue functioning

      I suppose it could have been worse. They could have backed it onto AWS.

  4. Benson's Cycle

    SMS

    I know SMS is not the most secure protocol out, but I would be happy with an automation system that used it. It would need a friendly front end and suitable message encoding, but as the main task I want accomplished is to turn the boiler on and off, I don't need a lot.

    SMS relies on servers but they those of the phone company, and I have a choice of them.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: SMS

      Raspberry-PI or similar could achieve the relay flipping you're after and G3 modems are quite cheap now.

      A little programming job for the winters evenings and bingo.

      1. Benson's Cycle

        Re: SMS

        However, it would probably be used to invalidate my house insurance in the event of a problem.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: SMS

          If It's just acting as a room thermostat overide I can't see how an insurance co. can say it's different to all the other IOTat doing the same job.

          Of course we are talking about a bunch that would use any excuse for not paying out if they could.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: SMS

            Apologies for actually being positive about an insurance company but I have to disagree, my insurance company just paid out big-time, they were strict about what was covered but were fair. Basically they paid out as per the policy documents which worked out fine for me. And no I don't work for an insurance company.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: SMS

      I can do this with my homebrew automation system. I can text my home and get status reports and snapshots from cameras, as well as send commands to change things. It's true that SMS is not really secure, but I have some protection: when I text my home, I need to include a password that is computed based on the time of day. If the password is wrong, then the text is ignored.

      Although I can't say as I really use that functionality, so I should disable it. 99% of the time, my portable devices are hooked into my home's VPN anyway, so I can just talk directly with my automation server.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: SMS

        @JohnFen: "password that is computed based on the time of day. If the password is wrong, then the text is ignored."

        You should apply for a job with Aga,....

        https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39580507

        1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: You should apply for a job with Aga,....

          What a half-baked idea (the Aga portal, that is).

          I'm sure JF would give them a grilling.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: You should apply for a job with Aga,....

            And roast them.

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: SMS

      Plug a 4G stick into a computer, load Gammu, get it to run any bash script you like based on the message content.

      Did it... 10 years ago? It was a 3G stick back then, but same principle. Our ADSL routers were really flaky and nothing would stop them getting dead sessions that looked like they were active (i.e. you could ping gateway but nothing further). Resetting the router always worked to bring it online. We run dual-ADSL lines, and we sometimes wanted out-of-hours access over them.

      One "emergency" 3G dongle on a Linux machine, connected to a K8055 from Velleman and a relay on the power supply to the router, and quickly encoded in the documentation was a line to text a certain phrase to a certain number if the VPN etc. were unresponsive. It would receive the text, run a script, which would activate the relay for 5 seconds, which would cut the power. 20 seconds later everything would respond again. Worked fine for years until we upgraded to a leased line from someone actually willing to deliver a business-class line.

      With RPi's and things nowadays, 3G sticks in the literal pence range on eBay, and a SIM-only package for £5 a month, it's not a problem to code something up.

      I would never buy Nest etc. shite when I can just buy something that does the same job but is entirely, 100% under my control and not talking home. Hell, I refuse to have a CCTV NVR that talks home. If it can't operate with a all-outgoing-traffic-blocked firewall and just a single RTSP port exposed to the router, then it goes back to the shop.

      A doorbell is a switch.

      A lightswitch is a switch.

      A dimmer is a variable switch.

      A plug switch is a switch.

      Run the wires as low-voltage NO/NC cabling to something that actually switches the power.

      My old house had a three-way light-switch for the stairs (so you could turn it on from upstairs, downstairs rooms, or as you walk into the house). Easiest way to wire: three dumb switches, the existing mains cabling used as low-voltage signalling cable, and a mains relay in the ceiling rose (literally a few pounds and a damn sight easier to wire than a lightswitch). I ended up making the third of the switches from a wireless piezo-activated switch - no wiring or batteries required. Worked fine for years.

      The housebuilders of the future will stop faffing about chasing cables for switches everywhere and just power the rings and put individually-controllable relays on each outlet.

      1. CountCadaver Bronze badge

        Re: SMS

        The last part - "The housebuilders of the future will stop faffing about chasing cables for switches everywhere and just power the rings and put individually-controllable relays on each outlet."

        You do realise that the sockets ARE part of the ring? The sockets being the join points...so not sure what individual controllable relays are going to do? Also if your putting cables in for power anyway, you also run your cables when your doing the build, (many new build houses are either timber kit or dot and dab, the former needs no chasing at all

        1. MJB7 Silver badge

          Re: Sockets are part of the ring

          Sockets are indeed part of the ring - but light switches aren't - and being able to control a light, plugged in to an arbitrary socket, from multiple places in the room is a useful capability. (It's not a capability I would want to pay much money for, but it is useful.)

        2. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: SMS

          Light switches are not. Fans.

          However think more "every socket is a potential smart socket". Sockets for washing machines, dishwashers, etc. are not accessible but could be remote-controlled. External sockets.

          If the cost of running a shutoff switch, drilling through worktops, providing a shutoff switch, etc. exceeds the cost of a smart socket (which are, what... £10 on Amazon at the moment), then you're going to get one dumb ring per floor, and one for lighting, and every switch, controller, etc. will be remotely controlled rather than faffing about.

          Also, think old people who are now (or will soon be) tech-savvy and don't want to bend down every two seconds to turn things off.

          People like me are literally buying remote-control switches for next to nothing because it's easier than faffing about running extra light switches, or moving them, or siting a switch, controller, thermostat, etc. somewhere else and wiring it back.

          Your thermostats are now remote nowadays. Light switches are often remote, including for lamps. Timer switches are now digital and intelligent.

          Rather than argue the idea, look round modern houses. The trend is towards remote control, even if not in a smart home.

          Tell me... how are you turning your Christmas lights on this year? For the last 20 years, I've had a remote-control switch on them. It's old-fashioned RF, but nowadays it's actually cheaper to replace it with a wifi/bluetooth one than it is anything else.

          Combine with the "smart" meter junk (which I hate and avoid), there's only one logical conclusion. Houses are going to start coming with remote switches rather than run-into-wall, pre-plastering cutouts. For speed of construction, if nothing else.

          I guarantee that any modern office already has a building management system rather than old fashioned thermostats, etc.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: SMS

            "how are you turning your Christmas lights on this year?"

            You still run low quality strings of mains powered lights through dead, drying fuel full of accelerant? And you allow this fire waiting to happen inside your house? How quaint. Does your insurance agent know?

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: SMS

              You still run low quality strings of mains powered lights through dead, drying fuel full of accelerant?

