Soon it will be time to say “goodbye” to my family’s VueZone video cameras. Over the past three years, we have made quite an investment in NetGear’s VueZone technology: two hubs, eight regular and night-vision cameras, and even weatherproof outdoor housings. Soon: Poof. Toodles. It was fun, now it’s done.
We initially purchased one NetGear VueZone Home Video Monitoring System in August 2013 for $218.48 (including tax), plus additional cameras and housings along the way. A few months later, we bought a second system for another piece of property. In addition, we paid NetGear an annual fee for motion detection and to store video clips in the cloud whenever activity was detected.
All that VueZone equipment is headed for the dustbin of IoT history. There is nothing wrong with the access points or cameras. There is nothing wrong with the cloud-based service VueZone relies upon—except that it is no longer cost-effective for NetGear to offer the service.
Consider this a Harbinger of Things to come for all Internet of Things devices when the proprietary, vendor-locked cloud-based services are turned off—for whatever reason.
At least you can choose to keep using a smartphone, tablet or laptop if the manufacturer stops doing software updates. (Can we say “Windows XP”?) However, Samsung’s SmartThings service, Google’s Nest thermostats, Fitbit’s activity trackers and many other IoT investments could simply stop working or lose significant functionality if the service provider shuts down the back-end cloud services.
At other times, technologies stop working due to factors beyond the service provider’s control. Until recently, my family owned a 2000 M-class Mercedes SUV that included mbrace, the company’s cellular telematics system with the ability to call for help in an emergency, such as an accident or airbag deployment. It is similar to the better-known OnStar from General Motors. That particular version of mbrace relied upon an analog radio data modem using the AMPS wireless protocols and frequencies. When the AMPS networks shut down in the United States in 2008, so did the ML430’s mbrace service, through no fault of Mercedes-Benz.
You won’t mind if we focus on the new things
What happened with VueZone was not a network or protocol issue, but rather a simple business decision by NetGear. On July 1, we received an email saying that in about 18 months, we will own eight camera-shaped paperweights:
Dear Valued Customer,
This letter serves as formal notification that NETGEAR, Inc. will be discontinuing the VueZone Services on December 31, 2017. We will continue to support the VueZone Services until this date in order to allow for future planning by our VueZone customers.
After December 31, 2017, the following will apply:
- All VueZone hardware products including base station and camera will cease to communicate with the VueZone back end
- Any videos and photos you have saved in the VueZone cloud will not be retrievable
- Access to the VueZone web application (my.vuezone.com) and to the VueZone mobile applications will be unavailable to all customers
- VueZone service plans will no longer be supported and no service plan fees will be charged after this date
- NETGEAR Customer Support will no longer provide technical support for VueZone products
Ain’t that just grand? The reason is that NetGear wishes to focus on other home security systems. That's good for the company perhaps, but bad for those loyal customers:
We know this may come as disappointing news to our VueZone users, but discontinuing VueZone and allocating VueZone resources to our Arlo Smart Home Security System is consistent with NETGEAR's practice of providing cutting-edge networking products that connect people, power businesses, and advance the way we live. NETGEAR appreciates and values our customers, and we are eager to supply your future product requirements with our world-class quality product lines.
Sorry, NetGear, we are not feeling particularly appreciated or valued: Nowhere in this messaging is any offer of accommodation, or even the promise of an opportunity to trade in the VueZone equipment towards that newer Arlo technology. Perhaps such an offer will come closer to the shutdown deadline. Perhaps not.
This is the first time our family faces a complete loss of a significant investment in IoT cloud-based technology. It certainly won’t be the last, as companies will upgrade their product lines, shut down business units or even go bankrupt. It's a cautionary tale for every consumer and enterprise reliant upon a proprietary cloud service to make their Internet of Things work.
Update from the author:
NetGear blinked! On July 19, the company rescinded its decision to shutdown the VueZone service at the end of 2017. In an email to customers, NetGear wrote:
Since the announcement, we have received overwhelming feedback from our VueZone customers expressing a desire for continued services and support for the VueZone camera system. We have heard your passionate response and have decided to extend service for the VueZone product line. Although NETGEAR no longer manufactures or sells VueZone hardware, NETGEAR will continue to support existing VueZone customers beyond January 1, 2018.
While NetGear’s decision is a welcome one, let’s not party too heartily. The danger posed by proprietary cloud services enabling IoT devices remains. When the vendor decides to turn the service off, all you have is recycle-ware.
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