First off, let’s just get this out there: who didn’t do a double take when learning that Will.i.am purchased Wink a few years back? What sense did that make?
But Wink has been something of a hot potato over the years. Founded out of Quirky and partly funded by GE, it had a rocky start. Primary resale partner Home Depot didn’t understand how to sell smart home products, and first-generation Wink-branded devices proved to be buggy and expensive. The company fell on hard times after failing to update an expiring security certificate in time on its hubs, requiring fully-comped replacements for many customers.
When Quirky declared bankruptcy in 2015, Flex—then manufacturer of many Wink products—purchased the company. Flex then resold it two years later to i.am+, headed by entertainer-turned-technology-tastemaker Will.i.am. It’s remained there, in i.am+’s catalog of largely unrelated technology investments, for the past two years.
Not much has happened in all that time. Wink released a v2 hub, introduced some new features, and added support for older lighting products. Otherwise, many of us have been looking at the company wondering how much longer it could really survive.
So Here We Are
The Verge reports that employees of the struggling company are now anonymously acknowledging major problems. Wink hasn’t paid many of its employees in weeks, customer support is unavailable, and an office housing some of the company is temporarily closed. Customers are reporting that some Wink-supported products no longer work properly.
According to The Verge’s findings, i.am+ is short on funds, with future viability all hinging on some deal with a Dubai-based retail company. While Wink is part of i.am+, this deal is around AI technology that’s completely unrelated to Wink.
Much of Wink’s third-party device support relies on cloud infrastructure. So if Wink goes under, it likely leaves customers with a bricked hub. Sound familiar? This is following in the footsteps of Staples Connect, Revolv, Connected by TCP, Lowe’s Iris, and others.
At this point, Wink’s future is unclear. It’s a little premature to declare it dead, but things are not looking good. If we were making recommendations, we’d suggest it’s time for Wink owners to start cataloging devices. This may be a good time to shop around for a new system to control your smart home.
SmartThings is the obvious alternative for customers who still want a hub to aggregate smart home hardware control. But SmartThings doesn’t integrate with everything Wink supports, so it may not be a simple migration for some. Don’t you just love early adopter growing pains?