Google’s Nest tar­get­ing ‘thought­ful’ homes


Google’s Nest Labs is re­leas­ing new ver­sions of its sur­veil­lance-video cam­era and talk­ing smoke de­tec­tor as part of its at­tempt to turn homes into yet another thing that can be con­trolled and tracked over the In­ter­net.

The gad­gets un­veiled Wed­nes­day are Nest’s most sig­nif­i­cant prod­uct up­dates since Google bought the Palo Alto, Cal­i­for­nia, com­pany last year for about US$2.75 bil­lion. A few months later, Google bought sur­veil­lance- cam­era maker Drop­cam for US$517 mil­lion to help Nest re­al­ize its am­bi­tion of cre­at­ing “thought­ful” homes.

Like sev­eral other tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, Google is im­plant­ing its own prod­ucts and ser­vices into homes as more ap­pli­ances and other gad­gets feed into an In­ter­net-con­nected ma­trix. Nest, which is led by for­mer Ap­ple engi­neer and iPod de­signer Tony Fadell, is play­ing a cen­tral role in Google’s ex­pan­sion into homes.

Google also is build­ing an op­er­at­ing sys­tem called Brillo to en­able all the In­ter­net- con­nected home de­vices to com­mu­ni­cate with each other. Brillo will com­pete against a sim­i­lar sys­tem called HomeKit of­fered by Ap­ple.

In most in­stances, a per­son’s smart­phone will serve as a re­mote for con­trol­ling all the In­ter­net-con­nected ap­pli­ances. The smart­phones can also be used to re­ceive no­ti­fi­ca­tions about what’s hap­pen­ing in the house.

The con­cept of a fully au­to­mated home once seemed like a far-off vi­sion, Fadell said, but not any longer.

“We have changed the con­ver­sa­tion of the con­nected home,” Fadell boasted Wed­nes­day.

Google and other tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies will still need to over­come peo­ple’s con­cerns about pro­tect­ing their pri­vacy be­fore au­to­mated homes be­come com­mon­place.

New Look, New Name For Cam­era

The Drop­cam is chang­ing its name to the Nest Cam as part of an up­grade that will fea­ture higher-def­i­ni­tion video, a sleeker de­sign, a stand with a mag­net that can be con­nected to re­frig­er­a­tors and bet­ter in­frared tech­nol­ogy for record­ing im­ages in the dark. It will cost US$199.

Nest is also of­fer­ing a US$10-per­month sub­scrip­tion ser­vice that will store up to 10 days of video, send alerts about sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity and bun­dle up to three hours of clips likely to be of the most in­ter­est to the home oc­cu­pants.

Bet­ter Nose for Fire

Nest’s next-gen­er­a­tion smoke de­tec­tor will have more so­phis­ti­cated sen­sors for sniff­ing out fires and a 10-year life­span, up from seven years. The de­vice also will per­form au­to­matic tests each month to en­sure its speaker and horn are work­ing prop­erly. As with the orig­i­nal ver­sion of the smoke alarm, it will an­nounce a po­ten­tial prob­lem in an au­to­mated voice be­fore re­sort­ing to a loud alarm. It will sell for US$99.

To help pro­mote the smoke alarm, Nest is also team­ing up with two home in­sur- ers, Lib­erty Mu­tual and Amer­i­can Fam­ily, to of­fer a 5 per­cent dis­count when pol­i­cy­hold­ers agree to in­stall the de­vices and al­low the in­sur­ers to re­view monthly in­for­ma­tion to show ev­ery­thing is func­tion­ing nor­mally. In some in­stances, Lib­erty Mu­tual and Amer­i­can Fam­ily will give pol­i­cy­hold­ers a free Nest smoke de­tec­tor if they sign up for the safety-re­wards pro­gram. Amer­i­can Fam­ily is only of­fer­ing the pro­gram in Min­nesota ini­tially while Lib­erty Mu­tual will ini­tially test it in Alabama, Illi­nois, Ken­tucky, Maine, Penn­syl­va­nia and Wis­con­sin.

Ad­just­ing the Ther­mo­stat

Nest also is pro­vid­ing a free soft­ware up­grade to its first prod­uct, an In­ter­net­con­nected ther­mo­stat, in­tro­duced four years ago. The up­date will en­able the ther­mo­stat to turn off a fur­nace when Nest’s smoke de­tec­tor dis­cov­ers an un­safe level of car­bon monox­ide. It will also en­able the ther­mo­stat to send no­ti­fi­ca­tions when the tem­per­a­ture has be­come too hot for a pet or too cold for a home’s pipes.


The latest Nest Cam sur­veil­lance video cam­era is on dis­play fol­low­ing a news con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day, June 17.

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