‘Smart home’ devices are flooding the market these days, based on the simple concept of controlling your entire life easily through your phone, wifi and Bluetooth. It’s an absolute dream if you’re the kind of person who likes turning power on and off through an app, or changing the colour of your lightbulbs, but it also means there are a bucketload of absolutely baffling products which are a huge waste of precious earth minerals and probably should not exist.
One of these was the Otto door lock – a much-hyped AU$900 ‘smart lock’ which is now suspending operations before shipping a single unit. CEO Sam Jadallah took to Medium to post a lengthy explanation for why the company is closing. In short, it’s because an acquisition deal they had planned fell through, and they didn’t have a plan B. So they’ve now got a stack of luxury smart locks in a warehouse somewhere they’re probably never going to ship.
To our beta users, pre-order customers, suppliers and partners, I’m so very saddened that we can’t deliver Otto, which was planned for first revenue in just four weeks. Seeing Otto light up as it welcomes me home and unlocks with a simple press, is a moment of joy that is now coupled with deep sadness. Otto will not ship next month and it may never ship. We will evaluate our options in the coming weeks and see what is open to us.
Here’s what you would have gotten for your nine hundred bucks. Revealed in August, Otto would replace your regular door lock, and would identify you based on your iOS or Android phone when you approached the door. If you forgot your phone, you could enter a four digit number by turning the lock as if it were the combination on a safe.
For $900, you could alleviate the sad problem of having to carry keys. Jadallah, speaking to TechCrunch, insisted that the failure of the acquisition had nothing to do with the fact that such a product would have at best an incredibly niche market of insanely rich people and nerds, arguing that they had it all planned out:
This isn’t the story of an ambitious product that didn’t have a market. I was convinced that we had priced it the right way for the product, and we knew that the technology that we had innovated was something that we could use in different ways at other price point.
Keeping in mind you can score a regular old lock, reliable as hell and using a key, for like thirty bucks. Jadallah doesn’t say exactly why the proposed investor cancelled the acquisition, though he assures the reader that they were already aware of the astronomical price. In the past, Jadallah said the high price of the iPhone X showed consumers were ready to pay big for consumer tech, but there’s absolutely a difference between a smartphone – which we all live on these days – and a literal door lock.
Smart home tech is very cool, and is going to be an even bigger thing in the near future. Security is obviously going to be a big part of that. But it seems like there are still some pieces of the puzzle startups haven’t really worked out yet.Image: Otto