Let me first start by apologizing to all of you great Augusta Tek readers. I’m not in a very good mood today. To be honest, I’m very frustrated right now. My first foray into the world of the Smart Home is not going well.
Last week, I bought a set of the WeMo + Osram Lightify garden spotlights to spruce up our Halloween decorations. These lights are not cooperating. As a matter of fact, they just flat out refuse to work.
Naturally, I would like to blame the lights. The instructions only require six steps, the most complicated of which involves downloading the WeMo App from the app store. The setup process is literally this simple: Plug in the lights, plug in the WeMo link, connect your phone wifi to the WeMo Link, open the WeMo app, press button to connect, have fun! To their credit, the WeMo folks didn’t leave much room for human error when developing this process. Even so, something has gone awry.
I’ve been in the technology business long enough to know that if something isn’t working, it’s probably my fault. There are too many syntax errors in my past to believe otherwise. However, I don’t believe that I’m a total technology idiot either. I have an engineering Ph.D., and I own an IT support company. One would think that I would be reasonably competent when configuring a light bulb!
For the record, we have all observed that advanced technical training can be a liability when it comes to consumer electronics. When a consumer device doesn’t work, the expert user will immediately start looking for a “back door” or some other advanced interface to configure. The consumer device often includes a rudimentary API or web interface to tease these expert users.
These interfaces rarely provide any additional insight, and they never behave like the interfaces found in enterprise gear. The expert user will spend hours exploring various rabbit holes and, in the end, the expert will simply declare the device a piece of junk and push it aside.
At this point, the expert user will spend hours documenting his frustration on hundreds of different tech forums. He might even create a YouTube video to demonstrate the myriad of architecture flaws and suggest redesigns and alternative products. In the end, this expert will exit his man cave with a renewed confidence, knowing that his guidance will save other experts from hours of unnecessary torment at the hands of an obviously flawed device.
Of course, we know that this isn’t the end of the story. A while later, the expert’s wife (or child) will randomly pick up the device. After a couple of “click-click-swipes,” the wife will smile and say, “Hey, you got it working! That’s awesome.”
Unfortunately, my WeMo was experiencing a different set of difficulties. Knowing that I had simply missed something obvious, I started a chat session with Belkin support. The support representative came online very quickly, within a couple of minutes. Many of you have participated in chat sessions with Tier 1 support representatives, so you know how this part went. Basically, we repeated the initial setup process. On the positive side, we confirmed that I had performed the setup correctly. On the negative side, it still didn’t work.
At this point, we repeated all the troubleshooting 101 steps that I had already tried — perform a factory reset of the devices, use a different smartphone, delete and re-download the app. No matter what we tried, the lights continued to be stubborn.
After about 3-1/2 hours into the support session, I stumbled across a forum article that was experiencing a similar issue. The user pasted along a comment he received from Belkin support — the WeMo app is not playing well with the new iOS upgrade. Really? I asked my support representative if this was true. Somewhat surprisingly, my support representative confirmed the issue.
My first thought was, “Cool. It’s not my fault.”
My second thought, “Why in the world did it take 3-1/2 hours to figure that out?”
After a few more minutes of reviewing the forums, I noticed that Android users didn’t seem to experience this issue. Unfortunately, it was too late to try and search for my kids’ Kindles. The next cycle of troubleshooting will have to wait for another day. I’ll report back next week with the final result.
One final note — What a great month for Georgia Tech!!! Earlier this month, Georgia Tech researchers presented evidence that liquid water exists on Mars. And then this past weekend, the Georgia Tech football team ended Florida State’s 29-game conference winning streak with a walk-off kick six. Go Jackets!