Petnet 'Smart' Feeder Customers Are Stuck In 'Internet Of Broken Things' Purgatory

from the dumb-tech-is-smarter-tech dept

Back in February, $130 "smart" pet feeders from a company named Petnet simply stopped working. When customers reached out to the company to complain, they hit a complete and total brick wall in terms of functioning customer service. Emails and phone calls weren't returned (or wound up undeliverable), and the company simply refused to answer annoyed customer inquiries on Twitter or Facebook.

These problems extended into March and April, with customers consistently complaining to outlets like Ars Technica that their "smart" feeders still didn't work, and support was nowhere to be found. By late April, the company announced it had at least partially shut down, furloughed employees, and closed its offices. The outfit attempted to largely blame COVID-19 for its misfortunes, despite the fact its problems started well before the pandemic, and the company's office had been empty and available to lease since last October.

Claiming they had no other option, Petnet also began trying to charge customers a new $4 monthly fee to keep the company's lights on and customers' not-so-smart pet feeders semi-operational. Many users begrudgingly decided to pay the fee, and for some reason were shocked to discover that it hasn't really improved things in the slightest. For many, their $130 smart pet feeder sometimes works, but it can't connect to the internet or Petnet systems (the whole point). And throughout all of this, Petnet has proven incapable of providing even baseline customer support:

"Another Ars reader reached out last week saying that he had paid $30 for a year of service, but as of July 2, although his feeder still functioned and fed his cat every day, "I cannot connect to the device or control it using the app," which could not connect even though Petnet said it would be available after June 30. "Several times over the last two days I have tried to contact them via phone, email, and Facebook with no luck," he added.

Several users on Twitter also approached the @petnetiosupport account with similar complaints. "I still can't even set up an account," one wrote. Another user experienced the same problem, while a third said they could not log in to their existing account. And the problems seem to go beyond just the app, as one user said their second-generation SmartFeeder had once again stopped working completely."

Journalists who try to contact the company apparently don't warrant a response. It's yet another example of how in the internet of broken things era, dumb technology (like a $2 metal bowl for Fido) is often the smarter option.

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Filed Under: iot, ownership, pet feeders, smart pet feeder, smart technology
Companies: petnet


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  • icon
    Slow Joe Crow (profile), 16 Jul 2020 @ 3:02pm

    Iam reminded of the old userfriendly "chained to the oars" cartoon about Windows XP activation failing. There is clearly a market for something that simply runs off a small embedded system, but that would cut off the recurring revenue gold mine

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Kevin (profile), 16 Jul 2020 @ 3:10pm

    Re: There is clearly a market for something that simply...

    There is clearly a market for something that simply runs off a small embedded system, but that would cut off the recurring revenue gold mine

    I suspect this has been a gold mine for "Super-Feeder", makers of an automated pet feeder with no smarts or IoT at all. It comes with a simple electro-mechanical timer like you'd use to make your lights go on and off while on vacation, and then if you want anything "smarter" than that, you are on your own to choose a "smart" ecosystem and plug the feeder into it.

    Price is higher than Petnet, but you get something which actually works, and that doesn't die when the "cloud" it is tethered to goes offline.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Jul 2020 @ 5:03pm

    Time to remind people again I see...

    Stories like this just bring to mind and reinforce the saying, 'You have to be pretty stupid to want a 'smart' device.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 16 Jul 2020 @ 5:20pm

    I have a selective feeder.

    My dog will eat my cat's kibble so we have a selective feeder that detects the cats' subdermal microchip and opens for him (and not the dog and his subdermal microchip).

    It's not IoT, and though we've looked at IoT solutions, I've been avoiding everything that has to sign onto the internet for fear it's going to tell all the data scraping services about my house.

    It's been years now since the Samsung smart fridge gave passing hackers the Gmail passwords of their owners. It's been years since 145,000 IoT cameras were zombied into a 1TB+/Second DDOS attack. It's been years since Goatse hello.jpg ended up splashed across a YESCO billboard...for hours of enjoyment for the bypassing traffic.

    And we aren't even a step closer to a solution to the problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 16 Jul 2020 @ 7:04pm

    Libertarian...

    This is a case where Libertarianism works. A couple of pictures of dead pets in the reviews and this product dies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 17 Jul 2020 @ 6:13am

    Right to re-pear

    If everyone had a right to repair, there might be open volunteer produced fixes.

    Government idea: since you don't have a right to repair, maybe you should also not have a right to peacefully assemble to prevent DIY pet feeders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 17 Jul 2020 @ 10:54am

    Isn't it wonderful how people have been brainwashed into believing that a "smart" device needs the constant support of the parent company to function? An idea that's been drilled into their heads not only by IOT device makers, but also by companies like Micorsoft and Apple.

    "OMG I can't use my version of Windows any more, Microsoft is dropping support for it!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ron Currier (profile), 17 Jul 2020 @ 11:49am

    Smart is not the problem

    The problem is these devices are not "smart", they are merely "connected". The "smarts" are back on the servers. If they were actually "smart", they wouldn't need a network connection to work.

    I've been burnt twice by this, but now know better. I refuse to purchase anything where "internet connected" means "tied to fortunes of the company owning the servers".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Atkray (profile), 17 Jul 2020 @ 1:39pm

      Re: Smart is not the problem

      This. And this is why my "Smart" sprinker timer is Open Sprinkler. The webserver is built into it. No cloud to connect to, it just works.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lillian carlson, 17 Oct 2020 @ 5:37am

    Petnet system

    How can I get the petnet system automated now?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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