When you buy a new appliance, you make an investment that should take a while but it may not be true for smart devices. Manufacturers are not required to keep your computer up to date, which could make your investment sour.
Appliances should be in recent decades
Today, there are still plenty of homes furnished with refrigerators, stoves and washing machines from the 80s. These devices may not look as good as they used to, and they probably inflate electric bills, but they are reliable and easy to use. Some of these devices can survive for another ten or twenty years. So it is fair to assume that a whole new device will be for decades, right?
It depends on what you buy. Let's say you've invested in a smart device, such as the Samsung Family Hub's smart refrigerator or a LG smart A / C device. You could have bought a cheaper appliance, maybe even a renovated appliance from the 21st century. But you (rightly) believe that a smart device serves as an important point of sale and valuable investment.
There is a chance that your expensive smart device will be stupid in less than a decade.
You replace your phones and tablets quite often
Remember landlines? They tended to be for a while and you didn't have to change them if you didn't want a voice receiver or a cordless phone. But cell phones are another story. According to a Gallup survey, 44% of Americans replace every two years and most mobile phones become obsolete after about five or six years.
People do not complain too much about having to buy a new phone every couple of years, mainly because they do not have much choice. Smartphones regularly require new hardware and software to keep track of time, and old computers tend to slow down. Not to mention, people are increasingly concerned about privacy, and older phones may be more prone to hacking.
When considering smart devices built as smartphones and tablets, and designed to work in tandem with smartphones and tablets, that raises a question. Will smart devices be replaced every five or six years? Of course, your smart fridge will not stop producing cold air just because the smart features are outdated. But if you lost thousands of dollars on a smart refrigerator that can't be smart, it's a serious problem.
Firmware updates are already spotty
The first wave of smart devices came to the market less than a decade ago, but companies already show that they are not are interested in posting firmware updates. And many of these devices hit the market with premature, underdeveloped software, so people are already having smart devices that aren't that smart.
LG sold its brand of smart devices (range, A / C units, washing machines, and so on) with the promise that they would work with Google Home, but early adopters in the United States claimed that their devices could not connect to Google Home. They also complained that LG would not offer any support for the problem.
People who bought the first generation of Samsung Family Hub's smart refrigerator have always started Samsung for firmware updates. While new refrigerators came together with an updated user interface and a virtual assistant from Bixby, the old fridges were stuck with an old firmware version for several months. Family Hub users complained that they could not use the Google Calendar app in 2014, and Samsung decided they would not solve the problem by 2017.
You can criticize this for the fact that companies are rushing to strengthen their place in the market for smart devices. But people are already asking companies to outsource firmware updates for their relatively new devices. Would these companies post updates if people did not complain? Are they required to post updates?
Updates not guaranteed under a warranty?
When you spend thousands of dollars on a smart device, you should rightly expect the manufacturer to post firmware updates. If anything, firmware updates should be guaranteed in the warranty. After all, if your smart device stops working properly, because it needs a firmware or hardware update, isn't it the manufacturer's fault?
Let's take a quick look at the Samsung Family Hub's smart fridge. It costs $ 4,000, has a giant screen and is by far the most famous luxury smartphone in the market. Samsung makes it very clear that their smart refrigerator receives firmware updates. Fridge notifies you when updates are available, there are update pages and news messages on Samsung's website. In addition, the User Guide for Family Hub describes how to update the refrigerator. But none of these sources guarantees that updates will come in the future.
It makes sense that there are no product guarantees on these pages. But how about the warranty? Samsung's Family Hub Smart Fridge Warranty does not mention firmware updates or any service upgrades to the refrigeration smart hardware. Their warranty really only covers the fridge in your smart fridge.
I also chatted with a "Samsung Care Pro" to try to find all the paperwork that guarantees firmware updates from Samsung. At the beginning of the conversation, the representative told me that "yes, the fridge will get the updates." I pushed a little more and after a 10 minute wait he told me that "there is no paperwork on updates."
When considering the manufacturers' inadequacy to provide or guarantee firmware updates, it becomes clear that they are not planning to provide updates forever and that there is nothing you can do if your smart device stops being smart. It is safe to assume that manufacturers will always focus more on their newest products, so as new smart devices hit the market, old smart devices will remain.
Smart devices that don't get updates are easier to hack
It's no secret that smart home devices are easy to hack. Some manufacturers post updates that are intended to patch vulnerabilities, but we know that most manufacturers are poor when outsourcing software updates. And since warranties do not guarantee firmware updates, it is not unreasonable to believe that your costly smart devices may not receive any corrections or security improvements ten years from now.
As your smart device gets easier to get older and older, it will be even more vulnerable. Since many of these devices are equipped with cameras, microphones and data collection algorithms, hacking vulnerabilities are a great privacy.
