Smart IoT Devices Can Become Dumber at the Flick of a Switch

Homes become smarter with each new IoT (Internet of Things) device integrated into the network, but they can also become dumber when the companies that built them decide to pull the plug.

While one of the biggest issues with IoT devices today is security, people also need to take into consideration another important aspect. Companies that build smart devices can go out of business, sell their IoT division, or decommission them if they decide they’re no longer profitable. Whatever the reason, when a hardware maker pulls the plug, devices lose most of their smart functions.

Devices that go dumb overnight are usually categorized as abandonware. The term is mostly used for software, but with the exponential growth of IoT, some get abandoned by their makers after they fail to make money.

The most recent example of devices becoming abandonware comes from Under Armor, which decided to stop supporting its line of smart devices, including a smart scale, a heart rate chest strap, and a fitness tracker. Corresponding apps were removed from their software marketplaces, and the company announced that support would stop entirely in March.

However, Under Armor did say some of its devices’ smart functions would be ported to another app, MyFitnessPal, but support is still set to end soon either way.

Another example is the Insignia line of IoT devices from Best Buy. The company decided in 2019 to stop the back end systems for some of those devices, making some features unavailable. When a smart fridge loses its ”smart” features, it’s still a fridge. But what about an IP security camera that no longer receives security updates or becomes abandonware?

Lastly, let’s not forget about Sonos and its recent announcement regarding Zone Players, Connect, and Connect:Amp (launched in 2006; includes versions sold until 2015), first-generation Play:5 (launched 2009), CR200 (launched 2009), and Bridge (launched 2007). All of these will no longer receive software updates and new features. Without these patches, the access to more than 100 streaming services, voice assistants, and control options such as Apple AirPlay 2 will slowly disappear. People will be left with glorified and formerly expensive speakers.

There are sufficient examples of other devices that become ordinary and, more importantly, vulnerable. For instance, older routers are a common example, when discontinued products don’t receive updates when new vulnerabilities are discovered.

For now, people can’t do much about this trend, which is expected to pick up steam as more smart devices hit the market. At least, people should be aware of all smart devices on their networks and of their end-of-life policies. They might not stay smart forever.

One comment

  • By Jeff - Reply

    I bought a scale from Nokia. It advertised PWV (pulse wave velocity) as a selling point and charged extra for the feature. They found out they they didn’t have the proper clearances from the government a year or two later. They disabled the feature over the air only offering a small discount off future items. They were unhelpful when I tried to contact them.

    If I come into your home at take something without permission that is stealing and is a crime. How is removing a feature I paid for any less criminal? They didn’t get the needed approvals. That’s their fault not mine. They should do what they need to to make it work or refund my purchase price.

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