Functionality Problems with Smart/IOT Devices

Our smart devices have lots of problems, including security and privacy, but I ran into an annoying one today, and a similar one has been in the news: functionality can be removed from these devices by the manufacturer and there’s nothing we can do about it. The case that’s been in the news is Apple slowing down older iPhones without telling anyone. Personally, I’d prefer to have a slightly slower, reliable iPhone than a speedy one that resets itself if a particularly taxing game is playing (and, let’s face it, it’s really only games that would do that, I’d guess).

The issue I ran into today is with my Withings (now Nokia) Smart Body Analyzer (essentially a smart scale with lots of nice features). They’re removing one of the features with the excuse that it may require additional regulation, because it is a health-related feature. Of course, that feature is one of the reasons I bought the scale, because I thought it would be neat to know. Well, it’ll be gone in the next day or so.

As compensation, Nokia has offered $30 towards their store. Well, that’s pretty useless to me, because I’m not buying anything more from them in the foreseeable future. I wonder if there will be a class action suit against them like there was for Sony when they took away the Other OS option from the Playstation 3? That did affect me, because I used Linux on the PS3 for Cell programming, but I felt I got my money’s worth, so I didn’t participate in the compensation for that. I don’t feel the same way about my scale – they took away functionality that I was using and enjoying, so I don’t think $30 towards more of their stuff is adequate compensation.

So this is a problem – what can we do about it? Since the manufacturers already have our money, we can’t do much. If we bought such a device at Costco, which has unlimited warranty for most things, perhaps taking it back would be the right answer, as that would directly hurt the manufacturer.

As much as I hate to suggest a government fix for it, perhaps laws and regulations need to be put into place to prevent or compensate for functionality removal from devices, particularly when there’s no choice (the smart scale will update itself and there’s nothing I can do about it). The problem could become more and more widespread, and I’m particularly concerned about connected automobiles. What happens when they pull your favorite feature from the infotainment system? Or reduce the top speed and acceleration to save gas? Since they already have our money, we have little leverage. I don’t claim to have the answers, but we have a problem that will continue to get worse.

Comments are closed.