HomeBridge compatibility blocked by Chamberlain myQ smart garage door opener

Cupertino, December 8, 2023

The Chamberlain myQ smart garage door opener now blocks access from Homebridge, Home Assistant and other third-party apps. It follows the company discontinuing the myQ Home Bridge Hub last year, making the door opener HomeKit compatible. The motivation for this move appears to be to force people to use Chamberlain's own app so they have to deal with the ads it shows... Background Chamberlain offers a range of garage door openers, none of which are HomeKit compatible. However, in the past you could buy a separate bridge unit – the myQ Home Bridge Hub with HomeKit – for more modern openers, turning them into HomeKit devices. They can then be controlled in the Apple Home app and with Siri. Chamberlain discontinued that product last year, claiming the decision was due to low sales volumes. However, that still gave HomeKit fans other options. Third-party apps like Homebridge and Home Assistant have effectively added HomeKit support to the garage door openers, using a Chamberlain API. Chamberlain is now blocking access to the API. The company recently issued a statement describing this use of the API as "unauthorized" and said it would now block use of these apps. Chamberlain Group recently made the decision to prevent unauthorized use of our myQ ecosystem through third-party apps. This decision was made so that we can continue to provide the best possible experience to our more than 10 million users, as well as our authorized partners who place their trust in us. We understand this will impact a small percentage of users, but ultimately this will improve the performance and reliability of myQ, benefiting all our users. No explanation was given – other than the implied “our official partners pay us good money for access, and now wonder why they do that.” But Arstechnica has identified another likely motivation. The company's official app displays ads, and anyone using a third-party app won't see them. Our immediate question is why a garage opener company would care about customers using its garage door opener. You sell garage door openers. Is use not the goal? A quick perusal of the app store reviews reveals what's going on. The iOS app has a decent 4.8 star rating, but the Android app has seen a wave of one-star reviews starting in October. “Unfortunately, this app now shows ads at the very top and I can't find a way to disable them,” writes one Play Store reviewer (Google doesn't provide links to reviews). “This is very disturbing and in addition the button to open my garage is moving out of the visible part of the screen. So to use it I now have to look at the ads first, then scroll down and hope to find my button.” Another user writes: "I don't want ads in an app that I already paid for the companion product for." Other one-star reviews mention things like, "I clicked the door open/close event and the video storage subscription dialog popped up asking me to subscribe," and "Most of the app is to sell you on services and devices you don't need.” However, there is a workaround. For users stuck with a Chamberlain garage door opener, Home Assistant recommends a small circuit board called a "ratgdo," which is specifically intended for hacking Chamberlain/LiftMaster garage door openers. This connects the wires from the garage door button with your WiFi (something Chamberlain presumably can't disconnect on purpose) and communicates freely with everything. It can even somehow "report the actual status of the door (closed, opening, opening, closing)". Homekit.Blog This debacle is the latest cautionary tale about an increasingly common problem with modern technology: We never fully own it. Some products rely on access to manufacturer servers. The creator can decide at any time to charge for that access or disable them – otherwise the servers could be lost if a company goes bankrupt. Companion apps can also stop working if a company goes bankrupt, leaving hardware owners with limited or completely unusable devices. If you purchase a product because of functionality provided by a third-party app through an API, access to that API may be revoked at any time or a company may charge you for it. Companies can even issue over-the-air firmware updates that remove features – perhaps because they want to force people to buy a subscription or upgrade to a later model. For smart home devices, the best we can do as consumers is buy products that support HomeKit or Matter – and punish companies that pull these kinds of stunts by never buying anything from them again, and advise our friends to do the same. FTC: We use monetized auto-affiliate links. More.

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