I read today that eWeLink, the app used by Itead for their Sonoff products, is looking to offering a “paid” option. “What!?!” I hear you say? But we already paid for the hardware…
Well, for some time now, I and others have been writing about taking the time and effort to move the likes of Sonoff and other ESP8266-based devices to Tasmota or similar local network-based operation. In my case mainly because I don’t always get 100% reliable Internet – but for others, a mistrust of “the cloud” and in particular the cloud as run by international companies.
Time for reflection
As we all become more and more comfortable with such cloud services, perhaps now during the Covid-19 epidemic (hot on the tail of the anti-EU Brexit) is as good a time as any to think about just how long-term viable this trend to using arbitrary cloud servers is.
Will politics start to get in the way of globalisation? Unthinkable? The world closing down was unthinkable in 2019 and where are we now? In Trump’s America there are already import and export restrictions (including technology) against some countries – and much of this has nothing to do with the current epidemic.
Will the Chinese goverment always guarantee unrestricted access to their cloud servers for the rest of the world? Even today, an unreserved “yes” answer begins to sound naive. Amazon Echo (example only) as a cute tool is one thing, actually relying on the cloud for heating and security systems is another – and that doesn’t even tackle the hacking implications which themselves are something worth considering.
If Itead decide to go down the paid APP route then perhaps that will be their loss as more of us use the likes of Tasmota to keep access to our devices local – or at least local with VPN options for remote use – I’ve been doing that for a long time now). If they then decide to move away from ESP8266 to chips which do not have third party support… well, for now let’s just hope they don’t do that. I’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Itead (Sonoff products) for years and hopefully long may that live. They would be sadly missed if their cloud was the only way to access their products.
Tasmota and other free, third party software is only going to get easier to use and more comprehensive thanks to Theo Arendts and a small army of supporters. It is absolutely up to the hacker community as commercial IOT companies mature, to ensure that we keep banging the drum for DIY – it is not entirely in the interests of these companies to have us customising their products so they will be putting their efforts into pushing us into relying on their cloud and hence a potential income stream long after selling the hardware, perhaps for years.