Pets left hungry for 10 hours as "smart feeder" breaks down
Fears over the rise of smart technology have intensified as it was revealed pets were left hungry for 10 hours after a host of feeding devices controlled with smartphones broke down.
Pet owners using Petnet's technology to feed their animals when they were out of the house found themselves stuck when a malfunction in the computer program that connected the "smart" feeders to owners' phones caused them to stop working.
Petnet, the company that makes the machine, urged its customers to feed their pets "manually" while the problem persisted.
"We are experiencing some difficulties with one of our third party servers," a spokesman for Petnet said in an email to its customers. "You may experience a loss of scheduled feeds and failed remote feedings."
The Petnet feeder is an internet-connected machine that costs $149 (€134) and lets owners distribute food to their animals when no one is in the house using an app. A problem with the computer server that controls the devices caused as many as 10 per cent of them to break, leaving some without food for up to 10 hours.
One customer expressed their outrage on Twitter: "Spend $150 on a fancy pet feeder that doesn't feed your cat when their servers are offline. What a great design."
The malfunction fuels concerns about the safety and reliability of smart technology in the home, as it is poised to become a lot more common in the next few years.
Less than 5pc of people in Europe and the US currently use automated technology in their home, but 35pc are interested in trying it, according to research by PwC. By 2020 the industry is expected to grow to be worth $150 billion (£113bn).
The items of smart technology that are most likely to make it into people's homes in the near future include internet-connected security cameras, thermostats that can be controlled using a smartphone app, and plugs that can automatically turn themselves off.
Such technology is designed to make the home safer, but it could take a few years before people fully trust it. The PwC research showed that 28 per cent of people know about smart security devices, but are hesitant to use them.
In a separate incident this week a smart security camera stopped a family home in the US from burning to the ground after an electronic teddy bear spontaneously combust. The Netamo Welcome camera, which records video when it detects carbon dioxide or a security alarm, alerted the home's owner about the fire and he was able to race home and rescue his dog.
"Whilst my family and I were attending a basketball game a few kilometres away from home, I received a notification on my smartphone reporting that our fire alarm had been triggered," said Christophe, who declined to use his last name. "I immediately checked the video filmed by Welcome and saw that a fire had started in our living room. The firemen were instantly alerted and were able to prevent the fire from spreading."