              Nope. Low-voltage LED lighting in a non-dead fir.

            3. Lee D Silver badge

              Re: SMS

              Christmas lights haven't really been mains powered for over a decade now. I'm talking about the 5V adaptor that they come with. My 15-year-old lights are LED (including bright blue LED) and are powered by low-voltage DC. They don't fade, blow, or warm up.

              They are also fused, waterproof and don't get warm at all. Oh, and the ones I bought to supplement them this year on an Amazon deal were £10, Bluetooth, Wifi and infra-red remote controllable. They can run off a USB connector (and my wall-sockets have USB connectors built-in nowadays!). I ran them around my office window and they even synchronise to our Christmas music.

              Seriously, it's nearly 2020. People stopped using non-LED lights years ago, in their houses and on their Christmas trees.

              It's almost like what I'm saying is true - and things are plugged in and then remotely-controlled for pence, nowdays, isn't it?

              1. herman Silver badge

                Re: SMS

                LED lights are so late 20th Century. My Christmas lights are flashing strings of neon bulbs running at 350 VDC.

            4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: SMS

              mains powered lights through dead, drying fuel full of accelerant?

              No - LED lights on a low-voltage circuit wrapped around a living, bigger-each-year potted Christmas tree..

              Which reminds me - time to bring it in to the utility room to let it get acclimatised to not being out in the frost before moving it into the warmest room in the house..

              (I dislike the idea of killing a tree just to provide a spectacle and generating lots of waste. Even though it's a pain bringing the tree and pot in every years - especially as the pot gets heavier every year as the tree grows. I think that, over 31+ years of married life, we've only had 4 christmas trees - once they get too big to move around they get planted out - a friend of ours has a big garden and is always happy to add another tree since we don't have enough room for another one)

              1. phuzz Silver badge

                Re: SMS

                When I was a kid my dad would dig up the christmas tree, put in a big pot, and drag it into the house. After about five/ten years of this, it went brown and dropped most of it's needles, so my dad stuck it in a hole at the bottom of the garden somewhere and we switched to chopped down trees.

                It stayed brown and looking mostly dead for at least another couple of years, and then slowly began to recover.

                These days it's about 5m high and almost completely blocks a pathway.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: SMS

            Also, think old people who are now (or will soon be) tech-savvy and don't want to bend down every two seconds to turn things off.

            Old people would soon be tech savvy..., Hmmm, I can wipe the floor with most 'young' people's tech savviness.

            That's the trouble with the young, they always think the old are incapable. Anyway, back to my code and radioactive isotopes.

            1. Lee D Silver badge

              Re: SMS

              The older generation currently *are* generally incapable - both limited in ability (e.g. pain, joint conditions, etc.) but also not-very-tech-savvy in general. My parents can just about manage Facebook and they're only in their 60's. The people in their 80's aren't online, in general.

              The *next* generation of elderly won't avoid the medical problems, however, but will be tech-savvy. And we have to prepare for that. I'm not going to tolerate being an old man with creaky hips AND having to bend over to plug in something that I know I can control remotely from my phone. And like hell am I going to accept living in sheltered accommodation without Wifi, Netflix, a games console, etc. or equivalents.

              Tech is there to make your life easier and better. From the first plate, fire, or wheelchair, that's its entire purpose. And yet we have people who expect to still have dumb light-switches sunk into their walls with a manual cable in 20 years time.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                OK snowflake

                Appreciate you put in a 'generally' - but as a 60 something who is the go to tech guy for family and employer, who doesn't suffer from pain and joint conditions and who has a nearly 90 year old mum who happily uses the internet, Facebook etc I object to being called incapable.

                1. Warm Braw Silver badge

                  Re: OK snowflake

                  I would add that those of us who've been "tech-savvy" since the days of toggling in bootloaders on front panels can generally remember when "tech" was something you owned, not something that owned you. I don't want to spend the rest of my days encumbered with continuous subscription fees to access music, films and books and particularly not to be able to turn the bloody lights on and off.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: SMS

                >My parents can just about manage Facebook and they're only in their 60's.

                And I'm sure you make them proud.

                Use of Facebook as a criterion for tech savvy is bizarre. What old folks *don't* understand is the narcissistic, preening, public self obsession, induced by social media. And neither do I. I preen strictly in private.

                >And like hell am I going to accept living in sheltered accommodation without Wifi, Netflix, a games console, etc. or equivalents.

                And be sure to let us know how it all works out.

                >Tech is there to make your life easier and better.

                Tech *which works*, yes. But TFA is concerned with tech which *does not* work. And that makes your life harder and worse.

                As is now becoming a boring and repetitive cliche, the current generation of IoT is gimmicky tat, quickly destined for landfill. And much modern tech, rather than giving its users *more* control, does quite the opposite: it subtly removes control. And it guarantees earlier and earlier obsolescence.

                But each to their own tat. Tata.

                1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                  Re: SMS

                  Tech *which works*, yes

                  And by 'which works' means (for me) tech that *I* can manage/admin/repair. Of course, all technology has a lifespan and sometimes it's better to move on (which is why my current SSD-based home VM server is sat on top of an old Dell 2950 server that predeced it..).

                  But simply going for something that has a fundamental impact on my life without thinking about the fact that someone else controls the utility and lifespan of it (and is using your information as something to gain them extra revenue) - nah. Not for me.

              3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                Re: SMS

                My parents can just about manage Facebook and they're only in their 60's. The people in their 80's aren't online, in general

                I'm mid-50's and have been doing technology since I was 12. I might not be hip and savvy with the latest sochuul meeja trends[1] but I can tech better than any 20-year old that I know.

                The pain and limited mobility I know all about having had psoriatic arthritis for the last 25 years. Doesn't stop me doing tech although I sometimes need help moving heavier things.

                [1] Which I'm really, really not sorry about since most of it seems utterly shallow and vapid. I'd rather read a book (or watch Digging For Britain)

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: SMS

                  "or watch Digging For Britain"

                  What really makes you feel old is seeing archaeologists you remember as students (when you yourself were post-grad) and who have now freelancing as retirement jobs.

              4. herman Silver badge
                WTF?

                Re: SMS

                So where in the backward US of A did your parents grow up? My parents grew up with computers and they would be in their eighties now if they were still alive. My mother in-law has a MacBook Pro and knows how to use it and she is in her late 70s.

