Den Automation had a tumultuous 2019, the new contender in the smart home market had an innovative approach to smart light switches and plug sockets with physical switches in traditional white colours. When I reviewed the system, I found the hardware to be much more appealing than the digital switches you find on LightwaveRF or the various touch-sensitive options other companies offer.
The light switches were also one of the few options on the market that didn’t strictly require an earth wire allowing the system to work with most of the two-wire properties in the UK.
The problem was they opted to use a proprietary version of IEEE 802.15.4, the technical standard which defines the operation of low-rate wireless personal area networks (LR-WPANs). This standard is the foundation of ZigBee, which was recently backed by Apple, Amazon, and Google and already had IKEA and Samsung SmartThings as part of their board members.
Then the worst possible scenario for a smart home system using proprietary communication technologies happened, they went bust.
The result of this meant the servers for Den Automation were switch off and existing users were left with a costly dumb system.
Den Automation becomes Den Switches
There has been absolutely no word from the team at Den Automation throughout the issues they faced, no apologies, no explanation, nothing.
On the 8th of January, a new company was formed called Den Switches Ltd with a single director, Mark William Rowe and as of 18th February 2020, the assets and IP rights of Den Automation Ltd were acquired by this newly formed company with the intention of restoring operations and continuing product development.
It is claimed the acquisition is by one of the largest previous investors, though a quick scan over the companies house records doesn’t seem to mention Mark Rowe in any of the documents I checked. Rowe is currently a Director of Barnard Systems Ltd which provides construction services.
There is no mention of Yasser Khattak who was supposed to be the brainchild of Den Automation in any of the new Den Switches documentation.
Future of Den Switches
The Den Automation domain, getden.co.uk, has now been forwarded to the new denswitches.com domain where they claim the primary objective is restarting customer support operations as soon as possible, followed closely by resuming engineering and manufacturing activities.
This is positive news for the people that have already invested in Den and haven’t ripped out the system in the four months that it has not been working.
However, where will they go from here? Den has quickly become the perfect example of why people fear smart home technology and why proprietary communication standards are an awful idea in this industry. Do they have any hope in trying to relaunch their products following the previous business model? I doubt it.
Hopefully, they will learn from the mistakes and be able to roll out a firmware update that can switch them to ZigBee which would then open their system to a wealth of develops and third-party hardware. Unfortunately, this is just speculation on my part, and it will be interesting to see how Den Switches handles things moving forward.
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