Rachio Ethics?


#1

The new Gen 3 has a couple of very welcomed new hardware features; buttons for local control and better radios. These are both good. There are two software bits that are concerning though; removal of GPH from Gen 2 FW/SW just prior to the announcement of Gen 3 and Weather Intelligence +.

The only reason I can see for removing the GPH calc from Gen 2 is to prompt some Gen 2 folks to upgrade to Gen 3 to get back a feature that they previously had (and paid for?). Gen 3’s flow meter is likely considerably more accurate but Rachio seems to believe it is not more accurate enough to encourage people to upgrade to new hardware - so they removed it.

Perhaps there is a hardware bit that prevents Rachio from offering WI+ on Gen 2 devices. In all of their talking about it though, they’ve never mentioned anything about a more powerful processor or anything else that is required for WI+ and that is not present on Gen 2.

Here’s the problem. When most of us buy things like this today in 2018 we expect firmware and software updates and we expect the hardware we’ve paid for to support every feature that it’s capable of. My MacBook, iPhone, and other devices all get every update they are capable of given their hardware.

I have a nearly 4 year old Tesla Model S and with each release of Tesla software, approx every 8 weeks, I get every new or improved feature that my hardware is capable of. I have Auto Pilot v1 hardware and while I don’t get features that can only be supported with v2 or v2.5 hardware I get every feature that can be supported with v1 hardware. My wife’s car is newer than mine but its capabilities are static while my car keeps improving. BTW, she’s planning to trade her car in for a Tesla this summer.

My cameras, the oven in our kitchen, our TV’s, and many other things are similar - they all get every update and every new or improved feature that the hardware is capable of. No games of what will or will not be available on what. Even our lightbulbs (Lifx, Hue, etc.) get every update and feature that they are capable of supporting.

Rachio should be the same. When new software is released then every device, from Gex 1 to Gen x, should get the same software and every new feature it is capable of supporting. Acting otherwise is like one of the old line antiquated companies we’re all leaving behind. Likewise, existing features should NEVER be eliminated from an older product in order to boost sales of a newer one.

I like Rachio and will probably begin using their controllers. IMO there is nobody else with as good of capabilities. However, this and some other things have left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth that were there better options or when there are better options may swing me to them rather than a company that I’m not sure I can trust.

I hope that I’m wrong and there are better explanations.


#2

In the IT field, this is just NOT possible. It takes FAR too many resources to try and support every single hardware version. And at some point, the old hardware just won’t cut it any more. Often, the old hardware just won’t have the memory, storage, and computing capacity to handle the new software.

A common practice (across many, many vendors) is to support the latest hardware and the -1 hardware. After that, the -2 and more hardware may still run, but it won’t get new features and it’s software will be frozen and no longer supported.

So I won’t be surprised if this is what Rachio does. And if they do do this, I will totally understand it. And I won’t be upset. It’s the IT world we live in today.


#3

Linn, I ran software development groups for four different companies. What you said is simply not true. It is massively easier, less expensive and more reliable to support a single code base than to have a different code base for each product.


#4

I think that’s the idea @Linn is referring to. The older Rachio models just might not be capable of supporting some of the newer features. My guess is that it’s not a matter of Rachio maintaining separate code bases for different Rachio generations. I’d guess that they have a single code base–maybe someone from Rachio could comment.

I remember when my first gen iPad and my old iPhone 3GS stopped getting OS updates past a certain point. :slight_smile:


#5

@Quincy, what I’ve observed in stalking this community for a year and actively contributing for the next year is that Rachio is very ethical. I’ve seen them replace controllers that got smoked by lighting and controllers without asking for proof of purchase as they have a TWO YEAR not 90 day warranty.

They have also bent over backwards to troubleshoot network and wiring issues in order to get controllers working.

