THE SUPERFLUITY of Internet of Things (IoT) manufacturers may well have claimed a significant victim as Y-Cam, as one of the first companies to offer cloud recording has withdrawn its much-flaunted free service with little warning.
The announcement that customers will now have to pay for recordings after the first year directly contravenes the statement on its packaging which boasts of "Free Cloud Storage. No Monthly Fees" with no end date or terms listed flagged.
Y-Cam, which launched 11 years ago, sent an email to customers on 30 November explaining that it simply could not afford to subsidize the service from the sale of its cameras.
"We have endeavoured to provide our cloud camera service and support without making a monthly subscription mandatory. However, it is no longer possible to continue without requiring a monthly fee to cover the cost of providing a service for Y-cam cloud camera users," the email, seen by INQ, reads.
"After much deliberation, we must reluctantly inform you that 7-day cloud storage will be limited to one year with effect from date of activation, and a subscription of £2.99 per camera per month will be payable thereafter for continued use of the Y-cam cloud service."
Y-Cam CEO Devin Chawda goes on to explain that anyone opting not to take on the new pricing will be limited to live streaming and motion alerts only, but won't be able to play them back, which is, let's face it, worse than useless.
The email also shows the part of the terms and conditions of service which allows the company to change the offer with just 14 days notice, despite the contradictory statements in advertising.
Worse still, we met with Mr Chawda a month ago to discuss the company's upcoming plans and were given no indication that there was so much as a hint of a possibility of changing the nature of the service (though we suspect in hindsight that the press tour was a desperate last-ditch charm offensive). In fact, Mr Chawda actually outlined the existing free offering to us again over coffee.
Customers are understandably furious. One Google reviewer said, "Y-Cam has today rendered BOTH my cameras useless because I would not be forced into paying for a service I was told was "FREE, For Life, FOREVER".
"This company is dishonest. I would recommend anyone thinking of buying any of their products to think twice before doing so. Once they have your money they don't care..."
When INQ spoke to Mr Chawda we were surprised by his attitude to keep his products as a proprietary system, so far only offering Alexa compatibility.
INQ has long said that in order for the smart home and internet of things to succeed, brands and protocols have to be able to interact.
Security cameras are the least integrated part of this network, and with Nest, Ring, Arlo, D-Link, Nokia, Motorola, Honeywell and many others all offering their own proprietary systems for cloud recording, the industry model was never sustainable - a common standard will have to be found, even if it drives up the cost of the hardware, and it seems Y-Cam is the first to blink.
With this announcement, Mr Chawda has also inadvertently admitted that his business model cannot sustain an open ecosystem (in short, the hardware wasn't profitable), and if that is the case, we will be interested to see what (if anything) the future holds for Y-Cam.
Y-Cam has responded, saying in a statement: "On 30/11/17 Y-cam announced that its free cloud recording service is being limited to 1 year for both new and existing customers. After 1 year of free usage customers have the option to subscribe to a recording plan from £2.99 per month or alternatively still receive notifications and be able to access live video footage, however the camera will no longer record. Y-cam is honouring the previous 3 year free cloud storage offer for any customers that activated their cameras between 15/06/17 and 15/12/17.
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