          3. CountCadaver Bronze badge

            Re: SMS

            Xmas lights - I plug them in, set them to steady on (for some reason the manufacturers think everyone wants some annoying pattern) unplug at end of day - socket adjacent to tree in hall

            Tree being artificial and used for many years (and will be for many more yet)

            KISS methodology

            Why in heck would I want or need to control Xmas lights by bluetooth??? Tech for tech sake, always remember a lecturer stating about capturing user requirements - "sometimes the best solution is a noticeboard, pins, paper and pens and not the umpteen hundred thousand pound IT solution" i.e. don't think every problem is best solved with electronics, sometimes a lower tech solution works far better, cheaper and is more reliable...

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: SMS

            Depends who your builder is and if you buy a new house.

            Trust me on this, ANY home I buy that has "smart" anything will rapidly get a meeting with the relevant bin and replaced with a "dumb" socket from a good brand such as MK or Crabtree. Before I move my gear in, the hammer, chisel, SDS etc will be coming out and some improvements to the layout and number of sockets etc will be getting made.

            I REFUSE to have smart speakers, personal assistants or any other similar spyware inside my home, android is neutered and google assistant nobbled well and truly, its tat for tats sake, next will be a "Smart" toilet that can analyse your "emissions" and look for cancer and other things, folk will buy in droves and then find out that the data is being sold to insurance companies, the NHS etc etc and you'll find your denied coverage, social services will be round quick as lighning if you have kids as "the readings from your smart toilet demonstrate your clearly feeding them a VERY unhealthy diet, without requisite 12 servings of veg a day, presence of banned items such as sausages, bacon and burgers - all full of nitrites and other nasties and that is no longer acceptable in anyway - its child abuse and you'll answer for this" and worse Doubt that and your naive at best....

          5. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: SMS

            how are you turning your Christmas lights on this year?

            By plugging them in when I/we are at home and unplugging them before we leave..(The Power That Is doesn't like unattended electronics being left on - especially non-essentials like Christmas lights. - to say that she's a tad paranoid about such things is an understatement. I think she imagines a whole series of unlikely events like the house burning down because of a single rogue LED..)

        3. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: SMS

          so not sure what individual controllable relays are going to do?

          They would sit between the connector where the ring hooks up and the actual socket, obviously.

          1. The First Dave Silver badge

            Re: SMS

            The ring is only metaphorical - it is broken/joined at/by every socket.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: SMS

              Broken mechanically, not electrically. Those switches controlling each socket don't break the ring either, they sit between the ring and the actual socket. Exactly where you would have the relay contacts.

              1. drawoC esuomynonA

                Re: SMS

                Most household sockets in the UK are dual sockets, stick your relay between your wiring and your socket and you're going to be disabling multiple devices at once - not the most useful feature in the world.

                1. Stoneshop Silver badge

                  Most household sockets in the UK are dual sockets,

                  with individual switches for each. Which means the sockets can be controlled individually. Wire a relay into the circuit for one of them, mark the socket and there you are.

      2. fajensen Silver badge

        Re: SMS

        The housebuilders of the future will stop faffing about chasing cables for switches everywhere and just power the rings and put individually-controllable relays on each outlet.

        You can buy that Right Now with KNX (https://www.knx.org/knx-en/for-professionals/index.php) and you will get nice products, that will not torch your home, from people who knows what they are doing, like ABB, Schnieder, Siemens and so on and so forth.

        No 'cloud' needed, but, it will cost money to have installed.

    4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: SMS

      SMS relies on servers

      And can easily be spoofed, either via a SIM-swap or other means.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here I am, attempting to build a smarter home, and looking real carefully at ensuring all devices I use I can self-host a hub for, and that they don't/can't phone home.

    It's proving to be a lot harder than it should be.

    For some devices, the only non-phone-home option is to apply some solder and replace the firmware on the device with a free one.

    Insane.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Find the existing mechanical switch for your dumb device

      Replace that with a relay switch

      Connect the control coil of the relay switch to a suitably equiped Raspberry Pi or Arduino

      Am I missing something?

      1. fandom

        I don't like working that hard.

        That's one reason my home is going to remain dumb for the foreseeable future.

        The main one though is I don't see the point of making it smarter than me.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          That is an entirely valid and rational stance.

          When considering the adoption of any technology, the key question to ask is: will this cost me less (in terms of time, money, hassle, etc.) than the benefit I'll get? Excluding the people who enjoy this sort of things as a kind of hobby (which is a valid benefit), I don't see that the cost/benefit ratio is favorable for the vast majority.

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          I don't like working that hard.

          I don't either, but like any sysadmin I'd rather spend a few hours automating a dumb task than actually performing that task, even it would need to be done once.

          I have the advantage that my house was basically two large workshops, an office, pantry, two toilets and a shower, and I'm basically starting from scratch concerning nearly all infrastructure. Not only electrics, but also plumbing and heating. So I decided to put in an autonomous home control system, with switches, sensors and relays connected by a two-wire bus. It's not yet that advanced now, but it still has made the energy-carrying wiring a fair bit simpler. It can also control heating, both the boiler as well as the individual radiators and underfloor heating, the sunscreen and a few more such items.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I can't have a raspi or an arduino hanging off a lightbulb, or from a table lamp ;)

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Put it behind the lightswitch, or somewhere near the plug for the table lamp

      3. jake Silver badge

        "Am I missing something?"

        Using a RasPi or Arduino to flip a switch is like swatting mosquitoes with a 12 gauge. Its complete; over-the-top overkill.

        Anybody who suggests that using an operating system controlled CPU to turn on a light bulb is a good idea for the general population needs their head examining. Anybody who further suggests that making it call home before it can flip that switch is also a good idea should be institutionalized for their own protection. And anybody who nods, slack-jawed and drooling, and rushes out to actually purchase this kind of thing should be removed from the gene pool.

        That said, there are cases where it can be a good idea ... except the "has to call home in order to work properly and completely" bit, of course.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Am I missing something?"

          Precisely! Which is why for many devices one can get away with re-flashing them with, say, an ESP32 free firmware which won't phone home.

          The problem with that is that it's likely one'll have to use a solder to make the thing flashable :/

        2. Glen 1 Silver badge
          Go

          Re: "Am I missing something?"

          "Using a RasPi or Arduino to flip a switch is like swatting mosquitoes with a 12 gauge. Its complete; over-the-top overkill."

          Depends on how they are controlled, and how far they are from the relay. If you have something like openhab or home assistant doing the communication (with *your* devices or phone, not to a 3rd party), then why add another device to flip the relay when you have perfectly reasonable GPIO?

