The message that Revolv, the Nest-owned makers of a smart-home hub, would soon be inoperable had implications far beyond the early adopters to whom it was directed:
"As of May 15, 2016, your Revolv hub and app will no longer work. Thank you for your support and believing in us. We're sad for the end of Revolv, but this isn't the end of the connected home. This is the beginning."
Sniff, sniff. But wait--Where's the apology? If I'm one of the reportedly 1,200 poor souls still living in a Revolv-connected home, don't I at least deserve a simple "sorry, mate"? Yet Revolv's full message is all about them: "We worked hard... We're pouring our energy... We're excited." Well, good for "we." Apparently "we" haven't heard that any good business puts the customer first. Lesson One: Don't hurl a brick at them.
One thing the Revolv message did get right was that this is the beginning of the connected-home era. The scene at this year's Consumer Electronics Show made it clear that "The Internet of Things," as smart-home technology is often called, had entered The Internet of Sh*tty Things stage. At booth after booth, vendors daydreamed of their next venture-capital funding round while demonstrating apps for keeping homes smelling fresh, communicating with their crockpots and other nonsense. They might as well put their energies into creating pet rocks for the smart home or mood rings for its inhabitants.
The great Silicon Valley Gold Rush for VC funds may be showing signs of slowing, but most tech entrepreneurs are still chasing the big, fast bucks. They're doing it by selling concepts--gimmicks--instead of products, and most of the people they're selling them to are investors who care only about a quick return. If something's a flash in the pan, the VCs are happy as long as they get the flash--to hell with the pan. But most consumers still want that pan they paid for, and they want it to last. No wonder they haven't been beating down the doors of the smart home--they've got more smarts than the whiz-kids and VCs combined.
Our company makes products that use connected-home technology, but we're a manufacturer first and foremost. We sell products and service to people, not far-fetched concepts to investors. Our goal is to make all our products as energy efficient, effective, durable--and intelligent--as possible. Connectivity is now a selling point, but it's not the selling point. It helps us reach a goal, but it's not the goal.
And like any good customer-oriented company, we're not going to hang our customers out to dry or brick them. We constantly improve our products, but we still service the very first fans we sold more than 15 years ago. We'll never send out messages about incompatibility or products no longer functioning, because we know customers couldn't care less that we're pouring all our energy into our new fans if it's the old fans they own.
The great promise of an Internet of Things will only be realized when businesses focus on the usefulness and quality of the Things themselves and on connecting to the people who buy them. Some years ago there was a best-seller titled "A Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?" Well, we need purpose-driven products that are here to make our lives better, not just more cluttered with apps.