Chamberlain, the maker of the MyQ garage door opener and enterprise access products, will this week start charging for select smart home integrations, including IFTTT. Chamberlain will charge customers $1 per month, or $10 per year, so they can link their garage door openers to their other home automation devices.
Cory Sorice, VP and general manger of emerging business at Chamberlain, said via email that the new service will launch on Tuesday and will cover IFTTT and Google Home integrations. He also said the company plans to roll out more partners over time. I believe Chamberlain is the first company to try to charge an additional fee for linking a connected product to a service like Google Home or IFTTT.
When asked why Chamberlain was charging a fee for integration, Sorice said that the market has evolved into so many options for controlling the smart home, including HomeKit and Google Home. These require additional support. Additionally he said users are fragmented between those who want to embrace higher levels of home automation through outside services, and those that just like using the MyQ to ensure their garage door is shut after they leave.
As someone who has purchased the MyQ and long been frustrated that it didn’t work with the Amazon Echo and Google Home (it does work with Wink), this news is bittersweet. As a consumer, I don’t want to pay more to link my garage door to other devices, but as a reporter covering the industry I am well aware that for a connected product to remain sustainable, companies have to charge a lot up front or come up with additional services to pay for the ongoing cost of software development, cloud computing and security updates.
Cloud storage for video cameras and doorbells or monitoring have been the most common way connected home companies have tried to keep revenue flowing in, although there are other options. For example, your thermostat company might sign a partnership with an air filter replacement vendor to remind you to buy a new filter and let you order it from within the app. At that point the thermostat company could take a cut of the air filter price.
Chamberlain’s plan is another way to add a recurring revenue stream to support a product that will carry development costs for the rest of its life. One of those charges is actually the IFTTT service itself. Earlier this year IFTTT rolled out two partnership programs that companies buy into. One is $199 a month and the other starts at $499 a month depending on the size of the company. Given Chamberlain’s focus on security and delivering a high quality service, it’s likely in the pricier tier that offers guaranteed servers and tech support.
I emailed IFTTT to discover if other companies were planning on charging for integrations, and a spokeswoman got back to me saying: “It’s an interesting move and our team is watching closely. … It’s exciting to see Chamberlain take ownership of their IFTTT integration and work with their customers on the value of MyQ Applets.”
Devices like Philips Hue light bulbs, SmartThings’ home hub and August locks are popular home automation integrations. Could the companies behind those services start charging too?
As for Chamberlain, ahead of the official launch of the $1 service fee, Sorice said while some users are clearly frustrated on Twitter, the feedback has been generally positive and uptake has been ahead of expectations. For most consumers, an extra fee means they won’t link their service to IFTTT without having a clear use case. And frankly, given the difficulties that people have had finding a compelling use for the smart home, and the costs of supporting connected devices over the long run, this fee might be a positive step for the industry.
We discussed this topic and more last week on the Internet of Things Podcast around the 13:20 mark, if you want to hear more.
Updated: This post was updated at 2:30 CT to add comment from IFTTT.
There is no way that “feedback has been generally positive”. This article reeks of kissing Chamberlain’s posterior, not holding them to account for a poor business decision.It is more than just a single twitter user that is upset, check Reddit or the Chamberlain forums for many more examples.
If you need further examples of how Chamberlain is an incredibly shady company, look at their history of offering HomeKit integration. For 2+ years they were promising HomeKit functionality via a future software update. But now, they are forcing you to but a $99 hub.
Kevin C. Tofel says
Hey Bob, Stacey wrote this article but she’s on the road, so I’m sharing my thoughts in the meantime. From a consumer point of view, I’m not thrilled by this add-on pricing, particularly since we’ve long been able to use IFTTT at no charge. But from a business perspective, it does cost them for the service and Chamberlain is paying for it. And it’s not cheap with pricing starting at $499 a month. So the business model is starting to change here — something we’ve discussed on the podcast many times before — whether we like it or not. I’m sure that plenty of folks are upset and I can understand that. But I also understand that providing a service has to be paid for by someone in order for it to continue. As far as the HomeKit point, that stinks too. In that case though, I blame Apple to a degree. HomeKit has been a bit of a moving target since its intro: It originally was going to require hardware security in HomeKit devices and recently that seems to have changed. Most of the product makers have had to turn on a dime (more than once likely) when it comes to creating a HomeKit compatible device. Hope that provides a little perspective. Thanks!
