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Three things in life are certain: Death, taxes, and cloud-based IoT gear bricked by vendors. Looking at you, Belkin
Ubiquitous consumer kit maker EOLs netcam. Oh, AND the cloud services that make it work
Oh look, here's another cautionary tale about buying cloud-based IoT kit. On 29 May, global peripheral giant Belkin will flick the "off" switch on its Wemo NetCam IP cameras, turning the popular security devices into paperweights.
It's not unusual for a manufacturer to call time on physical hardware. Like software, it has a lifespan where, afterwards, it's deemed not economically viable for the vendor to continue providing support.
But this is a little different, because Belkin isn't merely ending support. It also plans to decommission the cloud services required for its Wemo NetCam devices to actually work.
"Although your Wemo NetCam will still connect to your Wi-Fi network, without these servers you will not be able to view the video feed or access the security features of your Wemo NetCam, such as Motion Clips and Motion Notifications," Belkin said on its official website.
"If you use your Wemo NetCam as a motion sensor for your Wemo line of products, it will no longer provide this functionality and will be removed as an option from your Wemo app," the company added.
Adding insult to injury, the ubiquitous consumer network gear maker only plans to refund customers with active warranties, which excludes anyone who bought their device more than two years ago. The window to submit requests is open from now until 30 June.
Customers will also have to provide the company with the original receipt, showing how much they paid for the unit. Though it shouldn't be too hard to fish out an Amazon invoice from an inbox, if you bought the unit from a bricks-and-mortar retailer, there's a chance you won't have that information to provide.
To receive a refund on your Wemo NetCam, we require a dated purchase receipt to verify warranty status as well as return of the Wemo NetCam hardware. If you are unable to provide a receipt or return your Wemo NetCam hardware, we will not provide a refund.
Punters will also have to return the device to Belkin – although it will provide a pre-paid shipping label for that. Once this process is complete, the vendor will issue refunds via cheque in the US and Canada, or bank transfer in Europe.
Belkin has promised to refund unused pre-paid months of its premium camera recording service, which has the most hilariously generic name for a tech product ever: iSecurity+. Sorry, we couldn't let that one slide.
Suffice to say, many Wemo NetCam users are pissed off. El Reg reader Gerard said: "Why are only those with a warranty given a refund? There is nothing wrong with the webcam. It is working fine."
"I do not remember buying the product with a stated limited life span. [I'll] never ever buy Belkin again," he added.
We've asked Belkin for comment, although it's worth bearing in mind this far from an isolated case in the tech industry.
One of the most shocking examples of this was the discontinuation of the Revolv smart home hub, which at the time was owned by Google via its Nest subsidiary. This hummus container-shaped device allowed users to tie together their various disparate smart home gadgets, controlling them from one central location.
When Nest killed the cloud servers, people suddenly found they couldn't control their household appliances and fixtures. Which, obviously, is bad.
There's a lesson here: never buy IoT kit that has a single point of failure beyond your control. Oh, and keep your receipts. ®