Regarding Gen 1 vs Gen 2, I believe Gen 1 uses ElectricImp’s backend and Gen 2 uses something different. Until we have more information on Gen 3’s hardware I’d reserve judgement. Using a 10% CAGR for processing power, the processing power for a Gen 3 should be about 21% more than a Gen 2 and probably 46% more than a Gen 1 - assuming they used the same price point for silicon and didn’t just ride the cost curve down. Using Moore’s Law for processing power growth, well …


#6

Exactly this. I wish we knew more about Weather Intelligence + and Rachio might rethink its announcement strategy, but it’s a very big reach to infer they are unethical without any facts.


#7

As far as I see Rachio is far from the first one to set a precedent here. Big brands such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc… have designed a unique software features on a new hardware which hypothetically could have been implemented on the previous generations. I think it mostly comes down to a question of licensing. I imagine implementing a hyper-local weather analysis simply costs more (in terms of energy consumption and/or 3rd party licensing fees) and it would be cost prohibitive to simply implement it across the entire hardware line. I have no doubts that earlier gen units will benefit from what ever system the latest generation will end up using (seems we don’t have long left to wait for first hands-on with Gen 3 units), and that, if there will be a sufficient difference between old and new, at some point Rachio may provide an option to buy a WI+ license for people otherwise happy with Gen 1 or 2 hardware.

That was my 2 cents, take it with a grain of salt as I have no clue about Rachio’s inner workings.
Gene


#8

It isn’t all about being on a single code-base. It is certainly nice when possible and my employer has been working steadily towards that model for a long time now, but you still have to consider the test matrix growing exponentially as you introduce additional devices. Supporting legacy devices starts to become resource intensive. You then have to decide if your resources are better spent on the legacy support or working on future offerings. perhaps you invest in an updated engineering system which runs automated smoke tests at check-in to find obvious errors or omissions that break major system functionality, but then you realize your automated tests often have more lines of code than the software functions themselves so it’s another trade off to consider.

At some point you have to cut bait and say ok then, we’re done, time to move on from that particular product and put the resources into current and future models.

I totally understand wanting all the bells and whistles across a family of products where possible, but also realize there’s a certain point where it just isn’t possible and it may be a business decision rather than a technical decision to do so. Heck my home is full of Z-Wave+ smart dimmers and switches, and the company just released a new model series with some new features. The guts of the old and new series are identical for the most part, and many of the new features are entirely software. Yet, they have no plans to rev the firmware of the older series and add the new software-only features. I may not like it… and I voice my opinion as such, but I also understand there are probably reason behind the choice not to make it an option.


#9

To me, here’s another problem. From what I see (from a very high-level consumer view), Rachio only generates revenue when they sell their product.

Of the examples you give, I’d be very surprised if Rachio has anywhere near the cash flow of Apple, Tesla, Philips (Hue), or whoever makes your TVs/cameras, and likely even your oven manufacturer. Ovens have upgradable firmware?!

What surprises me about Rachio is that their product is cloud-dependent, but unlike most cloud-dependent services today, there isn’t a recurring monthly/yearly service plan. Ring’s doorbell and Nest/Arlo’s security cameras could have easily been design to store video locally on the device, but instead they were purposefully designed to require the cloud for those functions, which requires a forever recurring fee.

I don’t think anyone here wants to pay monthly/yearly fees to use their Rachio.

So if that means Rachio has to generate revenue by designing newer models every other summer that have some exclusive software features that might make existing owners want to upgrade, … fine by me.


#10

I was also surprised this when I purchased Rachio Gen2 controller. They have done every calculation and computation in the cloud. Why don’t they lessen the overhead in cloud by delegating those jobs to controllers? Rachio team changed the interval of moisture level computation to 24hr recently so that the moisture table looks awkward (yesterday’s moisture + precipitation - ET is not matched to today’s moisture).

Since rachio controller also has capable to run webserver as far as I know, it can do simple math on their own, like polling the data from PWS, calculating the water usage, calculating current moisture level.


#11

Ethics aside, not playing that rabbit hole. I want my GPH data back and the older, more regular, moisture level calculations.

I spent a good bit of time investing in accurate precip/nozzle settings to have very accurate GPH data from rachio. This allowed me to balance my water bill with my watering schedule. I cannot justify upgrading my controller that has just hit a year old since I installed it. My ROI period on the existing setup is going to be a couple of years. A new controller to get back what I already had would be laughably dumb and change my ROI out to 5+ years on the Rachio product lines.

