The Internet of Things (IoT) may be touted as the next big thing in the technology industry, but these connected solutions designed to make our lives easier are still fraught with problems that could lead to some devastating results. Petnet, an internet-connected feeding app that periodically dispenses food for your pets, experienced a server outage on Wednesday (27 July) that left many pets hungry for hours.
Described as "the world's first intelligent pet feeder that will program itself around your life and the wellness of your pet", the $149 Petnet smart feeder, which manages food supply, timing and even portion size, was unable to dole out food to users' furry companions, leaving hundreds irked by the smart device's server glitch.
"We are experiencing some difficulty with one of our third party servers. This is currently being investigated," the company wrote in an email sent to customers that was posted on Twitter. "You may experience a loss of scheduled feeds and failed remote feedings. Please ensure that your pets have been fed manually until we have resolved this issue."
Occurring in the middle of the summer vacation season, a number of users took to social media to vent their frustration and concerns about the automated system that promised to keep their beloved pets happy and well fed while they were away from home.
Users were also peeved that the device, which relies on the system's central server to manage and schedule the smart feeders, does not have a backup system to deal with such emergencies.
Despite their potential to make people's lives smarter, easier and safer, popular anonymous Twitter personality Internet of Shit says users don't really have much control over these interconnected, cloud-based devices.
"The lure of these devices when presented against the backdrop of old, offline devices is obvious: they could change your whole life and in some ways for me, they have, but the headaches are only beginning, and selling them as life-changers without commitment is irresponsible, and there's no transparency about how they could change in the future," Internet of Shit wrote in a Verge column.
As the IoT trend continues to ramp up and 'smart' devices become more commonplace, incidents and outages do remind people that an increasingly interconnected world with automated homes and technology does have its pitfalls. Earlier this week, Google's Nest experienced its own outage as well that took its thermostats offline in the middle of a heatwave across the US.
"I have a cat named Winston who loved this feeder," Petnet user Taryn Studer, said in an email to The Guardian. "This has sent me into a panic as I am a college student with multiple jobs and rely on this device to make sure he receives proper feedings and nutrition,. I have had to arrange for friends to get keys from me at work if needed so he will get his food."
"I understand a company-wide server outage is difficult to handle, but this is absolutely ridiculous when the lives of hundreds of pets are tied to their product."