          Tinkering aside, those in the know (or so i'm told) seem to go for Sonoff devices like this:

          https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wireless-Universal-Automation-Assistant-Compatible/dp/B06WWNBD3Y

          or if you have a deathwish/are feeling lucky:

          https://uk.banggood.com/SONOFF-Basic-10A-2200W-WIFI-Wireless-Smart-Switch-Remote-Control-Socket-APP-Timer-p-1019971.html?cur_warehouse=CN

          Works out quite a bit cheaper than ESP8266 + relay + enclosure + power (YMMV)

          Edit: Looks like they *are* ESP8266s under the hood. Nice :D

          1. Glen 1 Silver badge

            Re: "Am I missing something?"

            Edit to my edit:

            Looks like they also use a central service out of the box (booo), but some of them can be reprogrammed (Yay!), but not all of them (booo). (Google keywords: Tasmota, SonOTA)

            Kinda crossing the hassle threshold to just roll your own :/

          2. AndyD 8-)&#8377;

            Re: "Am I missing something?"

            "Works out quite a bit cheaper than ESP8266 + relay + enclosure + power (YMMV)

            Edit: Looks like they *are* ESP8266s under the hood. Nice :D"

            "orks with Amazon Alexa Echo"

            Shouts through letterbox 'Alexa turn off burglar alarm'

      4. IGotOut

        Am I missing something?

        The whole point of ease of set up and use perhaps?

        Why don't you build a car for example? I've done it and could probably do another quicker than I could learn how to do what you've suggested.

    2. tcmonkey

      Many of the Tuya IOT devices (which are everywhere) can be freed from the default chatty firmware and loaded with the rather good Tasmota firmware using the tuya-convert tool, which does not require any soldering (or even opening your device).

      https://github.com/ct-Open-Source/tuya-convert

      https://github.com/arendst/Tasmota

      I recently liberated a couple of "smart home" socket switch adapters this way. Now they only listen to my on-prem IOT controller and are not exposed to any cloudy nonsense.

    3. timrowledge

      Use a Pi as the main controller, ESP 32s or 8266 for ‘smartish devices, Sonoff or similar switches and mqtt to communicate.

      Consider reading Pete Scargill’s blog (https://tech.scargill.net/)

    4. JamesMcP

      Go with Zwave, Zigbee or Insteon

      Use a proper Home Automation (HA) platform and you'll get what you want. You will have your choice of control software/hardware. I use HomeSeer (they've been around 20yrs and counting) but Universal Devices and Hubitat are also good choices for pre-built, internet-aware but NOT dependent controllers. Or you can build your own hardware, buy control software like Homeseer, CQC or Indigo or you can go full open-source with HomeAssistant, OpenHab and NodeRed.

      I prefer zwave as Zigbee is going to have mostly incompatible flavors for the next year or two (Zigbee LL, Zigbee HA) until Zigbee 3.0 is shipping in volume.

      Insteon is a mix of radio+powerline (x10-esque). It's single source, so basically the Apple of HA, but generally positively regarded and the powerline signaling lets it work better in structures with stone or brick interior walls.

      If you absolutely must use wifi devices, get ones that support MQTT. At least then you cut out the middlemen on your potentially insecure, always-on, IP addressable micro-systems that are able to hear all wifi communications in your home. .

  6. Mike Shepherd
    Meh

    Boy genius

    The problem with being a genius is that success is more about hard work and perseverance than about genius.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Boy genius

      Indeed. And, as much as people don't like to admit it, success is also more about luck than hard work. Perseverance and hard work are needed, of course, because you have to keep trying in order to catch the lucky break.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Boy genius

        "success is also more about luck than hard work"

        No, I disagree on SO many levels. I won't downvote you, but in a free society, you MAKE YOUR OWN LUCK. Try it, you'll see.

        (it's an 80's thing, yeah)

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Boy genius

      The real problem is that people tend to get touted as geniuses despite not actually having done anything to deserve it on either the inspiration or perspiration fronts. Based on the article (I hadn't heard of Den before and they don't even rate a Wiki article), the "genius" involved here came up with the idea of a remotely controllable lightswitch in 2014, long after other people had not only exactly the same idea but were already selling working products. And while the article is light on details, it sounds as though at least some of the problems the company had were not related to the smart parts, but failing at simple wiring and making a basic physical switch work correctly.

      All too often when the media gets hold of a teenage genius with an amazing new idea, it actually turns out that the idea wasn't actually particularly amazing, probably wasn't new, and in any case falls flat when confronted with the challenge of actually making a useful product. There are, after all, good reasons we don't rely on children for the vast majority of our innovation and product development. It sounds as though he had a decent idea for an A-level, or maybe even undergrad, science project, but I'm just not seeing any amazing ideas or new way of implementing things that would justify anyone involved being called a genius.

      1. Lomax

        Re: Boy genius

        > long after other people

        Indeed. X10 anyone?

      2. herman Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Boy genius

        "I sit and watch the children play

        Doing things I used to do

        They think are new"

        -- Sir Mick the Jagger.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-efIjZ_1yQg

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Boy genius

      "success is more about hard work and perseverance than about genius."

      and EXPERIENCE to augment all of that.

  7. steelpillow Silver badge
    Facepalm

    There ought to be a law

    that all domestic IoT toysappliances should fall back to a fail-safe base functionality if they lose Mummy or brick themselves. In the case of simple things like switches, that should be guaranteed mechanical ON/OFF. Mandatory compliance with a new and appropriately sane European NormBritish Standard would be a good place to start.

    1. Is AC used?

      Re: There ought to be a law

      This.

      As someone less able and getting worse the very idea that basic devices could fail outside of a hardware fault or be open such that a scum sucking service company could get in there (Paypal, Just Eat et al) is a scary thought. Oh and tax free wouldn't hurt either.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: There ought to be a law

      I would expect UL (and other) listings to include a test for this

  8. knarf

    Next Project is a reboot Spetrum

    How hard can it be........

    1. timrowledge

      Re: Next Project is a reboot Spetrum

      See https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=254492 for a pretty good version

  9. flingback

    MK would have been prime for this in their Heyday!

    I looked at doing this myself, with a proprietary mains protocol and line powered but without switch mode PSU's to keep the costs minimal. Just never had the time to work it up to a production model. We were going to use a Pi as an in-home bridge that the switches linked to, and then Wifi out to a cloud mirror. The key was that the whole lot would work without the cloud/internet and we'd probably open source the control protocol so people could develop their own apps etc.

    Shame really as this is a good idea, and if it worked there are plenty of socket/switch makers that could get into this century by acquiring it and flogging down at B&Q!

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: MK would have been prime for this in their Heyday!

      Have you looked into X10? It's been working for me for decades.