I just wanted to mention that $499/mo is a drop in the bucket for a company the size of The Chamberlain Group. My guess is that they have done the math and assume that they will earn more from charging from this than they’ll lose in lost customers. They might be right.
Regardless, $6000/year is couch cushion change to them.
Kevin C. Tofel says
Mark, I agree with you that $6,000 a year isn’t much for a company of that size. We don’t know their actual cost though because that IFTTT plan starts at $499 a month and scales up based on customer base size, users, etc.
I don’t have a MyQ, but if I did, I’d rather spend a small amount on a hub, like my Wink, which supports similar functionality at no extra charge. Nothing against IFTTT because it’s a great service. But it exists for when there aren’t officially supported integrations.
Just wanted to mention that OpenHAB has a Chamberlain MyQ binding which appears to have been created by reverse engineering the liftmaster app. I’ve used it for the last year without any issues.
I will never pay a monthly fee for an integration of a device which runs on my local network.
Stacey Higginbotham says
That isn’t necessarily the cost, nor is it the end of the costs associated with an integration. Getting customers to pay is also a very good way to test the market for that demand and offer a freemium service that can offset the costs of the software underlying the physical device.
I don’t love the idea, so I’m not paying for it, despite loving my Chamberlain. Mostly because I have integrated my myQ into my home using Wink but partly because I’m not keen to add another service to my life.
So what would you say if they started charging you for your wink integration? After “testing the market” (on their customers who purchased a device which was LABELED ‘no monthly fees) why would they stop with IFTTT? What about every other device in your home?
As pointed out above, the cost to Chamberlain for this is chump change. If they raised the price of their garage door opener 25 cents they’d probably cover it. Chamberlains also charging per service, so just for IFTTT access they only need 60 users to cover that $6000 fee. Using the argument that they need to do this to support the service is misleading – there are plenty of other ways they could cover that cost without a subscription service
It’s important to recognize the ‘freemum service’ you’re advocating has a potentially devastating effect for the smart home industry..
1) The obvious potential charges for every single device integration in your home, adding a device to your smart home would add another to a list of ‘micro service subscriptions’ you’d be paying for what you have now.
2) The opportunities for partner bias, you’re telling IFTTT users to just purchase a wink hub, but isn’t that exactly the problem IFTTT is trying to solve by having a unified group of integrated partners? If it becomes normalized for large companies to block out integrations through paywalls as a trend they’ll push people into a few solutions, slow access and innovation.
This is assuming Chamberlain makes this an industry trend, which I don’t believe for a minute they will. But understand how wrong their reasoning is.
But back to my original question – would you pay to connect your Chamberlain to your wink hub if they announced they were going to start charging monthly?
Right. I’m not suggesting that their costs end at $6000, only that this is an insignificant amount for Chamberlain.
What I really want is an open API for my garage door opener. Some sort of HTTP interface with support for both gathering the state of the door and opening / closing. Realistically, this won’t happen unless I do it myself.
It’s clear you guys are pushing the company line – you even re-tweeted this article with the comment “good for the industry” so don’t give the “I understand, this is just the way things are going” line. If you’re being sponsored by Chamberlain you should come clean.
As for “there’s a cost to them – from a business perspective” that’s understood! No one here is asking for them to add features without adjusting price/devices/whatever necessary. The issue here is that they’re charging a monthly fee to connect to integrated platforms which are based around open access. It’s a trend that needs to be strongly condemned and I’m surprised as smart home advocates you would get behind this in any way.
Your messaging adjustments/tone to prop Chamberlain up aside, you position of supporting this model at all leads me to believe you guys are bought and paid for. You’re campaigning to launch a very negative trend in the industry — saying “it’s happening whether we like it or not” like you’re not promoting it! I’d read this article originally as a credible review – but it’s clear this you’re unbelievably biased.
Stacey Higginbotham says
First, we are not sponsored by Chamberlain or take money from the company in any way. IFTTT was a sponsor a few months back. When we take money from a company we disclose it very clearly on the site, verbally in the podcast and in our social messaging. We NEVER take money in exchange for a favorable opinion.
Second, it sounds like we have have a disagreement how the industry is evolving. I come by my opinion that we’re going to see more subscriptions and even that such subscriptions or alternative forms of creating recurring revenue are positive for the industry because I have observed it for years. In that time I’ve talked to dozens of companies who realized that their costs exceeded the margins they planned for on their hardware, and found themselves trying to figure out how to stay in business.
