Home Automation

Reasons to not use cloud-based automation products

By April 20, 2022July 14th, 2022No Comments

Introduction.

On this blog / my house, I try to use 100% local control products whenever possible. Many people don’t understand the reasoning behind this…. So, I am dedicating this page to reasons as to why you should ONLY buy products which are 100% local control only, with no cloud dependency, and no proprietary hub.

This is intended to be a “living” post which will be updated as I add more items. If you have an item I missed, please comment below and I will add it in.

Major product changes / Discontinued Support / etc.

First up, is a list of major services which have either been discontinued, or have had major functionality forcibly removed. Many of these products were from well established companies. These were not just defunct products… These were products actively being advertised and sold…. which had most of all of its functionality completely removed without notice.

2019

August

Google/Nest – Works with nest discontinued

https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/16/18627719/google-works-with-nest-shutdown-clarification-statement-update

https://nest.com/whats-happening/

https://9to5google.com/2021/11/01/nest-app-transition-comment/

November

Best Buy Insignia Services discontinued

https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/best-buy-shuts-down-insignia-line-smart-home-products/

2020

April

Belkin Wemo

https://www.forbes.com/sites/charlesradclyffe/2020/04/29/belkin-may-never-be-trusted-again-after-this-story/?sh=6e6108ad5795

Petnet shuts down with no notice

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2020/04/after-prolonged-service-outage-petnet-shuts-down-citing-coronavirus/

It would appear for those users with a petnet pet feeder….. the company up and shuts its doors with little to no notice or warning….

Just uh, imagine being on vacation for two weeks, and your animals starving because your cloud-connected pet feeder is not working, due to the company turning off systems without any warning.

July

Wink transitions to paid service

https://www.consumerreports.org/smart-home/wink-tells-users-pay-up-or-we-will-disable-smart-home-hub/

September

IFTTT moves to subscription model

https://www.droid-life.com/2020/09/10/ifttt-moves-to-subscription-model-with-introduction-of-ifttt-pro/

IFTTT decided to roll out a 10$ a month subscription model, for building custom automations. As expected, this did not play very well.

November

TP-Link KASA removes local access

https://alerts.home-assistant.io/#tplink.markdown

If you leverage KASA plugs, My advice is to block their internet access, or better yet, keep all of your IOT devices on a dedicated subnet.

2021

March

Yeelight removes local LAN control

https://forum.yeelight.com/t/topic/22664/280

June

Samsung SmartThings Hub Deprecated

https://staceyoniot.com/smartthings-starts-saying-goodbye-to-its-hardware/

Samsungs deprecated its old smartthings hubs. For anyone who owned one, the only option was to buy more hardware and throw away the old device. Perfectly functional, working devices which are rendered completely obsolete.

August

Ambee goes from free, to paid.

https://alerts.home-assistant.io/#ambee.markdown

Osram discontinues cloud services.

https://www.techhive.com/article/578405/osram-turning-off-cloud-servers-for-lightify-smart-bulbs-next-august.html

2022

Feburary

D-Link discontinues mydlink and some baby monitors

https://basic-tutorials.com/news/d-link-discontinues-two-of-its-cloud-services-for-older-devices/

Wink Outages – On Going.

https://www.androidpolice.com/2021/02/01/wink-has-been-down-for-a-week-and-counting/

https://www.reviewgeek.com/122521/wink-smart-homes-are-broken-again-why-are-people-still-paying/

Wink has had a few outage this year, lasting weeks at a time…. Don’t know about you- but, I prefer my home automation and devices to continue working, despite….. what the vendor is doing.

April

Insteon shuts down

https://www.home-assistant.io/blog/2022/04/19/for-insteon-users/

Insteon shut down all of its cloud products quietly, basically over night.

IHome shuts down.

https://community.smartthings.com/t/notice-ihome-control-cloud-service-termination-april-2-2022/240529

June

Amazon gives over camera footage to police without a warrant or user consent.

https://theintercept.com/2022/07/13/amazon-ring-camera-footage-police-ed-markey/

Imagine if footage from your own camera was given to police to be used as evidence against you, without your consent, or even a search warrant.

Ongoing issues

Amazon/Datacenter Outages

While, this is very infrequent and rare, There have been multiple cases of issues at amazon datacenter, which rendered many cloud-automation products unusable. I personally prefer my home automation remain functional, REGARDLESS of what is happening outside of my walls.

