Solution Providers: Nest Outage Shows The Challenges Of Internet Of Things In Smart Homes

Solution providers say that the widespread outages Google Nest users experienced this week highlight the challenges of the Internet of Things, particularly in connected home environments.

Smart home device Nest’s apps ran into issues when it lost control of the connected thermostats and smoke detectors, causing these products to appear offline within the app and leaving them out of owners’ remote control.

Nest said the outage resulted in a ’small percentage’ of Nest Thermostats and Nest Protects appearing offline: ’While these devices cannot be controlled through the Nest app at this time, they are online and continue to function, including working to set schedules, allowing for manual adjustments and alerting people to smoke and CO events.’

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Nest Wednesday said it had fixed the issue, but solution providers say that the incident is an important reminder of some of the challenges consumers face with the Internet of Things, particularly in smart homes.

’Nest has a mixed track record in maintaining their capabilities,’ said Michael Oh, chief technology officer and founder of TSP, a Boston-based solution provider that specializes in home automation. ’From what I can tell, the thermostats were still operational locally, but there have been incidents in the past where thermostats were bricked. I think it’s a good demonstration of the key elements of IoT needing to be functional if it's connected.’

Tim Lynch, CEO of Psychsoft, a Quincy, Mass.-based solution provider that is looking at the Internet of Things from a home automation and artificial intelligence perspective, said that connected home products will lead to more disruption for consumers.

’Power outages are a challenge, and they’re a challenge for everything,’ he said. ’But for smart homes, the more we become accustomed to and dependent on smart homes, the more challenging it will become when we have power outages and we can’t rely on IoT anymore.’

In smart homes, the consumer IoT applications that are fueling growth are smart TVs, smart set-top boxes, smart bulbs and various home automation tools such as smart thermostats, home security systems and kitchen appliances.

Research firm Gartner predicts that smart homes will explode from 339 million in 2016 to more than 1 billion in 2018.

Oh’s company works with vendors like Savant and Lutron to build and implement home automation designs. Oh said that the home automation segment was an area of growth for his company, and is set to grow to around 30 percent of TSP’s business in 2017.

TSP's Oh said solution providers can play a vital role in home automation by designing buildings, connecting devices and deploying security services -- but also ’running through the list of potential failures’ and how they can provide IT support in these roles.

’Vendors will say that their IoT products are amazing, but if you believe that too much you end up setting your home up for failure,’ he said. ’Connected homes can experience Wi-Fi problems or lose internet connectivity. That’s the nature of technology, and that’s where solution providers can provide support.’