There are real challenges associated with connected products and supporting them over a long life. The cost of cloud computing is the least of them, but it is a consideration. More expensive is the cost of developers to update software with OS updates, patch new security holes and support integrations. There are also customer service costs since these devices evolve over time. A new integration might mean a support call or a software update could.
In general a connected devices may cost between $1 or $3 a year for a company over what might be a 5 or 10-year lifespan. That may not seem like a lot, but if a company sells 10 million of these things it because a continuing downer on the balance sheet, even as the revenue from the product recedes in time. Another challenge is that companies are still trying to figure out what these costs look like, since we’re so new in this development.
Unlike phones which get updates and support over 2 or 3 years, connected products like a thermostat or a light switch don’t come with expiration dates (although they should.)
So that’s why I think subscriptions are one way of solving what is a legit balance sheet issue for companies, while also not pricing these devices too prohibitively. Other ways will also evolve. As a consumer I don’t love the idea, but I get why it’s happening. I’m also always looking for tech to change the math in ways that might make subscriptions obsolete.
In more than 20 years of writing about tech I’ve done my homework to understand how things work so I can advocate for consumers. When data caps were coming into vogue in the broadband world, I dug into networks so I could argue against them based on the technologies involved and the economics to the companies.
I am trying to do that here. If that’s not clear, it’s because I didn’t dig into all of the economics in my story. It’s not because someone paid me to have an opinion.
I appreciate this reply, even though I don’t agree this is a good direction for the industry.
Thanks for responding.
Kevin C. Tofel says
Sam, I’m not trolling you here but wanted to ask you a question. Do you feel IFTTT has any responsibility in this particular situation?
If we look at the root cause of the scenario, it’s really IFTTT that changed its business model. Yes, Chamberlain decided to partner with them, likely in order to provide dedicated / prioritized IFTTT service for their customers, so I’m not solely pointing a finger at either company.
Just curious, since nobody is really discussing IFTTT’s business in all of this. And I think that has to be part of the discussion as a whole (which is an interesting discussion, BTW).
Thanks for responding, I didn’t read your reply as trolling at all.
IFTTT is a company, and they need to have a revenue stream – obviously they have expenses and staff to support. They’re an online service, so they could either charge customers who use it or the could charge the partner companies to get that income (or both I guess). They charge the partner companies as a ‘value add to their product’. I think IFTTT’s fees are EXTREMELY reasonable considering – my guess is that it costs a big company like Chamberlain a fraction of a penny per customer per year.
Chamberlain is gaining something by paying for this partnership though, it’s a HUGE value add for their product. IFTTT support is a feature most customers look for before purchase, so I think it really helps them remain competitive and enhances their product a lot. Just like marketing costs are factored in when assessing how to best promote a product – if there are partner or internal costs those should be factored in with how they’ll help improve the product.
That said — there’s another bigger part of this whole Chamberlain program outside ‘adjusting to meet IFTTT’s model’. If Chamberlain wanted to launch a new product and advertise $1 a month IFTTT integration on the box that’s certainly their prerogative, but I don’t believe anyone would buy it and they probably know the same. What they’ve done instead is string current and potential customers along for years with the promise of this integration, then after building a strong base of device owners (who have each spent $100’s of dollars on their product based on these promises) they decide to shove this subscription down their throats. I myself have only had a Chamberlain for a few months — I did my research on twitter/facebook/their forums and heard all about their “planned IFTTT support” before purchasing the product with a big label which said ‘NO MONTHLY FEES’. I’m not going to spend another $300 on another opener, and they’re counting on that.
If they’re truly trying to improve the business model for the industry (which you and I disagree is an improvement, but that’s okay!) at least we can agree they’ve royally messed up with this specific program implementation. They’ve openly lied to their entire customer base, enraged them with this policy, provided disasterious customer/PR support, and what few canned responses they’ve given show a total disconnect from both the industry and their product owners.
Case in point: https://www.facebook.com/LiftMaster/posts/1719140814765318
I respect your desire to have a discussion about changing business models to better support developers Kevin, that’s a good discussion for the industry. But with this implementation I think you need to step back from the ‘big picture’ and look at the details/history of how this program specifically is being marketed.
Mots people angry about this here and on Facebook aren’t smart home advocates who disagree with their business model. They’re customers of Chamberlains who have been mislead about this integration and are now stuck with an expensive device they regret purchasing. Moving the discussion to ‘higher level ideas about the industry’ is great, but it’s also exactly what Chamberlain is using as cover to protect themselves from this fallout.
