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Reasons to avoid cloud-based home automation products

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 Issues

This section will go over major issues reported, by year. Major issues are categorized as massive privacy breaches, discontinued / depreciated services, and extended outages.

2019

Google/Nest - Works with nest discontinued

When google acquired nest, the "works with nest" program was discontinued.

Best Buy Insignia Services discontinued

Plumlife out of business, without notice.

Plumlife went out of business. No communication. Just up and out.

Skydrop switches to subscription model.

Lowes / Iris shutdown

Leeo Smart Alert shutdown.

2020

Belkin / Wemo products discontinued.

Petnet discontinued, with no notice.

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.

Wink transitions to paid service

IFTTT moves torwards subscription model

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

Having personally used IFTTT for a few odd-ball automations, I ended up cancelling/closing my account after this notice.

I will note, after massive community backlash- the pricing and features were modified in a way to be more reasonable, and to not require a paid account in order to use functionality.

However- the damage was already done after by the time those changes were announced.

As a long-time user of tp-link plugs, I would recommend blocking your IOT devices from the internet, preferably in an isolated vlan.... for both security reasons, and to prevent them from updating to remove local access.

Dark Sky shutting down

Dark sky has been acquired by Apple, and will be shutting down.

2021

Xiomi / Yeelight removes local LAN control

Samsung / Smartthings hubs depreciated.

Samsungs deprecated its old smartthings hubs. For anyone who owned one, the only option was to buy more hardware and throw away the old, perfectly functional device.

Ambee goes from free, to paid.

2022

Life360 Sells Precise Location Data for Tens of Millions

Life360 caught selling precise location data for tens of millions of adults AND children

Osram / Lightify discontinues cloud services

To note however, you can still use these bulbs local-only with zigbee. However, the cloud services have been discontinued.

Wink - Ongoing outages

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

Logitech / Logi Circle Api

Logitech is no longer accepting applications for access to the Logi Circle API.

For existing users that have already obtained an API key, the Logi Circle API will continue to function. However, you may not be able to update your redirect URI.

Insteon shuts down, without notification, overnight.

This particular issue affected a large number of people. Essentially, Insteon quietly shutdown everything over night.

Home-Assistant was able to quickly rollout a method for users to transition their insteon devices into home assistant.

** Update, Communications were brought back online after a few months, after being re-acquired.

iHome discontinued / terminated

This is a MASSIVE personal rights / privacy / security breach. Based on reports, this has happened many times before.

Imagine having your own camera footage used against you, to incrimate you of a crime... without the authorites even having a search warrant. Regardless if you never break the law- this is a massive red flag. Imagine if you have a ring camera inside of your home which may capture personal / intimite footage... and that footage being turned over to another party, without your consent, a search warrent, or ANYTHING.

This, would be a rather interesting thing to hear..... for a camera you purchased which doesn't send data to the cloud. Right?

To clarify, the company previously claimed, user data was only stored locally. Imagine being told this, and you find out your camera is sending your photos back to its cloud.

This is why I ALWAYS recommend isolating IOT/Security devices on a dedicated vlan, without any internet/external access whatsoever.

Anker / Eufy rollsback privacy promises

After the above issue, I suppose the resolution to this issue, was to remove privacy promises....

Fordpass blocking users

I was unable to find any official response or statement regarding this issue- but, there are reports of users popping up having been blocked/banner from using the ford-pass API with home assistant.

It would appear, this is due to an issue with the third party integration, however, it is posted here for awareness.

See Disclaimer at the bottom of the third-party github integration:

On-Going Issues

On-going issues are categorized as issues which are frequently on-going, or repeating.

Amazon / Cloud 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 nearly daily reddit posts regarding 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.

Just- do yourself a favor... avoid Tuya if at all possible.

MyQ

Like Tuya, MyQ garage door openers are riddled with cloud issues.

Google Search

Do yourself a favor. Save a few bucks, and use one of these options

MyQ also switched to a subscription model, in order to use external automation via IFTTT/Google/etc.

Your PERSONAL Internet / Network

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

If you have a thief / intruder, are you "OK" with your security cameras not recording when your internet connection is cut?

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 a cloud provider is not directly charging you, either they are likely selling your data elsewhere, or have future plans of a subscription-based model. If you don't believe in this statement- go read-over the earlier issues noted in this post.

Need an example?

Quote

In December, self-described "family-safety platform" Life360 was reported to be selling location data from both adults and children to a dozen various data brokers. The brokers would then provide the information to other third parties.

The company initially argued that selling the data was a way to "keep the core Life360 services free for the majority of our users."

Source

See More

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

Blink stating any 3rd party automation is against their TOS. For the record, Home-Assistant, Hubitat, HomeSeer.... are all 3rd party integrations.

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.

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 discord for this site(Look at the very bottom of the page on the right). Ask on r/homeassistant. Ask on r/homeautomation.

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.
  4. 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

As this is a living post, if you feel anything is missing, or incorrect, please let me know on the discord link at the bottom-right corner of this website.

  • 4/20/2022 – Created initial post.
  • 4/12/2022 – Added more references from THIS post.
  • 12/1/2022 - Migrated post to static site. Updated/followed up on a few of the entries.