Technology

Chamberlain shuts off access to MyQ’s APIs, breaking smart home integrations

The Chamberlain Group — owners of the MyQ smart garage door controller tech — has announced it’s shut off all “unauthorized access” to its APIs. The move breaks the smart home integrations of thousands of users who relied on platforms such as Homebridge and Home Assistant to do things like shut the garage door when they lock their front door or flash a light if they leave their door open for 10 minutes, or whatever other control or automation they wanted to do with the device they bought and paid for.

The move comes a year after Chamberlain discontinued its official Apple HomeKit integration and a few months after it finally killed support for Google Assistant. It’s sadly another example of how the company continues to be hostile to the interoperable smart home.

Last week, in a blog post, Dan Phillips, chief technology officer of Chamberlain, explained the reasons behind its latest move:

Chamberlain Group recently made the decision to prevent unauthorized usage of our myQ ecosystem through third-party apps. This decision was made so that we can continue to provide the best possible experience for our 10 million+ users, as well as our authorized partners who put their trust in us. We understand that this impacts a small percentage of users, but ultimately this will improve the performance and reliability of myQ, benefiting all of our users.

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The MyQ was the first connected garage door controller on the market. It launched in 2011 to solve problems like being halfway to the airport to start a two-week holiday and having to turn around because you can’t remember if you shut the garage door. Today, it’s both a standalone device that can connect to and control your existing garage door opener and a technology integrated into Chamberlain and Liftmaster garage door openers (Chamberlain owns Liftmaster).

People were relying on “unauthorized integrations” because Chamberlain doesn’t have any useful authorized ones

This means if you’re like Verge reader Mike Dougherty, who first alerted us to this situation, and you have a Chamberlain door opener with the MyQ tech built in, you now either have to buy a whole new opener or a third-party controller device like the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener remote to get back the functionality you used to have.

“Out of general principle, it irks me to know that my garage door opener has built-in smart functionality that I will no longer be using,” he said. “I hate that I have to add an additional device (and yet another IP address on my network) to serve the purpose of functionality that I have had for years. But if I want HomeKit as well as Amazon Key, this looks like the way it has to be.”

The bait and switch here is another warning to consumers about the downsides of buying cloud-integrated products, which the manufacturer can change the functionality of at any moment.

The reason people were relying on “unauthorized integrations” is that Chamberlain no longer offers any useful authorized ones for those who want to do more than control their smart garage door opener with the MyQ app or through their vehicle software.

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Despite being the main partner for Amazon Key, Amazon’s in-garage delivery service, MyQ has never worked with Amazon Alexa. Its half-hearted Google Assistant integration (which only allowed you to close the door remotely, not open it) has died a slow, painful death that included an attempt to charge users for the privilege of closing their doors with their voice.

While it was one of the first Apple HomeKit accessories, MyQ no longer supports new HomeKit integrations, having discontinued its $70 Home Bridge Hub that enabled the integration last year. Today, the only open smart home platform MyQ is compatible with is IFTTT, which is cloud-based and requires a paid subscription for setting up more than two of its “applets.” (Following publication, several IFTTT users reached out to say that integration is currently broken as well. Chamberlain’s Marenson says this failure is not related to the latest change and that they are “actively working to resolve it.”)

I asked Chamberlain Group what it recommended its customers who relied on these now-defunct integrations do. “We have a number of authorized partners that we will be happy for people to use,” said spokesperson Christina Marenson, pointing to its partner webpage.

However, those partners are primarily smart security companies with monthly subscriptions (such as Alarm.com and Vivint) and car manufacturers. The Ring integration is just a shortcut to the MyQ app. Marenson did confirm that if you bought a Home Bridge Hub, HomeKit integration will continue to work. But Chamberlain no longer makes that product, and she said there is no other way to integrate your MyQ controller with Apple Home. (Note: the MyQ Home Bridge Hub is separate from the Homebridge platform, which is an open-sourced software solution to bring devices into Apple HomeKit).

Chamberlain just left over 200,000 people without workable solutions

Interestingly, Chamberlain has been ramping up its car company integrations with a new MyQ software solution, MyQ Connected Garage, which integrates its smart door controller technology directly into a car’s software platform. This has spawned partnerships with Tesla, Mitsubishi, and Volkswagen as well as more recently with Honda, Acura, and Mercedes-Benz. It appears this type of lucrative partnership is where it wants its customers directed, not playing around in free smart home platforms. 

Marenson points out that this change only affects a small number of users, “around 2 percent” of the customer base. However, considering Chamberlain just announced it has 10 million users of its MyQ platform, that’s around 200,000 people who have been left without workable solutions. 

