just one more geek in a sea of austin techies

January 13, 2014

Google + Nest: My wish list come true? #GadgetGeek

Google Nest:
Chrome encased in chrome?
It seems hardly possible that Google could extend its reach into people's personal space even more than it already has.  Every web search, every email and nearly every step (via Android device location tracking) is already in Google's grasp.   Yet, impossibly, Google has managed to extend that reach by buying the right to know when people are home and, in some cases, even where people are in the home regardless of whether one happens to carry an Android device.

The purchase of Nest means Google has added in-home motion sensors (and light sensors and smoke sensors and CO2 sensors) to its growing belt of people-monitoring tools.  Privacy advocates are -- and rightly should be -- concerned over such a wide-ranging and intimate ability to snoop and monitor.  At the same time, however, such an integration of tools makes for some geekily exciting possibilities.  Oh, to heck with privacy -- let's talk about my "Nest Wish List"...

My Pre-Google Wish List

I've twice before blogged about Nest's "missing features" and wondered why some seemingly simple items aren't already included as part of the product.  Google's acquisition has an excellent chance of addressing those items and opens up the possibility of a few major product changes.

Wish List Items (a.k.a. "missing features")

  • Android Users can't use Nest website
    Last year the Nest website inexplicably blocked Android users from logging in, providing instructions to instead install the Nest mobile app.  This has happily been addressed since my last rant.  Now Android users using the default browser are told the website will not work but are at least allowed to attempt to log in.
  • Motion alert / History
    Despite having a built-in motion sensor, Nest still does not provide an option to be alerted when motion is detected outside of expected times.  I.e., if your house is always empty during the week between 9am and 5pm it would be nice for Nest to send you an email if it suddenly detects motion at, say, 10:32am.

    With Google's purchase of Nest we can hope for accelerated integration with other systems.  Greater integration means that something as simple as setting a custom event to trigger the sending of an email is a very real liklihood in the very near future.
  • Auto-Away Pre-Heat / Cool
    One of my biggest ongoing gripes (and now the 7th most requested feature by the Nest community) is the missing ability for the Nest smartphone app to signal Nest that you are unexpectedly heading to (or away from) home.  Nest already knows when you typically arrive home and can pre-heat/cool based on your typical schedule.  The logical next step is to allow your smartphone to automatically give Nest a nudge when it looks like you're going to get home early.

    Under Google ownership, the likelihood of greater Nest access and integration options means this proposed feature has a better chance than ever of being addressed by third party developers if Nest doesn't get around to adding it.
Big Changes Possible
My old wish list items aside, Google's purchase of Nest opens up the possibility for some very big changes.
  • Price
    Why doesn't every other house on the block already have a Nest?  The price, of course.  When existing thermostats easily handle basic critical functions a $250 Nest is a bit of a hard sell.  As much as I liked Nest the instant I saw it, even my geeky wallet stayed shut for more than a year as I watched from the sideline and talked myself up to that $250 price point.

    Full disclosure:

    I used a $25 Lowes coupon to get the Nest v2 for $224.95.

    Google has the means to subsidize the Nest product line and the marketing prowess to detemine how much subsidy is just right.  For instance, Google could generate tons of buzz and increased product-awareness with a temporarily price drop ($99 Nest, anyone?) and then soften the long-term sticker shock by dropping the device's regular price to $199.
  • Repeat Purchases with Less Waste
    My main gripe with the Nest Protect smoke/CO2 sensor is that Nest doesn't do enough to make sure potential buyers are aware that each Protect must be replaced every 7 years.  This 7 year replacement is a legal mandate but, in the case of a Nest Protect, it means that a perfectly-good computer, motion sensor, speaker, light and wifi adapter get thrown out along with the expended CO2 and smoke detection pieces.

    Google could choose to radically alter the just-getting-started game of high-end home smoke detectors.  For example, instead of a 7-year disposable device, Google could break the Protect into *two* devices:  the "brains" and replacable "detector" modules.  Google could even design it so the devices begin alerting owners to replace the "detector" modules much earlier than the 7-year legal limit -- many people would likely choose to replace early (3 to 5 years) if the devices suggested it and if the detector replacement modules were somewhat reasonably priced ($49, perhaps?)
  • Android
    Sure, Nest has its own operating system as well as the promise of a soon-to-be-released developer API (but only sketchy details on what the API might provide).  Putting Android inside Nest would almost certainly increase cost and complexity for very little immediate gain.  Except...

    iControl's Android-based
    control surface
    Except for those third-party developers who may dream up the "killer" thermostat-based app that makes everyone want to buy a Nest.  Except that competitors like iControl already have Android-based control surfaces and integration with an appreciable array of smart home devices including thermostats... not to mention deals with major US cable TV and home security companies.

    Nest is sexy but is still lagging behind in the race to win a semi-permanent place in the "internet of things" -- clever integration between competitor's devices along with exclusive deals with major service providers could spell doom for Nest's future prospects.  Putting Android into every device -- not just a central control surface -- could help upstage the competition's array-of-dumb-devices-dependant-upon-one-controller.
Closing Thoughts
Nest has nice products but only *two* products.
Nest has nice capabilities but also some glaring holes in its featureset.
Nest has a promise of increased interoperability but still no public API for anything to interface with.
Nest is good but it could be a lot better.

Google can change that.  Exciting!

No comments:

Post a Comment