As an end-user, how do you ensure that the maker continues to provide timely updates?
If you are an Android user, you know how long it takes for the latest Android updates to make their way on your device. As a phone maker, it’s a lot of effort to incorporate, test and roll-out the upgrades. And on top of that deal with the support requests of users for which the upgrade affected and broke parts of their work flow. And this is a state of affairs for devices that cost you, the end user, upwards of 300/400$.
Now consider you are an end-user for the smart home. You have multiple appliances/devices in your house that are all smart. So what happens for these devices like plugs, bulbs, locks and such which are priced at sub-100 or sub-50 $ price point. If user’s don’t quickly get upgrades for their high-end smart phones, why would they for their IoT devices? Granted the software complexity for IoT devices is much lesser as compared to Android phones, but so are the margins that the makers made.
One reason for necessitating the upgrade is of course security. Newer attack vectors/vulnerabilities continue to get invented and fixes for these should be upgraded across all the deployed devices.
Another reason is maturity/enhancements. With smart devices, it seems people are settling into the expectation that the device continues to improve over a period of time (Tesla upgrades car to park itself), since the device keeps getting Over-The-Air upgrades.
What is in it for a maker to continue to provide these upgrades?
Will the makers be motivated to ship faster upgrades to retain their reputation? But this hasn’t been motivation enough for Android phone makers to release faster upgrades. Even the largest of Android brands update too slow.
The makers have to spend a lot of money/effort in maintaining, testing and getting the upgrade out. With time, this cost will come down, but until then this will be a big exercise.
The ecosystem owners (Google in case of Weave, Apple in case of HomeKit) do have a strong influence on the makers participating in their ecosystem. Particularly because most ecosystems have been driven by a strong focus towards the end-user: simplicity and security. This is a great mechanism to ensure the devices are maintained well. So a big tick-mark for products supporting ecosystems. But considering there are going to be hundreds and hundreds of makers building devices for these ecosystems, how much vigil can the ecosystems keep?
Device As A Service?
What if the end-user doesn’t pay the price full of the product up-front? What if only part of it is paid up-front, and then the rest you pay over a period of time. Essentially, you purchase a service rather than a device. The maker is incentivized to fix issues or you could stop payment. It sounds interesting.
But a smart home could have multiple devices from various vendors. Keeping track of all our recurring payments across all these will be a task and a half. If there is a program that covers devices from multiple vendors and offers these devices as a service, that would be a simplified interface for the end users. It looks a bit convoluted, but could work out well for the end-user.
Any other options that solve this problem effectively?