This type of situation is frustrating and makes me inclined to move away from Rachio as a brand altogether.


#12

“Ethics aside… I want my GPH data back…”

I have to say I was a little disappointed that Rachio removed the usage stats and graphs. After you spend a while outside staring at the water meter to record flow rates, it’s sort of a bummer to lose this data.

Why not just track minutes of use per zone, allow the user to enter GPM for each, and multiply to get gallons? This works regardless of hardware on the unit, and requires only a UI and database containing tables of dates and GPM values. A table is necessary only to keep the history accurate in case the user changes the flow rate from time to time, and Rachio already has a user database anyway.


#13

This would be a very good mix of the two, and honestly the per-zone minutes is the only good comparison of minutes that can be done. As I’ve shared my opinion on this previously, telling me it saved X minutes is pretty useless altogether since each zone is not going to be the same uniform configuration.


#14

I don’t disagree with you but I’m not sure how much of that applies to a device as simple as a Rachio controller.

I’d be very surprised if there is much of a CPU change and thus code base change from Gen 2 to Gen 3. Rachio have made no mention of a new or more powerful CPU so my GUESS is that they are using the same CPU or a similar one from the same family. If I were a marketing person and Gen 3 had a better or more powerful CPU I’d certainly tout that.

I’d question the decision making of Rachio if the code base is significantly different between 2 and 3 unless there were either major shortcomings in 2 or they’ve had to totally re-architect 3 to prepare for future capabilities.

My GUESS is that they are either running the exact same code on both 2 and 3 or they compile them from the same code base. All we know that is different from a hardware standpoint is a radio and some buttons. And, there’s a reasonable chance that the buttons use the same AD (or same family) as other analog IO so no major difference (and even if they need a new AD it wouldn’t be a huge change).

I’m not suggesting that they’ve not done a lot of code work (device & server) for the new hardware but I’d be surprised if there is much difference between 2 & 3 and if there is any reason for WI+ not to work on Gen 2 other than a single line of code (on/off) and a marketing decision.

If purely a marketing decision then they should either include WI+ in the software for all devices that support it or offer it for a nominal charge ($30?). And this should have been announced at the same time as Gen 3, not left as a murky ‘we haven’t yet decided’. I would not like being told that I have to buy new hardware to run something that will run on my existing hardware simply because of a marketing decision.


#15

I agree that Rachio is a “free” service and the only source of income is the sale of the original unit. A number of Home Automation systems follow a similar model of new generations coming out with better and more radios, so Rachio isn’t alone here…

This was one of my thoughts when I saw something new roll out that wasn’t going to be available for previous generations. At the end of the day, the Rahio unit is just a dumb box that sends a milli-amp signal to the solenoids when the cloud says so…so other than the addition of a built in WiFi antenna for the wireless flow sensor, I don’t see why other stuff, like WI+ can’t be included, and I’d be willing to pay a small fee to upgrade…


#16

Did you read the rest of the message? LMFAO


#17

This would be nice, and the team may even get to double-dip on revenue a bit if someone who purchased the SW update rights also decided to upgrade to a G3 (or 4… or 5…) at a later time.


#18

+1 on the minimal software upgrade fee, although I do think it should be free. I’ve had my unit less than 1 year. Some consideration needs to be made here.


#19

I agree Qunicy.

In the replies: Please don’t describe the Gen 2 as old. It’s not. I don’t know of anyone who is going to spend several hundred dollars on a new sprinkler controller every 18-24 months.

They should not be releasing totally new hardware this frequently.

Tesla owner and lover here too.


#20

Taking away features that were there is not smart. Especially if they are trying to sell new models.

Let’s say you’ve had an older iPhone for years. What if Apple suddenly took away the camera on that old phone to get you to buy the new? I imagine that would rub a few people the wrong way.

If you want me to buy a new unit, build newer and fancier features in the new model. If you take things away from me in order to get me to buy new we won’t be partners for long.