      1. timrowledge

        Re: MK would have been prime for this in their Heyday!

        X10 is problematic because it has no feedback, no security and very limited addresses- that get de facto shared with your neighbors!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: MK would have been prime for this in their Heyday!

          I've been using X10 for around a third of a century. These so-called drawbacks (and a couple others) have never been an issue for me at the various homes I've used it in.

  10. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    ???

    Some Idiocy of Turds devices like these strike as often solutions in search of a problem. What was exact problem he was trying to solve might be a better starting point. And is that problem a major pain point for people.

    1. flingback

      Re: ???

      I can think of worse things to automate than your sockets and domestic lights. "Holiday" mode would be quite helpful to turn all the sockets off except the fish tank, NVR, etc. Then randomly turn the odd light on for the burglars to be :|

      1. mevets

        Re: ???

        Maybe some simple switches & sockets which communicate over the mains running through the building, and a sort of gateway that could present a reasonable schema of the building to whatever software framework or infrastructure you desire. Dirt simple addressing, maybe just rocker switches or dials on the endpoints. Doesn't sound tough; maybe $40-50 per switch/socket/...

        If only we could go back to the mid seventies and standardize such a thing....

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: ???

          "Doesn't sound tough; maybe $40-50 per switch/socket/..."

          If you don't care about transmission rates, guaranteed delivery, or security, you can do this a whole lot cheaper than that by using X10.

        2. timrowledge

          Re: ???

          Insteon does just that. It was the best bet when I built my house 10years ago but is probably beaten by ZWave now.

          Makes it simple to have many lights operated by many buttons or timers or whatever - I have a button by my front door to signal ‘out for the day’ that then causes lights to turn on as it gets dark, change over an evening etc. When I return I press it again and a variety of lights come on , things go back to normal etc.

      2. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: ???

        Ordinary cheap timer switches have always served me for this purpose. I don't think your average drug addict burglar will be scanning properties for lights that come on in the evening at precisely the same time over several days so much as houses that are in total darkness in the evening, which are more of a give away of the absence of the residents.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ???

          What??? Have you never seen Home Alone?

      3. LDS Silver badge

        Re: ???

        The burglars can just check the level of your WiFi traffic to understand if anyone is at home. They just need a smartphone for that. Better you install also some software to simulate user traffic as well.

        Or they can just check your garbage. Or something alike.

        Moreover neighbors won't be alerted there's lights on in your house in the middle of the night when there should be no one....

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Devil

          Better you install also some software to simulate user traffic as well.

          Easy enough with IoT tat that phones home.

          Oh wait ...

    2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Idiocy of Turds

      So going to steal that going forward

    3. hoola Bronze badge

      Re: ???

      This is what is just insane about all the IoT and other automation/remote control. Ultimately it costs more that it ever saves. It is another piece of tat to go wrong, be hacked or stop working because of updates. Overall if you take all the end-to-end emissions in the manufacturing of the components and then all the IT infrastructure to run I would be very surprised there is a net reduction.

      There is no way that one of these things is going to last the 20+ years that a good old fashioned mechanical switch will.

      The only benefit is for the geek knob-jockeys or plain gullible to show off that they can control the light/heating/microwave or whatever from the sodding phone.

      The only winners are the people selling this tat in the first place.

    4. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Devil

      What was exact problem he was trying to solve?

      Him not earning lots of money with minimal effort, it seems.

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: ???

      well, "cool factor" often sells gadgets.

      but the gadgets have to IMPROVE things, at the very least being "same level of performance" plus whatever they add.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Raspberry PI rules OK

    The late lamented (unless you live in Reading) Clas Ohlson stores sell a nice range of cheap 433 MHz switches - add a Raspberry PI, 2 quids worth of radio transmitter/receiver and download a bit of code and jobs a good-un. The light switch works as manually without any internet cleverness, but internet cleverness can be added under your own control.

    433 Mhz is pretty insecure, but if you are only using it to turn a light switch on or off, do you care? And you can integrate with IFTTT and Alexa as you wish, albeit at the expense of a bit of googling/downloading/debugging.

  12. Blackjack

    My house is still dumb instead of smart...

    But who is laughing now?

  13. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Hardware isn't necessarily dead

      Or, he could have spent an hour or so with a screwdriver, re-installing the working boring old hardware that he swapped out for the new, shiny, exciting b0rken stuff. (You lot DO have a box/drawer that you keep miscellaneous "used but known good' parts in, right?)

      1. IGotOut

        Re: Hardware isn't necessarily dead

        Ahh the "Man Drawer".

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RgUpDGAIdds

      2. OssianScotland Silver badge

        Re: Hardware isn't necessarily dead

        No, not a drawer.... two large chests of drawers at the last count, plus the various stashes that really need to be organised and tidied....

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Hardware isn't necessarily dead

          two large chests of drawers at the last count,

          Piker.

          Two workshop carts, a five-shelf storage rack for the power tools, a large workman's carrying bag for the electricity tool stuff, and a few workbench drawers with bits and bobs like a glue gun, an air wrench and a riveter.

      3. katrinab Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Hardware isn't necessarily dead

        In 25 years of adulting, I have accumulated a *lot* more than one box/drawer of such stuff.

      4. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Hardware isn't necessarily dead

        "a"?

        I have bits in the shed, 3 boxed with computer cables, keyboards, and most configurations of usb cables and adapters. Anyone needs some 26" cheap bicycle wheels?

  14. Imhotep

    Crowd Funding - The Wisdim Of Crowds

    This seems to be a common theme: crowdfunding/selling kit in advance, multiple delays, poor product pushed out the door or no product ever delivered, communication goes unanswered, bankruptcy.

    As someone mentioned above, I might be interested if I was a hobbyist but in that case I'd go the do-it-yourself relay route - otherwise I don't see the benefit.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Crowd Funding - The Wisdim Of Crowds

      Also often a poorly executed version of a problem solved 20 years earlier!

  15. HellDeskJockey
    Big Brother

    And that is why

    I won't buy a device that requires a remote server I can't control to run. Also it is a good idea to wait 5 years before buying from a new company in the home automation business. Does anyone else remember the IBM X10 devices. I purchased a lot of them on discount.

  16. chivo243 Silver badge
    Coat

    Boy Genius out smarted by smart light switch?

    Seems the market takes a dimmer view of him now.

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Boy Genius out smarted by smart light switch?

      Yes - they had a light bulb moment

  17. Gudieve Ning
    Unhappy

    Pitty, was a great idea

    Am surprised they failed. Damned good idea. We have Philips Hue at home, and whilst the cool Philips wireless switch that magnetically attaches to the wall mount is useful, less techie people like our mum keep flicking the old mechanical switch, disrupting the space time (light) continuum.

