Revolv owners furious as Google shuts down smart home company

Google owner Alphabet’s subsidiary Nest is closing a smart-home company it bought less than two years ago, leaving customers’ devices useless as of May.

In 2014, Google acquired Revolv, the maker of a £210 hub which could be used to control devices such as lights, alarms and doors.

The company was merged in with the wider team at Nest, Google’s smart home subsidiary, and it immediately stopped selling its flagship device.

Nest implied that the acquisition was focused on bringing the Revolv team into the company, rather than acquiring the product or users, with the company’s co-founder, Matt Rogers, telling Re/Code at the time that: “We are not fans of yet another hub that people should have to worry about. It’s a great team, an unbelievable team. There’s a certain amount of expertise in home wireless communications that doesn’t exist outside of these 10 people in the world.”

The company’s technology was integrated into Nest’s own smart-home platform, Works with Nest. Even so, few expected the announcement that the smart hubs that they had bought would be entirely disabled less than two years later.

In a post on its website, Revolv’s co-founders wrote: “We’re pouring all our energy into Works with Nest and are incredibly excited about what we’re making. Unfortunately, that means we can’t allocate resources to Revolv anymore and we have to shut down the service. As of 15 May 2016, your Revolv hub and app will no longer work.”

Customers are left understandably annoyed at the choice. Arlo Gilbert, one Revolv owner, wrote an angry post on Medium directed at Nest boss Tony Fadell: “When software and hardware are intertwined, does a warranty mean you stop supporting the hardware or does it mean that the manufacturer can intentionally disable it without consequence? Tony Fadell seems to believe the latter. Tony believes he has the right to reach into your home and pull the plug on your Nest products.”

Business Insider, which first reported the shutdown, was told by Nest that “Revolv was a great first step toward the connected home, but we believe that Works with Nest is a better solution and are allocating resources toward that program”. The company declined to share how many customers would be left with bricked devices as a result of the shutdown.

Even if the numbers are small, as was reported when Revolv was acquired in 2014, the move could still backfire for Nest. The company, which is now owned by Google parent company Alphabet, is already facing internal strife, according to a damning report from tech news site The Information. An acquisition of home-monitoring startup Dropcam led to an exodus of the acquired company’s staffers, the site reported, and Nest itself is running up against the edges of its budget, losing money annually with little ability to cut outgoings.

Against that background, losing customer trust could be a damaging move, Gilbert said. “I’m genuinely worried though. This move by Google opens up an entire host of concerns about other Google hardware. Which hardware will Google choose to intentionally brick next? … Is your Nexus device safe? What about your Nest fire/smoke alarm? What about your Dropcam? What about your Chromecast device? Will Google/Nest endanger your family at some point?”

Nest declined to comment beyond its initial statement.

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