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Today, Under Armour formalized the announcement that it will “disconnect” its smart scale product, UA Record app, and, its HealthBox line in general. Also today, Sony announced the final discontinuation of its PlayStation Vue product, slated for January 31st of this month.

For customers who had spent up to $400 USD on Under Armour’s entire lineup of connected health tracking hardware, the March 31, 2020 cutoff date is sure to be a bitter pill to swallow. These customers bought into the platform believing in Under Armour’s platform, its product, and, not least of all, its staying power in the marketplace.

Every time we as consumers purchase into a smart device platform, we are buying more than just the device strapped to our wrists, in our hands, under our feet, or running our homes. Our purchases also are us buying into the trust that the servers, networks, cloud apps, data exchanges, and ethereal services in the sky will continue to work for the usable duration of the device, too. Even more so, in the case of media devices with stores with DRM in place, our investment in the platform may continue for years with the expectation of continued access in perpetuity.

And we have been burned by these beliefs over and over again. 2019 saw the deaths of WinkAmazon Dash ButtonsMicrosoft Health DashboardWorks with NestNetflix on older Roku and Samsung devices, and more. And who can forget the Zune?

Consumers are offered little to no protections against a smart device manufacturer or platform deciding to no longer support some or all of its services. Part of my purchasing decision for any smart device is to evaluate the quality of the device or service in its current form, of course, but another major portion of my purchasing process is to guess as best as I can what the continued support of the platform is likely to be. If I’m not confident in a device being supported several years down the line, I’m not willing to invest in it, even if it is a fantastic product today. The users of Under Armour’s lineup of HealthBox smart devices learned that lesson this month, just as the users of the Zune learned it in 2015. Barnes and Noble’s Nook platform had to be outsourced in order to keep it alive, and while I prefer its platform over Amazon’s Kindle services, I’m not willing to purchase DRM’d books on it when it has significant risk of not being around for 10, or even 2, more years.

So how do we fix these issues? Consumers need to have confidence in the platforms that they buy into and have a right to trust that the media they purchased will continue to play and the hardware will continue to function for the reasonable lifetime of the device. Consumers International has published a checklist for IoT manufacturers to use in order to create a marketplace that is robust and, well, trusted by consumers around the world. One glaring omission from this guide is stating a guaranteed minimum useful life for a product.

Other product classes are guaranteed to work for a certain amount of time or be able to accept a stated minimum amount of wear and tear – see car tire tread wear warrantiesbuilding materials, and food shelf life. It seems reasonable to require smart device manufacturers to state a minimum amount of time that they are willing or able to guarantee a product or service will be available to a consumer, and thereby enable the consumers to make a more informed purchasing decision based on usability and longevity of a product.

I believe future consumer protection requirements will come into play over the next few years to protect consumers from devices and platforms suddenly becoming unavailable. These industry requirements will likely need to be introduced by a regulatory agency with sufficient clout to bring the Silicon Valley Behemoths to the table to negotiate a fair consumer protection standard. Unfortunately, it won’t be until there are significant complaints coming from the consumers to make this a policy which is politically worth pursuing.

Michael Maser

Michael Maser

co.Founder and CTO at UOTech.co

Michael Maser has over 18 years of experience in Information Technology Consulting and internal IT Leadership in the Distribution, Legal, and Healthcare verticals. He is the co.Founder and CTO of UOTech.co, an IT Consulting, Managed Services, and Information Security company based out of Plainview, NY.

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