    The Den switch solves that problem. Hope they get saved/acquired.

    1. IGotOut

      Re: Pitty, was a great idea

      I have a similar thing on the wall. You press one part, light comes on, press another, light goes off.

      100% reliable. Even works when the the WiFi and / or the internet connection is down.

      Except for those times when strangely all the lights in the street go off as well. That must be a firmware update of something. Usually sorts itself out after a while.

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Pitty, was a great idea

      10 years late, no better than existing products and depending of company servers? It was doomed.

  18. SVV Silver badge

    caused by a manufacturing defect that would stop the switch from clicking off

    "Have you tried turning it off and off again?"

    So here we have, really for real, a genuine version of the IOT jokes many of us have been making for several years about crappy IOT ideas getting big funding for app controlled toilets and light switches, and it follows on perfectly to the point where dedicated servers run by the company that are needed to make what are essentailly internet switched relays work go offline, resulting in a smart home that is essentailly uninhabitable until an electrician is called to remove it all.

    No surprise someone from Amstrad got suckered into being involved in all this. Or The Gadget Show, where over excited wannabe-on-tv types pretend to go wild about drone cameras, smart toasters and shoe ordering apps.

  19. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    "a modern-day retelling of the story of Icarus"

    Stop trying to transform basic IoT crap into a great idea that unfortunately failed.

    It was a bunch of lights. What the hell did they have to develop a proprietary protocol for, and why the hell did they have to tie that into a remote server ? Because they did what all the rest do : try to control everything.

    Kudos on having understood that they had no chance unless the product could be used on existing sockets, but the failure was inevitable since they tied their product to the survival of the server.

    You can invent all the manufacturing excuses you want, if they had started by making a lightbulb that didn't need a remote server to work, they might have made something actually useful and they might have survived.

    No pity here.

  20. David Pearce

    My home Internet connection has zero throughput glitches nearly every day for a few minutes, so there is is no way it is suitable for controlling lighting.

    I have never seen a home Internet contract with a SLA.

    1. whitepines Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Or, apparently, light switches with SLAs. If they did come with an SLA it'd be the typical Silly Con Valley type with all one way protections (to use the Home Lighting Service you need to give us all your data etc. etc.).

      As so many have said, no thanks. I wish there was wired stuff I could hook up to the central house server (pretty much all of us here have one of some sort, right?) and do neat stuff like local (non-cloudy) voice activated lights, but wouldn't have touched this overpriced, overly snoopy, overhyped tat with a barge pole thanks much!

  21. martinusher Silver badge

    Needed Engineering Input

    Any engineer would have told the boy wonder and his backers that engineering a product like this for mass production isn't particularly easy or cheap. Since there are a number of other devices out there that do the same job its quite likely that a lot of the engineering effort has already been done -- there's probably some custom or semi-custom IC design, power circuit and protection, certification, all sorts of development costs so as the thing's almost certainly going to be made in China anyway the most prudent course of action (especially with their paltry amount of venture capital) would be to shop around for a turnkey design and customize the firmware so that it speaks your protocol.

    The DiY protocol was a needless and pointless exercise, IMHO. Unfortunately product lock-in is Marketing's Holy Grail, its not a new phenomena. Pushback is difficult because they just see their spreadsheets, they don't see the hordes of skeptical customers and would-be customers who really would like some guarantee of reliability, continuity and interoperability.

    1. Mike 137 Bronze badge

      Re: Needed Engineering Input

      Thanks Martinusher.

      Any production engineer would have told them that this was a non-starter from day one. Not only is the market saturated with comparable devices, but those devices are generally products of large well-funded corporations that can afford both to develop and promote the product and to ride out any glitches and backlashes because they have existing revenue streams of serious backing. Four and a half million is in the words of Tsar Boris "peanuts". Those corporations also typically have the means (and usually the intent) to monetise the data stream, which is ultimately a lot more profitable than the sale of hardware.

      I have great sympathy for the founder of DEN, who clearly succumbed to the popular myth that anyone at all can climb to the summit of the hills that surround silicon valley. Those that have done so are in fact a tiny minority who have had exceptional luck. The majority of tech start-ups go to the wall, but success at crowd funding can instil an unjustified optimism as it's driven by subjective enthusiasm for ideas rather than economic or technological reality.

      1. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Needed Engineering Input

        I hope the guy learns from the failure and tries something new, nothing wrong with that.

        1. martinusher Silver badge

          Re: Needed Engineering Input

          Dyson is an an example of the exception proving the rule. Even then the actual path from idea to successful company wasn't particularly easy -- its one thing to identify a niche, a shortcoming in everyday products, but something else to develop it while defending it from others who notice what you're doing and are better placed to exploit it.

          (My guess for this switch is that the niche identified was that the switch had to work with the physical on'off switch (two way behvrior) with feedback being whether the power was being applied to the light or not. Most of thes IoT things are open loop -- they flip a relay on and off but don't bother to check whether the unit's powered or not.)

      2. jabuzz

        Re: Needed Engineering Input

        Den's unique selling point (at least as far as I could tell) was that if you switched a light on via the internet then the switch actually moved in the socket to reflect the status. Similar with the sockets. Noting that most other countries don't have switches on their sockets. Most "smart sockets" and light switches use push buttons for this. Another selling point of the Den was that the light switches didn't need a neutral wire at the light switch which most UK homes don't have (they have live, switched live and earth).

  22. hoofie

    I worked on Clipsal C-BUS Home Automation stuff years ago. Yes it's old and expensive and requires different wiring from a normal house.

    What is DOESN'T NEED THOUGH is a server on the internet to work. Each device is programmed individually to talk to each other.

  23. Pangasinan Philippines
    FAIL

    Many Lights make hands work

    Because the servers won't do it anymore

  24. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Good. Less Idiocy of Turds devices floating around. Makes the world a safer place.

  25. Roger B
    FAIL

    Great, so how many of these devices are going to end up in landfill?

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      so how many of these devices are going to end up in landfill?

      In this country - not many. Most will go for proper WEEE disposal during which anything useful/salvagable will get recovered..

      (Assuming that it gets taken to the dump of course - if someone just puts it in their general rubbish it may well end up in landfill)

  26. steviebuk Silver badge

    A good example...

    ... to use to explain why IoT stuff is bollocks. "Its just because you hate hipsters and their hipster ideas with no real thought for what could go wrong". Its not just that. Its this also:

    "After six uneventful months, things started to go sour. On 5 October, the company's servers were switched off without warning. This rendered all previously sold switches and sockets useless."

