Nest Thermostats Crash, Causes Consumers to Second Guess IoT

If this year's Consumer Electronics Show was any indication of what's to come in the next 12 months -- and it usually is -- then the world is entering the age of the Internet of Things. From smartwatches to smartsuits to smarthomes, every device will soon not only connect to the Internet, but will integrate with each other, creating a massive network on which every consumer relies.

"There will 6.4 billion IoT devices in use in 2016."

In 2016, Gartner researchers forecast that between corporations and end users, there will 6.4 billion IoT devices in use. Better yet, every day, 5.5 million new "things" will connect to each other and the Internet. Jim Tully, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, explained that consumer brands are tapping into this IoT market, offering a variety of new services and apps that are accessible via IoT-connected technologies.

But with more reliance on the IoT, one question comes to mind: What happens when IoT devices crash? Well, many consumers experienced this dilemma first-hand in the first weeks of January.

Is it cold in here?
The New York Times contributor Nick Bilton reported on a software bug in Google's Nest that left some users without heat in the middle of the night. As the story goes, the issue caused Nest Learning Thermostats around the country to die after their batteries ran dry. As a result, temperatures changed erratically. Those on the East Coast froze, while consumers in warmer climates had their homes turned into hotboxes. While the problem causing the thermostats to crash has been remediated, many are furious.

"The Nest Learning Thermostat is dead to me, literally," Bilton wrote in his article.

As a parent with a baby, Bilton was particularly upset, since this IoT bug could seriously injure someone. He woke up as the temperature in his home dropped from 70 degrees to 64 degrees, but imagine if Bilton didn't. What about someone who might be out the country or monitoring the elderly?

So, of course, social media as well as Nest's forum blew up with activity. One user was afraid his home would be damaged by the issue.

The Stack reported that Nest provided its customers with a nine-step plan for restarting these devices and fixing the problem, but only after it took almost half of a month to find what the problem actually was. According to Bilton, Matt Rogers, the co-founder and vice president for engineering at Nest, explained that a December software update has an unidentified bug in it, and two weeks after releasing that new version of the software, the thermostats kicked the bucket.

So many crash scenarios, and they all end poorly for brands
This is a perfect case for the importance of testing all kinds of software, whether it's mobile app testing or testing for IoT services. And with the IoT's arrival on the world's doorstep, it's time for brands to recognize how serious a glitch can be when individuals rely on their smart devices to keep them healthy, warm and safe.

After all, this wasn't the first IoT glitch that caused users some serious headaches. There have been stories of individuals being locked out of their homes and vehicles, as well as home surveillance and video systems not working. FitBit users with medical conditions experienced a bug that caused those fitness trackers to inaccurately report heart rates, Bilton noted.

It's another reminder for brands to always be improving software testing, or their customers could suffer a similar fate as Nest's.

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About the Author

Shane is Perfecto's Content Marketing Manager. He oversees the company's content production, including the corporate blog, white papers, podcasts and infographics. Shane brought with him to Perfecto 12 years of technology journalism experience in roles such as Managing Editor for InformationWeek and Assistant Managing Editor and Senior Writer at CIO.com where his writing garnered an ASBPE Award for his blog, "Eye on Microsoft" and a min Editorial & Design Award. You can find Shane obsessing over mobile technology, sports and pop culture on Twitter @smoneill.

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