Google’s Nest changes risk making the smart home a little dumber

This week, Google announced that it would integrate the Nest brand into its broadest line of home products, which essentially makes Nest the brand for every smart home gadget it sells. As part of this integration, Google Home's smart speaker and screen products will now carry the Nest brand and feature Nest.

But in addition to the rebranding, Google announced that it will discontinue the Works with Nest program in late August. , dismantling a set of controls that allow other device manufacturers and service providers to integrate with the Nest device ecosystem. Instead, Google will offer a new Works with Google Assistant program, which will force companies to support Google Assistant if they want their customers to be able to integrate with Nest products. If you want any other product to play well with your Nest products, you must have a Google account.

But, more importantly, it can indicate a future in which there are fewer compatible smart home devices, period in which you will have to buy your Google components or your approved partners to work together.

  Nest Cam IQ

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Google says that it is making this move in the name of privacy; that by eliminating the Works with Nest program, third-party devices will have much less access to the data captured by Nest's various intelligent thermostats, smoke detectors, cameras, alarms and future products, and therefore, fewer potential opportunities for abuse . Variety reports that Google plans to give "a small number of carefully reviewed partners access to additional data", but the company has not explained in detail who these partners are or what devices or services they offer in this moment.

Privacy, especially in the smart home, has been a hot topic in recent times, and something Nest has had to deal with recently. With so many identifiable personal data captured by the many connected devices that can be installed in a house, blocking access to that data makes sense and is apparently a good step for consumers. It only takes a stranger to talk to your baby through your connected security camera so you want to remove all the connected devices from your home.

The other side of these greater privacy restrictions is that it will probably be much harder to integrate a Nest Thermostat into a broader Smart Home plan once Works with Nest leaves. A smart home is more useful and useful when you can integrate all kinds of sensors, devices and services together to perform automations. Imagine a home where ventilation, lighting, locks and more are automated depending on where people are in the home at any given time. This type of automation, by necessity, requires a large amount of data to know if you are at home, what you are doing at home and how the house can adapt and react to better adapt to your needs.

Google says the Wizard works with more than 3,500 home automation brands and more than 30,000 devices at this time. But if you've ever tried to set up complex automations on a wide range of devices with the Google Assistant application, you'll know how easy it is to reach the limits of what you can do.

The Works with Nest program has been around since 2014, and many device manufacturers integrated their products with it. That now means that thousands of devices and services are in limbo with no guarantee that everyone will join the Works with Google Assistant program, either because their developers do not have the resources to rewrite their integrations or because Google will not offer the same amount and types of data to third parties more.

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SimpliSafe Home Security System
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Today, companies like Lutron, SimpliSafe and others use Nest / Home Nest states to control things like lighting , smart blinds, home security systems and more. Some of these larger companies are hoping to be able to carry out all existing functions when they switch to the Google Assistant program later this year, but they can not offer their clients any real guarantee that things will not. a significant change

A notice sent by email to Lutron customers after Google's announcement said the ability to automate lighting functions based on Nest's home and household status, alerts from people from Nest cameras or detection of smoke or carbon monoxide from Nest Protect will be affected by the change. It will also eliminate the ability to control the Nest Thermostat from the Lutron smartphone app.

"We look forward to working with Google on its Works with Google Assistant program to determine the best way to serve our joint customers and maximize the Lutron user experience," Matt Swatsky, vice president of mid-market residential business for Lutron, said. says to The Verge .

Similarly, SimpliSafe customers will lose the ability to directly control a Nest Thermostat based on the SimpliSafe alarm status or view its current temperature from within the SimpliSafe application. "For example, people can turn off their thermostat every time they set their alarm to" Away "so as not to heat an empty house in the winter," says SimpliSafe CEO Chad Laurans. Now, you will need an alternative solution using the Google Assistant to program both the thermostat and the alarm system. "Instead of SimpliSafe interacting with Nest, it's both SimpliSafe and Nest interacting with Assistant," he says.

Services such as If This Then That (IFTTT), which support a wide variety of gadgets and services for the smart home, also allow you to link actions with each other through the web to perform practical and complex automations. But IFTTT is one of the specific pieces of an interoperable smart home that Google says it is going to go: once Works with Nest is closed, IFTTT support will be completely terminated.

The disadvantage of IFTTT, in the eyes of Google, is that its open design and compatibility make it too risky with your data, and it is impossible for Google to control where data is shared and at the same time support IFTTT. Google says it is working to enable many similar functions and automations through Google Assistant, but it is likely that there are outliers or obscure values ​​that are not available after closing. IFTTT had a whole community of smart DIY homes, experimenting with ways to link devices, but Google and its small variety of approved partners can not be expected to spend the same amount of time.

IFTTT is not the only set of do-it-yourself integrations that will go. Tinkerers has used Nest's relatively open APIs to build all kinds of things that were not officially compatible with device manufacturers. An example of this is Samsung's SmartThings, where the company never officially admitted Nest's thermostat or other devices on its platform. But the homemade product developer community built unofficial integrations that allowed SmartThings customers to access the data from their Nest thermostats and use them to control other devices that SmartThings does support. It is safe to say that those types of integrations will no longer work at all once Works with Nest is closed.

And if Google is willing to restrict access to its allies: The cities and lutons of the world: what could you be willing to do with your competition? Amazon's Alexa assistant currently has two skills with Works with Nest that allow you to control Nest thermostats and cameras through voice commands to Echo speakers. As a direct competitor, it is highly unlikely that Google will offer support for Alexa controls in the new Works with Google Assistant program. "We are still working on ways for our customers to continue using other systems with their Nest products after the account migration and when the Works with Nest service closes," said a Google spokesperson when asked which partners will have access deeper. [19659023] Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Smart Nest thermostats are often entry drugs to the larger smart home ecosystem, but they could soon be gateway drugs for a more closed Google ecosystem. It does not take a big leap to imagine a future in which you will have to buy a Nest security system, Nest cams, Nest ringtones and much more if you want a Nest thermostat in the center of your home, and you may need to think about the future and weigh that possibility before buying a Nest product now. "When you entrust the integrity of your real home to a company, you want to know that you will not be disconnected," says Laurans of SimpliSafe.

Consumer choice does not benefit from interoperability restrictions, of course. Even assuming you're interested in buying only Google's Nest branded equipment for your home, the other Nest products are often missing and do not offer a set of features as complete as the competitors' products, not to mention that they are more expensive .

Nest does not offer cameras or batteries that run on batteries, nor does the Nest Secure home security system offer any type of fire monitoring service, although Nest does have connected smoke detectors. An open platform, or with a wider support, would allow a customer to select a Nest Thermostat, a SimpliSafe security system, an Amazon echo and a doorbell that works with batteries to better meet the needs of your home and the needs of your home. your own wishes. Currently, the ring is not integrated with Nest devices; This week's announcement means he probably never will.

Homes are perhaps the most unique and personalized things of our lives, more than cars, telephones, or even computers. The needs, priorities and schedules of each household and family are different from those of others, which means that there must be so much flexibility between different device providers and device manufacturers so that owners can customize their systems accordingly. Otherwise, the smart home will never really be as smart or as useful as it could be.

Google is right that privacy is a big concern for gadgets for the smart home, perhaps more than with any other modern device. But we asked for a fence of privacy, and it seems that what we are getting is a walled garden.

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