Kevin C. Tofel says
Thanks, Sam. I think nearly all of what you said is spot on. I’m very against customers getting strung along with an expectation of something only to later find out it’s going to cost more. That’s a terrible business practice in any industry. I wish we could get the exact costs from Chamberlain and IFTTT to truly understand the financials and decision making process here but that’s doubtful. Either way, nothing IMO justifies an implicit promise to be broken. Appreciate the insights!
I’d expect more from an IoT advocate – charging for this level of integration? Stacey, what if EVERY IoT integration you use started charging PER integration and in ADDITION to a $50-80 hub? That would destroy the entire consumer IoT industry.
I notice that no one in this conversation has asked why it is necessary for any IoT device to “phone home” for all its integrations. I do understand it is necessary if you want to directly check the state of your device or issue a command thru a smartphone or web page. I can even consider it MIGHT be necessary to certain devices, like locks, to ensure security.
It is possible to fill both needs. In fact Radio Thermostat has done just that with its Honeywell branded WiFi thermostats. They have a free (thus far) app that communicates with the thermostat thru their servers. It is also possible to address them locally via HTTP GET/POST commands. If we configure our firewalls correctly to require all communication sessions to begin internally (usually our ISP does this for us) the device is substantially safe from external nefarious actors. (yes, it is a bit of an over simplification, but not that much of one.)
It does seem that a number of the manufacturers are focusing on adding new revenue streams in the same way Apple has in conjunction with all of its devices, and yet we generally pay for all or most of those services. Remember, Apple is a hardware company that sells add-on services. The services are additional revenue streams, but their primary purpose is to increase the value of their devices in the marketplace. I suspect companies like Chamberlain are trying to emulate that model to some degree.
We can continue to implore companies like Chamberlain, who’s service offerings are in their infancy, to change their corporate goals before they gain traction. I suspect they will continue to only listen to the one thing that drives them as corporations, how we vote with our dollars. If we continue to buy their products that have these feature sets, they will continue their current direction. If we buy their new services that enhance those feature sets, they will move in that direction faster. If we find and buy a competitor’s product that that chooses to implement the functionality in a way that in stead aligns with our view of the direction the IoT should go, they will either follow, discontinue that feature set, or go our of business (not likely for Chamberlain).
We are the market. The dollars we spend are our voice.
Matt Hugh says
A sucker is born everyday in the ole USA
As a MyQ customer who has been knowingly misled by Chamberlin about reoccurring after purchase costs, I am incensed!
I feel as if I have had been assumed to be a fool. And, whether this is true or not, I do not take kindly to someone pointing it out!
I am a proponent for an email campaign to educate all potential Chamberlin MyQ customers. Only good can come of this. Either potential MyQ customers spend their money someplace else. Or, they do purchase MyQ with full knowledge about the size of a bear trap into which they are stepping.
If the educated customer base uses their dollars to vote for allowing a vampire to permanently latch on to their throats, so be it. (It’s happened before.)
If Chamberlin misses enough business to stop accusing all of their potential customers of being idiots by altering their marketing, that is better in my opinion.
Now, I wonder what kind of targeted email program could be implemented with Gmail and, appropriately, IFTTT?
Bill Hammer says
Not really CONTROL4 has been doing it for years. You have to “buy a license “ to use Alexa with it a 100 a year. That’s why when I moved I was more than happy to leave my overpriced $10000 system to the new owners. I’m sure there are many who did the same. MyQ is going to do the same business model as control4.
James Frey says
FYI, just stumbled upon this update:
Update to Premium Subscriptions
Starting June 26, 2019, premium subscriptions to link your myQ account to one of our premium partners will be FREE for a limited time. No credit card is required for a premium subscription.
Ray Gordon says
I’m confused. Is there a monthly fee to link MyQ to Amazon Key? I see information about fees to link to Google Home, IFTTT, etc. I want to buy a MyQ Smart Opener (for my existing garage door opener), and be able to receive packages from Amazon Key for Garage… withOUT paying an extra $1/month. Would I fall into the “free for a limited time” window, or is this a configuration that doesn’t require an ongoing subscription at all?
Andre Salmon says
I am very disappointed in Chamberlain bought my MyQ garage opener come to realize I cannot use a Google assistance to open my garage unless I pay $1 a month? I will definitely return this product waste of time
It appears to be free now, not sure if that is permettant for just to get folks to sign up. I just hooked up my Chamberlain garage door opener without paying a penny.