Smart Home Integration On Nest's Radar
June 24, 2014

Nest Announces New Partnerships For Connected Devices

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

This week Google-owned Nest Labs' Developer Program announced a new set of partnerships that will allow for third party integration with its Learning Thermostats and connected smoke detectors. The first group of third party partners includes Mercedes Benz, Whirlpool, Jawbone, Logitech, smart LED bulb maker LIFX, software maker IFTTT and of course Google.

Through this initiative users can have everything from lighting to appliances to fitness brands and even automobiles securely connect with Nest products.

As the company touted on its website this is "not just another on/off switch."

"The Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect alarm are already helping people save energy, stay comfortable, and improve home safety – but that's only the beginning," said Matt Rogers, Nest founder and vice president of engineering, in a recent statement. "Our goal has always been to bring this kind of thoughtfulness to the rest of your home and life – and that’s what the Nest Developer Program is all about. To kick off the program, we've worked with iconic brands like Mercedes-Benz and Whirlpool, as well as new industry leaders like Jawbone and LIFX, to build seamless, secure and practical Works with Nest experiences for the home."

The devices leverage features in the Nest devices that are supported by motion detectors, Wi-Fi and of course the ability to learn user behavior. Moreover Nest has designed the products so that users only need to authorize the devices to communicate once – and from there the products can interact with minimal or even no direct user input.

The goal is also to keep interaction between the devices simple. Instead of providing all the options for the Nest Learning Thermostat in a supported Mercedes vehicle, the car will only work as a trigger based on its proximity to a user's house. In this way the thermostat can automatically adjust the home's temperature in time for the user's arrival.

The same technology can also be used with Whirlpool washers and dryers to keep clothes fresh and wrinkle-free, and can take advantage of Rush Hour Rewards where Nest can let the appliances know when an energy rush hour is about to happen.

"We've been working with Nest to create a home experience that is both purposeful and thoughtful," added Brett Dibkey, vice president and general manager of Integrated Business Units for Whirlpool Corporation. "Now, your thermostat can interact with your washer and dryer to keep your clothes fresh until you need them, and even help you save energy."

There is the question, however, of whether someone could become too dependent on this technology.

"As we add complexity and rely more and more on it a network failure could cause a these systems to fail taking locks, heating/cooling/ventilation off line and creating problems," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "People will need to make sure they can get basics done in a power outage – suggesting some kind of battery or generator backup will be increasingly critical. This also suggests there will be in increasing opportunity for Geek Squad like services to fix this stuff once it is in."

There is also the issue that such networks could become increasingly complex.

"These aren't using a mesh really but connecting to your Wi-Fi network which is more of a hub and spoke and more robust," Enderle told redOrbit. "However the cascading alarm, often required by code – if one triggers all triggers – often requires a hard wired link and some areas don't accept just a wireless connection. I just found this out when I tried to put in a wirelessly linked system and was told it wasn't compliant. Wi-Fi could go down in a fire but then the wire could melt as well before an alarm triggered. Best would likely be a device that was redundant and I have yet to find one."

There is of course the issue of privacy, but Greg Hu, Nest Labs senior product manager, told CNET that Nest can de-authorize any Developer Program that is behaving in a way the company doesn't like, while users can also de-authorize devices. Nest Labs will also require third parties to inform users of all the information that devices could access, and all data will be purged from servers after 10 days.

This was reaffirmed on the company's site:

"With the Nest Developer Program, our goal is to make sure you have everything you need to build great integrations – without violating customer trust. Depending on the integration, that may include access to basic home and device data, HVAC system specs, smoke and CO status, Home and Away states, or Rush Hour Reward events. We only share the minimum amount of information necessary for an integration to work. And we don't share any usernames, passwords, email or home addresses. Period."

"Nest said they wouldn't track behavior, but Nest is owned by Google and Google pretty much tracks everything," added Enderle. "I'm concerned particularly now that they have an in home camera company."