But with the help of devices with outdated firmware, there are no private privacy shots these old smart devices can compromise your entire home network. In an effort to make the Internet safer, the Wi-Fi alliance has revealed WPA3, the newest Wi-Fi security standard. The world is slowly moving over to WPA3, and many routers will run WPA3 along with WPA2, the older security standard, so older devices can still connect to the internet.
You will eventually end up with a router that by default only supports WPA3 security standards. And that's good because the WPA2 connections are getting smaller and less secure. However, if you have a smart device running old firmware, you may not be able to connect to a WPA3 signal. To use the old device, you need to adjust the router's settings to support WPA2, a choice that makes it easy for hackers.
Think of Smart TVs
Smart devices are relatively new, and you will not find them in most households. In fact, 64% of consumers are not even aware that smart refrigerators even exist. On the other hand, 37.2% of all US households had at least one smart TV at the end of 2018. Smart TV is so ubiquitous that a simple search for "TV" on Amazon leads you to dozens of pages of smart TV.  Because smart televisions are so much more common than smart kitchen appliances, they serve as a good reference point for how long smart devices will hold and what problems they can face. You may not think of a TV as a device, but how a smart TV works is similar to how a smart device works. The "smart" aspect does not change the device's integrated function, but it is an important point of sale that requires Wi-Fi connectivity and firmware updates to stay updated.
Smart TV has notoriously clumsy interfaces and they rarely receive useful updates. In fact, manufacturers are more interested in updates that force people to show ads than increases performance or security. Smart TVs are vulnerable to hacking, but as usual manufacturers are cutting back on the problem and making no real effort to fix vulnerabilities.
Smart TV has become obsolete so quickly that it is not uncommon for people to have a Roku, Chomecast or Amazon Firestick connected to their smart TV, an ironic twist of fate that lets you wonder why people are selling smart TVs in the first hand (tip: they are more profitable because of crapware). And if this quick obsolescence is done with television, there is a chance that it can also happen with smart devices.
Why would any company sell a device that will not go for a decade?
Companies that sell smart devices are well aware that their products will not last with time. Manufactures like Samsung and LG have sold smart phones for several years, and they have sold appliances for even longer. They know that they merge a product that is relatively disposable with a product that is supposed to work for decades. Why would they put out household appliances that will become obsolete?
Well, for one, luxury smart devices occupy a relatively untapped market. If a company beats its competitors to that market, their programs and software can become an integral part of people's lives. Getting smart devices in people's homes is the hard part, and the buyers have no choice but to turn to their device manufacturers for help later. "Move fast and break things," a mogul once said.
But what if the companies decide that they do not want to serve smart devices? It has only been a few years since these products hit the market, and manufacturers already seem reluctant to outsource extensive firmware updates. People can start replacing their refrigerators and dishwashers as they replace their cell phones, which would be very lucrative for businesses. Perhaps people will feel ripped off and start abandoning bad brands. We have to wait and find out.
What we want from manufacturers
Although a company like Samsung is starting to roll out firmware updates for smart devices or send out employees to replace old ones hardware, it will be difficult to keep your smart devices as they should. As it is now, the smart part of your smart devices is as vulnerable to time as your smartphone. So how can manufacturers approach this problem?
Remember smart TV? They are clumsy, vulnerable and their "smart" features become obsolete quickly. But you can easily fix the problem by plugging in a cheap device like a Chromecast or Roku. And because plug-in streaming devices are cheap and easy to replace, consumers do not feel the need to replace their TVs as often as they replace their mobile phones.
As a smart TV, a smart refrigerator or washing machine's biggest problem lies in its "smart" hardware and software. They are difficult to serve, and can quickly become obsolete. Screens, cameras, thermometers, microphones and speakers are not the problem.
So here's my suggestion.
Manufacturers should add a port to their expensive, smart devices that let you plug in a cheap device (similar to a Chromecast) every few years to keep the device up to date. These small devices also handle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so you don't have to worry about your old device being behind security standards.
This system will make consumers more confident about their investment, it will provide manufacturers with a steady stream of income from their smart devices (without ripping people off), and it will encourage technically savvy geeks to handle most of it of software development for smart device platforms. Boom, everyone is happy. But if some companies decide to implement this idea, they will pay me better.
When working, Smart Appliances Great
This is not a tirade against smart devices. They have the potential to make our lives easier, and they have managed to capture many people's fantasies. You can use them to remotely navigate recipes, watch video clips while cooking or view the contents of your refrigerator on your phone. But manufacturers need to build smart devices that can stand time tested. Hopefully, your future home will not be full of choppy, outdated and frustrating machines. But there is a chance that it will be.
Sources: Google Help Forum, reviewed, Samsung, Digital Trends, Extremetech