I spoke with Home Assistant founder Paulus Schoutsen, whose platform’s MyQ integration has been available since 2017. He said Home Assistant has reached out multiple times about becoming an “authorized partner” but that Chamberlain has not officially responded. “Nor would we ever pay to integrate with a manufacturer. It’s a user that wants to access their own data,” he said.

Schoutsen just published a blog post on the situation explaining why Home Assistant is pulling the integration and suggesting users buy Ratgdo. Here’s a look at this and other options for anyone looking for a way to reestablish their smart home’s functionality.

While MyQ was the first smart garage door controller, a number of competitors have arrived since. I’ve tested most of them over the years, and these are my three favorite solutions. However, if you aren’t interested in smart home integrations or local control, Chamberlain’s $30 MyQ Smart Garage Control is the cheapest option and the simplest to use and set up. And the tech may already be baked into your door opener. 

If you do have an opener from Chamberlain Group (which is likely since Chamberlain owns Liftmaster and Craftsman and, with them, about 70 percent of the US garage door opener market), you might need an additional piece of hardware from the controller manufacturer to use a third-party device.

This is because of “security features” Chamberlain added to its openers back in 2011 — another proprietary move that prevented third-party controllers from connecting directly to its openers. If your opener has a yellow learn button and / or Chamberlain’s Security Plus or Security Plus 2.0 tech, you’ll probably need the extra hardware.

Canadian company Tailwind’s $90 smart garage door and gate controller has wide smart home integration, including Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, Home Assistant, and more, plus support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (through HomeKit). Tailwind also offers a local control API for developers.

It’s expensive but comes with a commercial-grade wired sensor that will not fall off the door and send you a false alert that your garage door is open (something that happened to me multiple times when testing wireless sensors on smart garage door controllers). It also has a very neat auto-opening and closing tech built in and supports up to three doors.

Tailwind is one of the only alternatives to MyQ that complies with the UL safety standard for remote garage door controllers, and Tailwind will ship the additional hardware required for Chamberlain Group openers with your order for free.

Meross is a well-known Chinese smart home brand whose $60 Smart Wi-Fi Garage Door Opener works with Apple HomeKit (and CarPlay), Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and SmartThings. (A $36 version excludes HomeKit compatibility.) It doesn’t comply with the UL safety standards, which means it doesn’t flash lights and beep when it’s closing. There is also a $70 model that can control three doors.

If you have a newer Chamberlain Group opener, you will need to request an additional piece of hardware from the company after you buy the product on Amazon, but there is no charge.

iSmartgate’s garage door controllers work entirely locally and are compatible with gates as well as garage doors. The Spain-based company also offers wired and wireless sensors. The iSmartgate Mini starts at $40 and works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, and Samsung SmartThings, but it’s not UL-certified. 

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

If you want Apple HomeKit, you need the iSmartgate Lite for $140. For the UL safety features such as an alarm and flashing lights plus support for three doors, you need to step up to the iSmartgate Pro for $200. If you have a Chamberlain Group opener, you’ll also need to buy iSmartgate’s $25 Universal Switch Adaptor.

Home Assistant user Paul Wieland has developed a solution called Ratgdo for users of Chamberlain and Liftmaster openers. This $30 hardware device allows you to control the door opener locally and integrate it with Home Assistant via a local API, which in turn opens access to other platforms such as Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa.

Wieland explained to me that he engineered a device that can speak directly to Chamberlain’s Security Plus 2.0 openers. He also clued me in on the unique name; it stands for Rage Against the Garage Door Opener. Brilliant. I will be testing this soon.

Ratgdo stands for Rage Against the Garage Door Opener. Brilliant.

The moral of the story here for Chamberlain is that it can keep playing whack-a-mole with its customers and try to funnel them all into continuing to pay money to use its services, but people will find a way to do what they want to do. 

The moral for smart home users, as Schoutsen sums up neatly in his blog post, is: “Buy products that work locally and won’t stop functioning when management wants an additional revenue stream.” This is a good general rule to follow but can be impractical for things like large appliances and garage door openers, which might have come with the house you live in and are expensive to replace.

While it’s not always easy to find products that don’t rely on the cloud, this is one of the key features the new Matter standard is bringing to the smart home. With Matter support, any product you bring into your home should continue to work locally, no matter what the manufacturer does to its cloud services and APIs down the road. Chamberlain Group is a member of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, the group behind Matter. But based on its current track record, I’m not holding my breath for Matter support.

Update, Tuesday, November 7th, 9:45PM: Clarified details of how Ratdgo’s technology works and added an explanation for its name. Also included new information about current issues with Chamberlain’s IFTTT integration and another controller option from Meross.

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