  27. Bob9911

    I have 10 items to flip switches and they were all free. The fact that they are permanently attached to the ends of my arms and can be used while I'm out and about is an extra benefit. I've never lost one, nor had to worry about connectivity...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ahha

      Bob99111 has just admitted that he carries his switch flippers on him when he leaves the house - dark alley, sharp loppers and we'll soon sort that out - at which point I totally own his switches, plus I get a new identity!

  28. Jim 15

    "the company's servers were switched off without warning."

    Presumably the servers were all powered up using the smart sockets and the sysop lent his phone to grandad to play Candy Crush.

  29. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    "the company's servers were switched off without warning. This rendered all previously sold switches and sockets useless."

    Are we learning yet?

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Apparently, no.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Apparently, no.

        But, but, shineeeeeeey!

        (I refer the honourable gentlebeing to P.T. Barnums' famous phrase)

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Slowly.

        Some first time rounders will have learned. Some will be on their second or third time round and will now have learned. Some will go round the loop again. And meanwhile some of us will just have seen all this stuff and worked it out for ourselves.

  30. Loatesy

    I'm sorry but I just don't understand . . . why would anyone want a 'smart' lightswitch? Or a smart wall socket?

    True bit here - a colleague of mine has got a smart central heating system that he can control from his android phone. Apparently its brilliant because if it's colder than expected he can get his phone to command the central heating to come on before he gets home so his house is, and I quote "nice and toasty warm".

    Now, all I've got at mine is a timer and a thermostat.

    . . . see where I'm going here?

    As far as mains power and light is concerned why would you need smart light? if you're not at home does it matter? If its to deter burglars buy a £5 lamp from Wilco's and a £5 timer-plug . . .Bobs yer uncle, bag o'mashins', jobs a good'un. Etc.

    Seriously what sort of shit will they come out with next? Electric toothbushes with bluetooth?

    (Oh . . . hang on . . .)

    1. jake Silver badge

      "Seriously what sort of shit will they come out with next?"

      Have you seen Bosch's line of blue-tooth equipped tools? You can turn on your worklight from your phone before entering the dark room! WOW!

      The best part is they are Professional. It says so right on them.

      The mind boggles ...

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Just why?

        About the only extra tech I'd like to see on a battery operated drill is something that warns me that it's going to need a recharge before it actually goes eeeeeaaaaaarrrruuuugh.

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Flame

      What I would like is something that looks at the weather forecast and turns on a couple of hours before it gets cold, rather than after the temperature turns to freezing.

      1. Rob Daglish

        Have you looked at Tado? It keeps an eye on the weather and incorporates that into how it uses my heating.

      2. Loatesy

        That's what a thermostat is for. If the temp goes below the thermostat setting the heating comes on. Irrespective of how cold it is outdoors.

    3. Mage Silver badge
      Coat

      Electric toothbushes with bluetooth?

      Yes.

      Someone programmed his so that if the doorbell rang, the caller would be given an estimate of how long to wait.

      It's a sort of fitbit for teeth, the theory being you need to brush after every meal, brush for at least x minutes, brush properly and it seems people need an app to explain this.

    4. Stork Silver badge

      I _can_ imagine situations where some functionality could be useful (older/disabled users for example), but personally it sounds like far too much hassle to set up compared to the benefit. I can't even find the series on the cable tv box, perhaps because of lack of interest...

    5. KBeee
      Joke

      It's so that just before reaching your front door you can get your phone out, unlock it, start an app, use the app to turn on your lights, switch off your phone and put it away saving you all the bother of flipping the light switch when you get indoors. Marvelous.

  31. AndyFl

    What on earth did they do with the money?

    It doesn't cost GBP4.5M to design and manufacture wireless light switches and the associated backend systems.

    Off the top of my head I would say a team of 5 competent people (1xelectronic, 1xmechanical, 2xsoftware, 1xmanglement) could do it in a year without too many long days. Manufacturing setup and tooling for the plastics would be less than GBP200K plus GBP50K for testing. Say about GBP 500K for the lot. I'm not including marketing or production costs because they would be covered by the actual orders. If they have a backlog of orders then they don't need to spend a lot on marketing etc.

    I'm sorry, but it sounds like they wasted the bulk of the money on things other than actually designing product.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What on earth did they do with the money?

      Hmm - sounds like you forgot a good number of essential items - there's the social media engineers and you have to pay 'influencers' - yacht hire doesn't come cheap. And who is going to keep the table tennis and table-footy tables clean? Then you need a receptionist or two, swanky offices in silicon roundabout, and a couple of retired politicos or civil servants to decorate your board room with. And why design product anyway? Doesn't look like they did. 30 seconds on Alibaba - and a 800% markup would deliver a smarter and more functional system.

  32. scasey

    What really nagged at me was...

    The fact that they returned the operating current to earth really bothered me (as we generally don't have a neutral in our light switches in the UK). They stated 2mA max per device. So, in an RCD protected domestic property, any more than 15 (and probably fewer, given other things that legitimately leak to earth - like rfi filtering) will trip the RCD.

    It's a difficult problem to solve, but their solution, while presumably making it through safety and compliance testing, really bothered me.

    Their USP, of actually moving the rocker, was absolutely ridiculous. By all means make a switch that looks just like a 'standard' switch. It doesn't need to move autonomously. Just make it send a state change. Who wonders 'is the light on in this room?' and then looks at the switch to find the answer?

    I'm not sympathetic to Den. It was a very poor solution. This could be because I'm an experienced (long in the tooth), critical thinking (jaundiced), hardware engineer. Or, it could be because it was a bad idea from the start.

    I love IoT stuff. I have put lots in my home. Except it's not IoT. It's NoT - Network of Things. And I control the network. No dependence on any server outside my home. Lots of simple relay switching, with 'normal' light switches and low voltage signalling on standard twin and earth, in case anyone decides to rip it all out and go back to the simple way in the future (or if I can't sell the house!) Mains LED dimming is annoying. I'm hoping to spend some long winter nights messing with MOSFETs to solve this. Maybe I should seek some crowdfunding...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What really nagged at me was...

      Yes - moving switches is way too gimmicky, especially if you are trying to do it without power. If you want 'normalish' operation my favoured option is a piezo powered push to signal switch. Push to turn on - push to turn off.

      1. scasey

        Re: What really nagged at me was...