This issue can impact any large service provider, internet circuit, etc.

Tuya

I am not even going to go into the details. However, there are POSTs daily around people having issues with Tuya cloud products.

As well, Tuya may be changing to a subscription model soon… SO, you will have to pay someone else to use the products you purchased.

Your Internet

Ever have an internet outage? Are you “OK” with your cloud products being non-functional while your internet is down?

Your Privacy

If you are using an automation product which is cloud based, which does not charge you… YOU are the product. Nothing is free. Hosting costs money. If they are not directly charging you, they are likely selling your data.

Life360 sells user’s precise location data

https://alerts.home-assistant.io/#life360.markdown

Ring/Blink/etc.

While, there are “supported” integrations for these products in home-assistant, I caution you to tread lightly. Here is an email chain between me and link support from 2020.

Blink stating any 3rd party automation is against their TOS.

For the record, Blink cameras are USELESS without their cloud service. There is no way of locally getting footage or images from the cameras. If your account is disabled, you may as well use these cameras as a doorstop.

Security Concerns

I am not about to post the hundreds of news posts where somebody’s cloud-connected IOT device was compromised. However do be aware, those internet-connected devices may or may not be secure.

I have seen many posts where an “internet-enabled” camera was basically unsecured to the internet, allowing anyone to easily view footage from the camera. You don’t want this to happen.

As well, many ring/blink/simplisafe/cloud products are susceptible to a wifi-deauth attack. A deauth attack, in basic terms, rendors your wifi-network unusable. What do you believe happens when your wifi cameras cannot upload footage back to the cloud server? Most of them have VERY limited internal storage. Keep this in mind… For this reason, I would recommend hard-wired devices where possible.

A few examples:

  1. https://alerts.home-assistant.io/#hikvision.markdown

What do I recommend?

I recommend using products which are either open-source based on easily obtainable hardware such as using Esphome with a dirt-cheap microcontroller. Or using a “open” protocol, such as Z-Wave, Zigbee, etc.

I have been 100% satisfied with my z-wave devices.

For cameras, get a camera which works 100% locally, which supports RTSP, RTMP, OnVIF. Reolink, Hikvision, Amcrest, and many more all have options for you. I would recommend avoiding Unifi cameras however.

If you have any questions on what products to use, Ask. Ask in the comments below. Ask on r/homeassistant.

What should you look for in a product?

Vendor Agnostic

When choosing a product, you want something that is vendor agnostic. You don’t want to get locked into a particular vendor’s ecosystem (Ring, Unifi, TP Omada, etc). If you need a new security camera, it should work with whichever NVR you decide to choose. Likewise, your NVR should work with whichever camera you get.

This way, years down the line, when your vendor stops adding features, or you need to replace your unit… You can acquire a replacement unit with improved features/functionality/performance, and add your old cameras to the new unit.

I will repeat this. Do NOT lock yourself into a single vendor’s ecosystem. When that vendor closes doors, or discontinues the product line, you do not want to be stuck with a large investment of devices which are now either non-functional, or missing features which were dependant on that vendor’s cloud.

Open Source

Many things will not be open source. But, if you can find things which are open source, it is always a plus.

Why? Because when your vendor stops producing updates, or your old device has a crucial bug or vulnerability. Open source gives people the ability to update this. Esphome is absolutely fantastic for flashing onto your devices to give native home assistant capabilities, and to unlock new features.

Open / Standarderized

For communication methods, I look for devices with a standardized specification. Like z-wave. Why?

  1. It is backwards compatible. In 10 years from now, my current devices should still work.
  2. I can configure and maintain all of my z-wave devices in a consistent, and unified method.
  3. I don’t need to maintain random apps on my phone to configure them. I don’t need to keep around old documentation to remember how to configure a device with obscure methods. It’s all in one place, in a unified manner.

For this reason, I avoid Lutron Caseta / Insteon / etc, as those technologies have a very specific method of communication. If your hub stops working, can you easily drop in a 3rd party replacement, or DIY? In most cases, the answer is no.

Changelog

  1. 4/20/2022 – Created initial post.
  2. 4/12/2022 – Added more references from THIS post.

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