The home automation and Internet of Things markets are heating up and many established manufacturers are trying to get an "in" by adding HA/IoT functionality to their products.
Back in November, 2012, I reviewed the Hunter Fan Company's Universal Internet Thermostat and, as I pointed out at the time:
... even with its leaden physical design and poor communications architecture, the Universal Internet Thermostat could have been a fairly good product, but here we have a product that was apparently developed by blinkered engineers who don't grok the 'Net.
The central issue I had against Hunter's product was that it was isolated from any and all other connectivity and integration so it's value was severely limited. It would seem that consumers agreed with me because in July last year Hunter began an buy-back campaign and took the product off the market.
With examples such as this you'd think that other companies with similar market ambitions would wise up but apparently this is not the case.
I recently tested the MyQ Garage ($129.99) from Chamberlain, purveyors of fine garage door gear, which works with your garage door opener and not only opens and closes your door from anywhere using a smartphone app but also notifies you when the door's state changes.
The MyQ setup involves installing a sensor on the door that detects whether the door is open or closed and transmits that data to the MyQ WiFi Hub. The Hub itself is a small box that mounts on the ceiling next to the door's controller and using Chamberlain's free iOS or Android app on your smartphone or iPod you configure it to use your WiFi network.
You then pair the Hub with your garage door opener (a large number of other manufacturer's openers are supported along with all of Chamberlain's products). I had a lot of trouble getting this step to work and the solution was to rotate the hub 180 degrees which apparently unblocked radio communication between the opener and the Hub. I'm told a firmware update will fix this but I'm surprised that a glaringly obvious problem like this got past QA.
Once everything is connected and configured it all works as expected: With the app or on Chamberlain's mychamberlain.com you can be notified when the door is opened or closed, open or close it, and see how long ago the door changed status. The MyQ also makes very loud warning beeps before opening or closing the door.
That's it and that's the problem: It's a closed system. You wind up with yet another app you have to be running to have control a piece of your house and you can't integrate the MyQ system with any other home automation systems although an HA system that can parse emailed alert messages (which MyQ can generate as well as push notifications) could understand the status of the door and generate alerts or do whatever you please (except open or close the door).
But there's another problem and this is one that I think is almost as bad as the last ... it's also one that many other HA/IoT products suffer from: The system is useless if your Internet access goes down because all communication between the app and the MyQ installation has to go via mychamberlain.com. Sure, we'd all like to think that the Internet is an "always on" service but that's simply not reality, plus any network issues between the MyQ Garage and mychamberlain.com can cause a long delay between you issuing a command and the door doing what you want.
It would be so easy for Chamberlain to make this product what it should be but we'll see if they do. I'll give the Chamberlain MyQ Garage a rating of 2 out of 5.