What Nest announced at its press event in San Francisco Wednesday may not be nearly as important as what it didn’t announce—how its flagship smart thermostat, just-updated smoke alarm and rebooted Dropcam security camera will fit into its parent company’s ambitions to fill our homes with intelligent, connected devices.
The new gadgets are Nest’s first product debuts since it was acquired last year by Google. At the event, Nest’s parent company was barely mentioned, except for two slides and some brief lip service to the tech giant’s Brillo and Weave smart-home initiatives.
Billed respectively as Google’s operating system and common language for the Internet of Things, the two names were only briefly brought up—primarily to tell people to stay tuned for more announcements in the next few months.
That could be trickier than it seems. Weave was, shall we say, stitched together with Thread, Nest’s mesh-networking protocol, which allows devices to connect to each other and the Web without a central hub. So Nest and its growing range of gadgets work with Weave, and they will also supposedly work with Brillo, which has roots in the plumbing of Android. But no details have emerged yet. That should leave would-be Brillo developers in an exasperating limbo.
The press event today would have been a golden opportunity to shed light on the matter. Instead, the company shone the spotlight on its pretty new gadgets.
Well, at least the view is nice. The attractive devices should help keep Nest’s rep for great-looking hardware intact. And they do boast some improvements and new features.
Meet The New/Old Nest Cam
Nest CEO Tony Fadell may have left developers bereft, aiming to please consumers instead. He said that, with his company’s products, people “don’t have to choose a platform.”
Indeed, they don’t even have to know what a platform is. They can simply pick up “Works with Nest” products, and trust that it will all work together.
The rebooted Dropcam—now named Nest Cam, as expected—boasts a sleek aesthetic that looks almost like a miniature piece of sculpture. On looks alone, this is the best-looking smart camera I’ve seen.
The camera boasts a thinner pedestal and a magnetic base, so you can either screw it in or mount it on metal surfaces. One look at the camera itself, and its Dropcam DNA is obvious. (Nest acquired Dropcam last summer.) But the new unit makes some key improvements. Where Dropcam offered 720p resolution, Nest Cam delivers full 1080p HD, as well as better night vision and zoom features.
The new version still supports the old Dropcam’s tricks—like cooing to your pets remotely, thanks to an integrated microphone and speaker. You can even follow your pooch around, thanks to a wide 130-degree field of view.
The base tier for Dropcam’s “CVR” or cloud video recording service also got an upgrade, now recording 10 days’ worth of footage, instead of the old seven-day limit, starting at $10 per month. (At $30 per month, the service can record 30 days’ worth of footage.) The company now calls it Nest Aware, and new users can try out the service for one month for free.
Nest Protect Can Smell False Alarms
The Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector, available in black or white, lops off some of the sharper edges of the original and comes in a slightly more compact size that’s 11% smaller than the first generation.
The new version comes packing a slew of sensors, including a new “Split-Spectrum Sensor,” which is “great at detecting nuisance alarms,” said Nest Product Marketing Director Maxime Veron. In other words, the device should be able to tell the difference between burnt toast, steam from your shower or an actual fire.
And if somehow it still sounds a false alarm, users can shut it off using their phones (instead of ripping it out of the ceiling). The system also can test itself periodically, so you know it’s always on and working properly.
Thanks to new software updates, Nest’s products work together. Given the serious nature of smoke alarms and security cameras, that’s precisely the sort of integration you want. If the smoke alarm starts screaming, you can easily launch your app and, through your Nest Cam, see if the emergency is real. The event also triggers the camera to automatically capture an “emergency clip,” so you have the footage saved.
All three devices, including the thermostat (which received no hardware update), tie into Nest’s mobile app. The system works on iPhones, Android devices and on the Web, using Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox. Consistent with Nest’s ethos, there is no centralized hub to install.
The company also announced that it’s working with utility companies and insurance companies, like Liberty Mutual and American Family Insurance, to encourage the use of smart-home products—Nest’s, obviously—to reduce energy use and cut costs.
The camera, on sale at Nest.com and at Best Buy, costs $199. Nest Protect costs $99, and you can order today for delivery in July. As for information on just how all these products snap into Google’s larger smart-home scheme, there’s no delivery date on that yet.
Photos by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite