Monday, August 15, 2016

Rant: There Shall Be Only One

(Image courtesy of Logitech via Mashable)

Windmill Tilting Badge, Level 1

I am working on my Curmudgeon Merit badges and yelling at a multi-national corporation for stupidity is one that I have not completed until last week.  Then Logitech pissed me off.

They launched a smart home button, the Pop Home Switch.  On the surface, the Pop is something that I feel has a lot of potential.  It is a button that can be placed anywhere and be assigned to control a smart home device.  Do you want a switch for your bedroom lights on your bedside table?  Pop can do that.  Do you want a button that starts your music when you get home?  Pop can do that, too.  In fact, Pop can control up to three different things depending on whether you hit the button once, twice or hold it down.

What Pop can't do is integrate.  It requires a proprietary hub.  For something as seemingly simple as a button, this immediately makes it more complicated and unwieldy.  I've ranted about hubs before, so I won't do too much of that here.  But it set me off again (read from the bottom up because I'm too dumb to get Twitter to reorder from oldest to newest):

Hardware as a Service

I completely understand why a company would do create a hub for something a simple as a button.  There are basically two:

  • Customer Support: This is designed as a end user installed device.  As someone who has had the opportunity to man support phones for computer hardware, this is scary.  As a manufacturer, you want to minimize as many potential issues as possible.  One way to do that is to have your new simple thing to connect to only one other (much smarter, more complex) thing that then offloads much of the setup and potential connection errors.

    Bogus: I get it.  I've lived it.  But I don't agree that the people who would buy this thing need that level of hand holding.  Keep in mind, to use this someone must have already installed some other smart home system.  This button will never be their first rodeo.
  • Monetize an Ecosystem: The other reason to include a proprietary hub is to lock consumers into that manufacturer's range of products.  If you buy the Pop button and its hub (starter packs are $99 for two buttons and the hub, $39 for each additional button), you must only buy more of the products that fit in with Pop buttons.

    Bogus: This would make sense if this product actually only worked with other Logitech products.  However, doing that would make it almost entirely useless.  There aren't enough Logitech smart home products outside of the Pop for that to work.  Instead, they claim that it works with a wide variety of other products on the market.  Logitech is helping those other companies with their ecosystems.  Admittedly, they want you to use those other systems through their app, but I'm not sure what that gets them other than device lag.

Completely Baffled

Further research into this button leaves me even more confused.  It is using Bluetooth LE to connect the buttons to the hub.  This is a standard enough protocol, that there is a reasonable expectation that an existing smart home hub should be able to pair with the buttons directly.  To cover bases, they could offer a variety of radio plans including Z-Wave, Zigbee and Wi-Fi.

As it stands, even the hub does not pair with other systems directly, but has to go out to that hub's cloud service to communicate.  Not only does this introduce a longer delay for the assigned action to take place, it also opens up additional security concerns.

Press This Instead

I think I've established the problems that I have with the Pop Button well enough.  But I never want to complain about something without offering a solution.  There are two parts:
  1. Don't Buy The Logitech Pop Button.
  2. Buy/build any of these that either work with your system or that you have the time to make:
    1. Aeon Labs Z-Wave Mini Remote
    2. GE Z-Wave Wireless Keypad Controller
    3. Pebble Stone ($30, stand alone)
    4. Flic ($34, still stand alone)
    5. Make it out of a Raspberry Pi
    6. Make it out of a different Raspberry Pi
    7. Hack an Amazon Dash button
TL;DR - Logitech Pop is too expensive and overly complicated for a button.  Buy one of several cheaper options instead.


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