A danger of a fragmented IoT industry: Long-Term Support

20-07-2022 |   |  By Robin Mitchell

Hive is famous for its range of IoT devices, but it has recently announced that it will no longer support its own security devices. What challenges does IoT fragmentation present, what has Hive announced, and how does this demonstrate the dangers of lacking long-term support?


What challenges does IoT fragmentation present?


With the number of global IoT devices well exceeding 20 billion, it is clear that the industry continues to grow in popularity. The ability to connect devices to the internet allows for remote operation and cooperation with other devices. If IoT and AI technologies continue to develop, it won’t be long before the first genuine Smart Homes emerge, whereby devices in a home are intelligently controlled by an AI butler that can anticipate the needs of occupants, save energy, and improve overall efficiency.

But while IoT technologies have brought many advantages, they still suffer from a multitude of issues. One of these is the lack of security measures in earlier devices; the first generation of IoT devices came out during a time when the idea of IoT devices being vulnerable hadn’t been conceived. Many engineers at this time believed that individual IoT devices would present themselves as uninteresting to hackers who would instead put their energy into attacking servers and mainstream PCs. 

However, hackers quickly caught onto the idea of using IoT devices as zombie devices able to perform large-scale Denial of Service attacks. Hackers also noticed that hacking an IoT device also gains entry into a local network which can be used to launch attacks, and also recognised that IoT devices could be used for spying.

Another issue that IoT devices suffer from is fragmentation. Simply put, IoT devices from one manufacturer will unlikely be able to work with devices from another manufacturer. As such, trying to create a smart home using multiple manufacturers is virtually impossible. The lack of a unified communication protocol that all IoT devices can understand also means that no one software solution exists to control all IoT devices. 


Hive to drop security range of IoT products


Hive is a company that is famous for its range of IoT products aimed at the home with some examples, including smart sockets, lights, sensors, and controls. Additionally, Hive also focuses on bringing a multitude of IoT software platforms together so that users can choose their own software solutions when creating an internet-connected home with supported platforms, including Alexa, IFTTT, Google Assistant, and Phillips Hue.

However, Hive recently announced that it has decided to leave the security market that includes cameras, HomeShield, and Leak detectors. According to Hive, their range of leak sensors will stop operating after September 2023, and all cameras and other security products will stop functioning after August 2025. Furthermore, the sound detection feature found in the Hive Hub 360 will no longer be supported after 2022.

Hive, which is also a part of British Gas and UK Gas, has supposedly decided to leave the security market to focus on devices that can help improve energy efficiency in homes. By tackling energy efficiency, Hive hopes to be able to help homeowners cope with rising energy costs while also helping to achieve Net Zero goals concerning climate change.


How does Hive’s decision demonstrate the dangers of long-term support?


The IoT industry faces numerous challenges, but what Hive has demonstrated here is a real cause for concern; long-term support. As Hive products rely on Hive infrastructure, they will only continue to operate so long as Hive decides to support them. When Hive loses interest in a product range, it is worryingly easy for the company to message connected devices to cease functioning. 

There is nothing wrong with a manufacturer deciding to shut down a product line, as this happens all the time, but also bricking pre-existing devices not only has an economic impact on customers who have invested in Hive products but also contributes to e-waste. As such, it is unusual for Hive to be touting climate change and net-zero when the very act of bricking millions of devices would see an additional amount of CO2 generated from recycling inactive Hive products and then being replaced with others. 

Overall, consumers should be cautious about purchasing IoT devices from any company requiring their devices to be exclusively tied to their infrastructure. In the case of Hive, what’s to say that they don’t decide to cancel another product line in the future? What about their yet-to-be-released energy-saving products? Maybe another world disaster comes up that’s more important than climate change? If Hive wants to do the moral thing for its customers, it should push a firmware update that allows all devices to operate with custom solutions or provide the source code to other IoT developers so they can use the devices with other solutions.


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By Robin Mitchell

Robin Mitchell is an electronic engineer who has been involved in electronics since the age of 13. After completing a BEng at the University of Warwick, Robin moved into the field of online content creation developing articles, news pieces, and projects aimed at professionals and makers alike. Currently, Robin runs a small electronics business, MitchElectronics, which produces educational kits and resources.

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