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.”