Google’s Nest Labs is releasing new versions of its surveillance-video camera and talking smoke detector as part of its attempt to turn homes into yet another thing that can be controlled and tracked over the Internet.
The gadgets unveiled today are Nest’s most significant product updates since Google bought the Palo Alto, California, company last year for about $2.75 billion. A few months later, Google bought surveillance-camera maker Dropcam for $517 million to help Nest realize its ambition of creating “thoughtful” homes.
Like several other technology companies, Google is implanting its own products and services into homes as more appliances and other gadgets feed into an Internet-connected matrix. Nest, which is led by former Apple engineer and iPod designer Tony Fadell, is playing a central role in Google’s expansion into homes. Google also is building an operating system called Brillo to enable all the Internet-connected home devices to communicate with each other. Brillo will compete against a similar system called HomeKit offered by Apple.
In most instances, a person’s smartphone will serve as a remote for controlling all the Internet-connected appliances. The smartphones can also be used to receive notifications about what’s happening in the house. The concept of a fully automated home once seemed like a far-off vision, Fadell said, but not any longer. “We have changed the conversation of the connected home,” Fadell boasted today.
Google and other technology companies will still need to overcome people’s concerns about protecting their privacy before automated homes become commonplace. The Dropcam is changing its name to the Nest Cam as part of an upgrade that will feature higher-definition video, a sleeker design, a stand with a magnet that can be connected to refrigerators and better infrared technology for recording images in the dark. It will cost $199. Nest is also offering a $10-per-month subscription service that will store up to 10 days of video, send alerts about suspicious activity and bundle up to three hours of clips likely to be of the most interest to the home occupants.
Nest’s next-generation smoke detector will have more sophisticated sensors for sniffing out fires and a 10-year lifespan, up from seven years. The device also will perform automatic tests each month to ensure its speaker and horn are working properly. As with the original version of the smoke alarm, it will announce a potential problem in an automated voice before resorting to a loud alarm. It will sell for $99.