On Wednesday, Nest Labs, the company known for its “smart” home appliances, held its first press conference since being acquired by Google last January. The company announced a new product: Nest Cam, which would act as the successor to Dropcam, the home-security camera Nest acquired last June. The company also announced its second-generation Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector, improvements to its Thermostat, and that third-party devices and apps can now communicate with Nest products.
Nest adopted a different tone from its previous conferences. As one Twitter commentator notes, today, these “smart home” technologies seem more accessible and human, versus the “geeky” nature of the Wi-Fi thermostat unveiled 4 years ago.
Nest Protect features took a front seat at the press conference. The new Nest Protect is 11 percent smaller than the previous model and will sell at the same price of $99. It’s also designed to last 10 years versus the industry standard of five.
Nest says Protect and its Thermostat communicate more readily with each other and with other smart devices in homes. According to Nest, if Protect senses a carbon monoxide leak, it will tell Thermostat to shut off the home’s furnace, a common source of CO leaks. If it senses a fire, it will shut off the home’s fans so that the fire does not spread as quickly. Additionally, if Thermostat senses rapidly changing or dangerous temperatures, it will communicate with Protect and alert the user. So if your home is so cold that the pipes might freeze, or too warm for pets, Nest Thermostat will adjust accordingly and send you a notification.
Once a month, Nest Protect will run a routine maintenance check to make sure that all functions are working correctly. So as not to disturb the user, it will do this when it thinks that no one is home. The new Protect is also equipped with a new “split-spectrum sensor” that the company says will detect smoke more accurately and rapidly, as well as detecting “fast and slow” fires.
Nest also took steps to decrease false alarms and make it easier for the user to silence the alarm through the Nest app. Protect has a steam detector built in so that it won’t give “false alarms” when you’re cooking food. Additionally, you can now shut off the alarm from your smart phone if the Nest is going off because the food you’re cooking has started to burn.
Additionally, Nest established Nest Safety Rewards whereby a user can receive discounts on their insurance by sending usage information from Protect to participating insurance companies. Users can also receive a free Protect from the program. According to the press conference, users can stop sharing their Protect status at any time, and no personal information is ever shared with insurance companies.
Nest Cam will shoot high-definition video in 1080p (as opposed to the 720p of Dropcam Pro) that can be streamed live through the Nest App. It also comes with low-light capabilities and built-in LED to record and stream video in the dark. The camera has built-in speakers and microphone so that it can be used for talk-back – or to “scream at the dog to get off the couch.” The Nest Cam will cost $200, the same price as Dropcam Pro. Unfortunately, Nest Cam is not designed to be used outdoors.
Video streaming is free with the app, but online storage for the video feed is subscription-based. For $10 a month, audio and video will be accessible for 30 days through Nest Aware, the company’s cloud storage service.
A user can also set up “Activity Zones” that notify the user when something happens in a specific area of a room. The app will send a notification to the user along with a clip from Nest Cam. One Twitter user notes that this enables users to receive contextualization “instead of [having to scrub through] the whole feed.”
Nest Cam also integrates with other Nest products, and will alert and send video to the user if either Thermostat or Protect senses something wrong.
Additionally, Nest redesigned its app to act as a hub for Thermostat, Protect, and Cam. The Nest App is available for smart phones running iOS 8.0 or Android 4.0 (and higher).
To many spectators, the mundaneness of discussing new smoke detectors, thermostats, and home security cameras is, in many ways, incredible. The more pedestrian the product, the more it stops feeling like an alienating technology and instead becomes fully integrated into the contemporary mainstream. And that was certainly the focus of the event: Attendees noted that it wasn’t painted as this groundbreaking technology being announced, but instead as a new service to assist in “the connected home.” To many, that is what’s necessary for connected software to reach ubiquity: Instead of geek or gadget, push toward conventional, adoptable, and comfortable.