        Yep - piezo powered stuff is excellent. I got hold of a few development kits from a company called Enocean well over ten years ago. Really stylish switches. Very low profile, and could be stuck to a wall with a double sided pad they supplied with it. Looked like normal switch! Range was excellent, and rock solid reliable. N-way switching no problem, either.

        I showed it to an electrician relative, and he said 'that's incredible. But I would never recommend, or fit, it'. I asked why - 'Because I make my money by lifting floorboards, chasing walls and running cables. If there's none of that involved, how can I earn money?' He was rather Luddite!

        I think MK bought Enocean. But, I haven't seen any products as a result. They may well exist - I haven't looked.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: What really nagged at me was...

      "Who wonders 'is the light on in this room?' and then looks at the switch to find the answer?"

      This is true. However, I have asked, "why is there no light in this room?" and looked at the switch to find out whether it is due to the light not being switched on, or due to some sort of component failure, usually the light bulb.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: What really nagged at me was...

        Look at the switch? Just flip it already, and if the light doesn't come on proceed to troubleshoot.

    3. Whitter

      Re: What really nagged at me was...

      "Who wonders 'is the light on in this room?' and then looks at the switch to find the answer?"

      Somebody who wants to change the light bulb and doesn't want a nasty surprise if it happens to be on.

      1. Stork Silver badge

        Re: What really nagged at me was...

        This is of course assuming it is not linked to corresponding switches. If you have doubts if it is live you can:

        - test with an electrician's crewdriver, or

        - be careful when changing the bulb, avoiding poking your finger in the socket. At least with the design we have here (E27?) that is perfectly realistic

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: What really nagged at me was...

          Bayonet sockets also have live pins at the bottom, so little difference in safety there.

          It used to be that the thread in an E27 was connected to one of the supply wires (so could be live if you lived in Schuko-land), but nowadays there's a contact lip deeper in the socket, and the thread on the bulb only touches that when you've screwed it in nearly all the way. So the thread in an empty socket is not connected to either wire, and with a bulb screwed far enough in that it touches the side contact its thread is fairly well covered by the socket already. Far enough so that it's hard to accidentally touch the thread unless you have very slim fingers.

    4. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: What really nagged at me was...

      They stated 2mA max per device. So, in an RCD protected domestic property, any more than 15 (and probably fewer, given other things that legitimately leak to earth - like rfi filtering) will trip the RCD.

      Typically somewhat less than 15. When testing, an RCD should not trip with half the nominal trip current, so potentially only 16mA to trip and it's "within spec". And just the cabling itself has a leakage current (through capacitance) which can make some LEDs lamps either glow or flash when switched off.

      Their USP, of actually moving the rocker, was absolutely ridiculous

      I disagree there. Most people are used to the idea of rocker switches, and making them adapt to suit the technology (eg having "on" and "off" pushbuttons) is one way to make them dislike it.

      I recently bought some wireless remote controlled switches, primarily because SWMBO can't reach to switch a couple of lights on/off on the lounge. The obvious and simple way would be to put some sockets in for lights with a multi-way switch - but that means making a mess of the decor and I'm not ready to start on another room yet. I also have a string of outdoor coloured lights which is plugged in in the greenhouse - and having to go up to the end of the garden to switch them on/off was "irritating", so I used one of the remote controls for those.

      I've been giving things a lot of thought, and I'm leaning towards DALI because it's a standard supported by lots of vendors, and allows multiple controllers. Thus, from what I've read so far, I can program a "light switch" to tell a specific light to turn on/off - whilst also allowing (e.g.) a computerised system to control the lights when I want it to. That way, it's not even reliant on my in-house "server" for the lights to work - but I can still have the sort of fancy effects that computer control can offer.

  33. Jerry h4x0r

    What exactly was the the value proposition here?

    "remotely switch off your socket so your idle phone charger wont consume!" "how?" "by installing a smart socket that actually consumes substantially more!"

  34. Stuart Castle

    I think this device sounds like it was badly implemented from the start. Why does a light switch require internet access? I can see that it offers the chance to ask the user to pay a subscription, which is an advantage for the supplier, but beyond offering an easy way to switch the light(s) on and off while outside the house, what advantage is there for the user? I'm not against them providing remote access via a cloud system at all, just make it optional, as Philips have done with the Hue system. Also, allow the switches to talk to existing protocols, such as Zigbee (Philips also does this), so if your customers are happy to host their own server that controls the lights via an app or website, let them.

    Ignoring the possibility of hackers, the main problem with systems such as this is that they rely on external servers. Servers that can be switched off for a variety of reasons. In this case, they have been switched off due to the financial troubles of the company running them, but even healthy companies switch off services with little or no warning, which they may see as unprofitable. Google is particularly prone to this, often switching off servers seemingly on a whim.

    I have Hue bulbs. I like them. I hope that, in the event the Philips stops supporting Hue for whatever reason, I can continue using them (maybe by hosting my own Zigbee system), but even if I can't, replacing them with another product that does the same thing is just a case of buying it and plugging it in. With a light switch, I'd also have to wire it in, which may require an electrician (I am perfectly competent to wire stuff up, even to the point of replacing switches and sockets, but am unsure if I need it certified).

  35. tip pc Bronze badge

    Lightwave RF and Homekit

    just purchased £600 of lightwave kit for xmas.

    main reason for purchasing is that it works with homekit & appears to all work offline & independently of homekit too.

    Lightwave have been about for years too and their latest kit uses zigbee so hopefully could be inter operable with other vendors kit.

  36. algol60forever

    Useful home automation

    Following a burglary (200 others taken into consideration when they caught him) we had an alarm fitted. You pay £25/month for not a lot that eventually failed - 'it must have been a moth, sir'. Threw them out but kept the dummy wall box. I got a Homewizard (now bought by Smartwares) and added a door switch, PIR, a smoke alarm and a couple of plug switches. The app also allowed third party devices like cameras to be integrated. You can program the system to take daylight hours into account and set the system to 'holiday' when you're out. It paid for itself in about 12 months. The app has seen a few updates and the SMS messaging works fine and I use Tasker on the mobile to monitor email and SMS for high-priority messages. I definitely would repeat the process if the company failed and I certainly wouldn't recommend a standard alarm service.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: I certainly wouldn't recommend a standard alarm service

      Unfortunately, insurance companies may stipulate "special conditions" in some situations which preclude home-brew solutions. Many people choose to ignore these conditions, but make a claim and find out the hard way that these are not covered. Try changing insurers and they all ask "has any insurer stipulated special conditions as a condition of insurance?"

  37. skuba*steve

    "Channel 5's cult Gadget Show programme"

    For this, and this alone, you deserve a trip to Coventry.

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