A growing number of us have connected devices in our homes, offices, driveways and even our bodies. The convenience and fun of integrating a device with daily life is real, but there haven’t been nearly enough conversations about who owns that data and how much consumers are letting big companies into their lives in unexpected ways. A current example: Peloton.
By now, nearly everyone has heard of Peloton exercise bikes, from the viral ad when they first launched to questions about the security on President Biden’s bike. Peloton’s popularity is largely tied to its design as a connected device with an extensive online community. Peloton also makes treadmills. Tragically, a 6-year old was recently killed in an accident on one of these treadmills. Due to safety concerns, Peloton issued a recall and added a feature called Tread Lock that requires a four-digit passcode to keep their treadmills from starting up for anyone without authorized access.
Sounds great, right? Here’s the problem. Peloton treadmill users now need that Tread Lock four-digit passcode to unlock their treadmill, and Tread Lock requires a $39 per month Peloton membership. If users cannot unlock their treadmill, they can’t use the machine at all. Peloton is offering the Tread Lock subscription at no cost for three months and says they are working on restoring access to the treadmill without a subscription. However, Peloton has provided no timeframe for restoring the no-subscription access. Many Peloton users are worried their costly treadmills will turn into expensive towel racks — not something they signed up for when they bought the treadmill.
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Why this matters to you
Even if you don’t own a Peloton, the issue of who owns and controls a connected device after purchase could be coming your way in the near future. As the number of connected devices in homes and offices continues to grow globally, consumers should be on the lookout for increasing conflicts with makers of connected devices.
Another recent example came up during a heat wave in the U.S. earlier this summer when power companies in Texas remotely turned up connected thermostats of customers trying to keep their homes cool. Seems these customers had signed up for an energy saver program they didn’t realize gave the power companies the ability to control their smart thermostat until their homes got unexpectedly warm when they were trying to stay cool.
Corporations having a certain level of control over the devices you own in your own home without your explicit awareness because it was buried in the fine print that often goes unread, or companies making you pay extra to use a device you’ve already paid a lot of money for, is potentially pretty creepy. And it’s something we plan to keep an eye on for you in the future.
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