So I’ve been working on building my own Alexa device, which will eventually make its way to a wall in our home. I made great progress with the SDK (Software Development Kit) today. She’s talking in over my earbuds and responding to commands through a cheap $10 USB microphone plugged into the back of this Raspberry Pi 4.
My next step is to build a custom control screen. I am loving this challenge.
Years ago I picked up a couple of LED smart bulbs from Home Depot. As I recall, these particular bulbs were very affordable, adequate for what I had planned for them (I believe they were going in a guest bedroom), and they were branded GE. While we were using Philips Hue lights for out automation at the time (and still are today), there were notes online around the flexibility of these GE bulbs: they would be compatible with the Philips Hue hub or you could get a hub made by Wink and go with that. Home Depot had a special where they were practically giving the Wink hub away so I paid the minimal amount of cash they wanted for the hub and tried to integrate it into our smart home setup.
I was never satisfied with the Wink Hub. It became unresponsive too often and we were still moving in the Philips Hue direction. I abandoned the hub and basically forgot about it until it was recycled, along with the GE bulbs, when we moved to Chicago.
I received an email advising me my Wink Hub would no longer be functional after 5/13/20 unless I joined their subscription plan to provide continued service. The plan is $4.99 a month. There’s probably taxes too. There’s always taxes.
Looking at the calendar, the 13th of May is only a few days away. If I had invested more into the Wink Home Automation system I would be a very unhappy customer right now.
Now, in the grand scheme of things $4.99 per month doesn’t seem like a lot of money. But what doesn’t seem like a lot of money to me may seem like a lot of money to other people. Plus, I distinctly remember the Wink Hub box mentioning “No Subscription Fees!”.
It would appear that Wink has changed their mind.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, I am becoming very subscription fatigued. All of these consumption and membership and automation based subscriptions can be very taxing on the household budget. The kicker is, Wink provides a luxury, a convenience. Why pay $60 per year just to be able to turn lights on and off with my smartphone? Yes, changing colors, automating on/off times, etc. is nice, but it’s not a necessity. I can still flip a switch.
I feel bad for the folks that have gone all in on the Wink ecosystem. I’ve been reading about consumers that have built Wink into their new construction; wall switches that rely on Wink, relays that fire off sprinklers and what not, relying on Wink. Unless they pay the subscription fee, all of these devices will become INOP in just a few days.
Sorry Wink, but that’s not the way to get people to love your ecosystem.
Companies like Wink are trying to move us to a subscription dependent future. That’s not a future I want to be part of. Intrigued by these developments, I may spend some of my geek time researching open source alternatives to share on the various home automation forums I’m part of to see how folks can continue to control their devices on their terms. There’s almost always an open source solution.
Four days notice of a support paradigm shift is not the way to flip a switch.