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Animals miss meals as server problem causes connected pet feeders to fail

By midian182 ยท 11 replies
Jul 28, 2016
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  1. In what is yet another warning that we should be wary of leaving our lives in the hands of IoT devices, an internet-connected pet-feeding device has malfunctioned and left many animals without their scheduled meals.

    The $149 Petnet smart feeder is said to be "the world's first intelligent pet feeder that will program itself around your life and the wellness of your pet." It connects to a smartphone app that lets users set meal times and portion sizes for their dog or cat.

    The device does sound like a helpful product for those people who aren’t always at home when their pets need feeding. But a server outage yesterday resulted in many beloved companions going hungry for hours.

    Petnet’s CEO, Carlos Herrera, told The Guardian that the third-party server service the company rents from Google had been down for 10 hours and did not have redundancy backups – something that has annoyed many customers.

    "We are experiencing some difficulty with one of our third party servers. This is currently being investigated," the company wrote in an email. "You may experience a loss of scheduled feeds and failed remote feedings. Please ensure that your pets have been fed manually until we have resolved this issue."

    One Petnet user said that the most upsetting part of the incident was the “completely dismissive and unapologetic” customer service she received from the company.

    The situation is a reminder that the internet of things is still prone to problems, if not from hackers then from bugs and server issues such as this one. And while customers will naturally be very angry at what happened, with some suggesting legal action, Petnet may point them to its terms of service, which reads: “You acknowledge that the services […] are not intended to be 100% reliable and 100% available.” The limitations section also states: “you agree that you will not rely on the services for any safety or critical purposes related to you or your pet.”

    Image credit: Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock

    Permalink to story.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 28, 2016
  2. Camikazi

    Camikazi TS Evangelist Posts: 895   +264

    I don't mind connected devices myself but I do mind the ones that phone home or require a remote server call in order to work. IoT devices to me will only be worth it if I can control who and where they call since I rather setup the devices to connect to a server I control instead of a strange one that can be turned off or go down at any time.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  3. BSim500

    BSim500 TS Guru Posts: 293   +448

    To be perfectly honest, 90% of the $150 "IoT" devices I've seen can be replaced with a simple $5 timer device, lose nothing practical in function yet gain about +1000% reliability for not relying on the Internet for everything...
    tuxbugy and wiyosaya like this.
  4. 3volv3d

    3volv3d TS Addict Posts: 155   +59

    Real life animals miss meals cause owners are too busy playing stupid naff crap like this.
    wiyosaya and p51d007 like this.
  5. mcborge

    mcborge TS Maniac Posts: 395   +249

    If you are never around to feed your pets yourself then you shouldn't have pets in the first place. Relying on fallible tech to do the job for you is just lazy and selfish.
    wiyosaya, SNGX1275 and BlueDrake like this.
  6. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 1,786   +1,006

    The internet of things isn't just prone to problems as the author suggests, it begets problems. Any engineer knows that it's best to create the simplest machine possible to do the job. Adding things that don't aid in the function of the device is just adding avenues for issues.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  7. Jamlad

    Jamlad TS Booster Posts: 75   +69

    The server was down for a few hours. Some animals *may* have missed a meal and gone hungry for a few hours. Have you never been late home for work? The world will not, has not, and shall never end just because a few cats (or many humans and wild animals daily for that matter) didn't eat lunch.

    At worst it can be described as an inconvenience.

    If the server had gone down for days, leaving some animals without food while their owners were away, then we would have something worth discussing.
  8. mcborge

    mcborge TS Maniac Posts: 395   +249

    Every one I know who owns a dog leaves them alone for many hours at a time because of work and they then wonder why there dogs behave so badly around people/ other dogs, its because of boredom
    and lack of stimulation, yet most owners refuse to admit that its there fault there dogs act that way... And knowing that I am going to be out all day is the reason I don't own a pet that needs a lot of attention... Its not fair on the pet.
    3volv3d and wiyosaya like this.
  9. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,160   +829

    Ok so this news was sad because poor animals, and yet it sounds way worse than it was. Imagine getting stuck on traffic and then arriving to feed your pet, it's exactly the same.

    Now my biggest issue is... if you program it to work at a specific time, why on heavens name does it need a connection to the server??? Can't you program locally? Why does it need a timer from a server?? Even my ROBOT vacuum knows when to start without having to ping a server.
    Jamlad likes this.
  10. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,525   +514

    It is probably pinging the server to send data back to PetSmart so that they know when to send you an e-mail reminding you that they also sell food to put in that dish! ;)
  11. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,525   +514

    Yes, IoT is like a Rube Goldberg machine.
  12. Athlonite

    Athlonite TS Enthusiast Posts: 42   +9

    If you need to rely on it then "DON'T" buy iOT devices that require a cloud connection to work

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