Given the number of moving parts, there are a lot of links in the chain between the mobile app and the smart device like a lightbulb that can go wrong. How strong are those links?
- Internet. As the backbone of connectivity between the app and the device, if there is no internet connectivity, there is no control. This can fail for a number of reasons - your ISP has an issue, an internet outage, a broken WiFi router, a mis-configured firewall, a DDoS attack, and more.
- Device Firmware. Things are now smarter because they now have their own little operating systems. A lightbulb may not run Windows 10 (yet!), but they do run a really small set of instructions called firmware. If that firmware, for whatever reason, gets out of sync with, say, the hub, it may stop working altogether.
- Mobile Device. How’s your battery life? Do you keep your phone updated? If the mobile device runs out of juice it may be difficult to control the devices. If the app gets out of date, it may not correctly control the device either.
- Hub management. One of the biggest complaints is keeping the hub synchronized with the cloud. A lot of times the so-called “state” of a device may not be accurate - so while you are trying to turn on a light bulb that is off, the hub may think that it is already on, and may ignore your request.
One of the most embarrassing growing pains stories to date was the Quirky hub recall. A number of users one day awoke to find that their hubs no longer talked to the Wink application or cloud. At all. They had essentially been “bricked” (become irrecoverably inoperative), requiring the owners to actually unplug and send the hubs physically back to Quirky for repair. While they did eventually release an in-home DIY fix for customers, it was an eye-opening event for the industry in terms of reliability and fragility of the solutions. (As an aside, Quirky filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter).