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dave

Google buys Nest... "Noooooo" cry people everywhere

Big news in home automation today, Google acquired Nest.
www.engadget.com­/2014­/01­/13­/google­-acquires­-nest/

Judging from friends' reactions on Twitter and Facebook, most people don't seem too enthusiastic about this though. I can't say I blame them. Considering the incredible amount of information Google has on you already (and how that information can potentially be abused), I find myself disappointed by this news. And let's not forget how quickly Google discards products and teams when it no longer fulfills their needs (RIP Google Reader, Bump, Sparrow, etc) -- though paying $3.2 billion for a company probably means they'll want to keep them around for awhile.

Anyway, does this change your thoughts on Nest and whether or not you'll eventually want to get one?

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31 replies
Dignan17

This very much changes my thoughts on Nest: I was extremely negative on the product before.

Let me explain. Nest is the worst type of home automation product: proprietary and siloed, completely unable to integrate with any other home automation products. Yes it's a great thermostat, but I never considered it a home automation product because it couldn't talk to anything else. Then they released Nest Protect and that product somewhat interacts with the Nest Thermostat, but only only to help with auto away and not for temperature sensing (yet), and it doesn't integrate with anything else.

Nest also announced some sort of vague partnership with another company that makes home automation products, but there were no details and that company doesn't sell to consumers - only installers.

Now, does this acquisition mean that I think Google will expand Nest or try to make it work with other home automation products and systems? Not necessarily, but I have more faith that Google will try to do this than I would if Nest continued in the direction they were headed.

And just to head off one response: yes, Nest was rumored to be in talks with Philips about integrating with the Hue bulb system. Even if that would have actually happened (or still does), no thanks! Hue is even worse than Nest, and it's one of the most expensive consumer-available home automation lighting solutions you can find.

The home automation space needs two things: lower costs and better compatibility. I think Google is more likely to strive for that goal than these individual companies are. I realize that I say this as a big Google fanboy, but as someone who has also been a home automation enthusiast for 14 years, I'm happy about this news.
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AdamWillis

I completely understand where you're coming from but I don't really understand what kind of integration you'd like. I can only think of lights and home security at best being useful. Perhaps they could've done the light bulb deal and partnered up on some home security installers? I don't need it talking to my fridge and microwave.... but let me think... is google making any of these appliances? I guess they could be but what happens when google gives up on it? I'll have one more year to use the nest/replace it before google takes down the website that controls my nest wirelessly and automatically?

To me, this doesn't have good idea written on it at all. I love google and I'm borderline fanboy too but they have killed products I care about and they aren't exactly the nicest design company.... you want your nest flashing Blue, Red, Yellow, and Green? Are they going to force me to use google+ to operate it? Maybe they'll just add some ads to the app and nest and give me free heating and cooling? I might sign up for that option. :D
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gRagib

By "integration", I suppose he means "unified dashboard". And he has a point.
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Dignan17

That's partly what I meant, but at a more fundamental level I meant that in some way the products should be usable together. I shouldn't have to switch between several apps to do all these functions, and I should be able to have one product initiate something with another product. For example, if the Nest thinks it's getting too hot in the summer and knows nobody is home, it should be able to close the blinds.
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TennSeven

I don't see what the big deal would be if you were forced to use Google+ to operate your Nest stuff. Nest already requires a completely separate account to operate it, so switching that to Google+ would just further consolidate ids and passwords, which is a good thing in my book.

If Google moved the Nest software over to open source (there has been a lot of speculation that it will do this) then it wouldn't really matter if it received ongoing support from Google or not, because anyone could write an app (or a website, in your example) to control it. If open sourcing this stuff leads to further standardization of protocols and libraries, you could use one app or website to control all kinds of home automation devices, regardless of manufacturer, which would be pretty cool.
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AdamWillis

The reason I said the Google+ comment is because they have been forcing people onto it in every way they can... People are just not interested in it. I don't like google having every aspect of my life in one place and one password. If google got me to switch to g+ , google wallet, and then converted my nest and whatever other "smart" home devices they buy (or create).... they would then have full access to my email, search history, friends and photos, bank accounts and now the locks, temperature, security cameras, etc.... in my house.... And I'm not saying google would every do evil with that much access to me, but what if I get hacked or google gets hacked?

I may be reaching a bit but it really isn't that far fetched in my opinion.
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Dignan17

It sounds to me like you're a glass half-empty guy :)

People love to point to the products that Google closes, while forgetting that half of their successful products were acquisitions. I think the fact that Google Earth is still around is a good enough response to all the "But Google Reader!" people. Don't get me wrong, I loved Google Reader, but I'm not going to assume that every single thing they buy is going to get shut down.

As for what I wanted in terms of integration: how about anything? Or just the mere potential of further integration? Let me tell you what I have in my house, for example: I have over 25 lamps and light switches, a thermostat, and a door lock on my automation system. I also have a cat feeder, two battery chargers, and plans to set up my garage doors. All of this is done on ZWave, and everything in my system can be integrated together. My front door lock can be set up - depending on which code is entered - turn on specific lights to specific dim levels, set the thermostat, and control any other devices I have on my system.

There's plenty of stuff I also don't have on my system yet, but would love to. I could integrate automatic blinds, security cameras, water shut-off valves, water sensors (which could activate the water shut-off valve), motion sensors, window/door sensors, temperature/humidity sensors, and more.

Currently I have a scene set up so that at sunset every day (the system knows what time sunset is), the lights at the front of my house turn on, the cats get fed, and the front door locks. If I had blinds in my system I could add them to that scene and make them close. I could go on with the cool stuff I've set up on this system, but I've already written more than most want to hear from me :)

In my system, even if all I wanted were lights, temperature, door lock, and turning on an outlet, with these recent "automation" systems, I would have to use FOUR different applications (Hue, Nest, August, and WeMo, for example) and none of them would be able to control the others.

I haven't even gotten into the whole cost issue with modern home automation products :)
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frankspin

Are you subtly suggesting we open up a category for cat feeders?
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Dignan17

I can't believe this massive product segment has gone unrepresented here :)

It's actually a pretty nifty feeder (seen here: goo.gl­/JSMzsG). I have it attached to a basic appliance module, because when the feeder receives power it automatically dispenses food, so I have it set to dispense a small amount many times a day.
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AdamWillis

You have some great examples that I hadn't thought of. But honestly, I would've rather had Nest become more open to other companies or maybe had them come straight out and tell us that they wanna be more than just a thermostat company. Google might help them get to that point but I fear google can do a lot of harm to the company as well.
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frankspin

A friend who does home installs for alarms, automation, home theater, etc mentioned to me that he is upset about this because they were actually gearing up for a Control4 integration. His concern is that Control4 may pull out of it. How close this was to actually happening, I don't know.

On the subject of siloed, I appreciate and understand your stance on this. I'm a big Strava user and they came under a lot of heat when they shut down API access for a while, and rightfully so. However I think with a product and service like Nest it's perfectly fine for them keep the products siloed. I would rather them work to create a stable and reliable product than be concerned with how many different automation tools they can work with. As I write this I realized this notion goes out the window the moment they introduced Protect.

Personally, as long as Google remains free and clear of Nest and how they operate I will be ok with this. I just don't see that happening and I for one am not thrilled of the possibility of my energy use being used as a means to target ads. Even beyond that I have not been happy with Google's product and software track record over the last 6-12 months and I'm concerned over how well they can handle something like this (Android@Home never happened, things as simple as a media player alluded them (and still does IMO)).

It remains to be seen, but I think at the end I am happy to see a company like Nest get some stable financial ground under them. Perhaps it can lead to a better home system.
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Dignan17

"I would rather them work to create a stable and reliable product than be concerned with how many different automation tools they can work with."

Why is it one or the other? Why do you assume that they couldn't figure out a way for it to work with other systems? There are home hackers who have figured out workarounds to get Nest to work with existing systems like ZWave using Vera controllers, but it's not something I'd rely on.

As for the Control4 thing, I mentioned that briefly in my initial post here, but didn't mention the company name its self because frankly, I'd forgotten what the company was called. When they made that announcement I'd never heard of them, and that's probably because they aren't consumer-facing. They're entirely focused on the systems integrator market and don't sell any of their products to the end consumer, which means the prices will be even higher for anyone with an interest in this stuff. I can't even tell what technology they're using for things like lighting control. So to sum up, I'm happy to see that relationship fail if it means that Google will look for a more open and consumer-friendly way for people to integrate all of these products.
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dave

Hah, this was an awesome response. You bring up some really great points!
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Dignan17

Thanks, Dave! I'm pretty passionate about home automation, and these new products seem to be making the situation worse than it already was.
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Dignan17

I thought I might respond to my own post because I do want to address the second issue that prevents mass adoption of home automation technologies by the consumer: COST.

Nobody has fixed this problem yet. Home automation is still a very expensive hobby, and I've only gotten as far as I have with it because it's my main hobby (so I spend most of my disposable income on it - however little that is), and because I happened to catch a fire sale of ZWave products at Radio Shack several years ago.

If you put together a ZWave system with a front door lock, thermostat, two lamp modules, and a Vera controller, it's going to cost you - as a conservative estimate - around $625-650, depending on what equipment you get. And that's just for the parts. If you have someone out to install the door lock or thermostat, that could easily be another few hundred dollars, depending on who you hire and how much you have them do (I replaced my thermostat but had a professional replace the door lock, although it didn't seem that hard).

I purchased all my ZWave lamp modules for around $10 a piece, but that was in the fire sale. On Amazon they go for around $45. I also picked up some cheap wall switches from an ebay seller at a rate of about $99 for a six pack of switches. But those are really cheap and if you want to do it right you'll be spending about $120 per light switch.

That's the ZWave route, though. It may seem expensive, but these newcomers will set you back even more. Take the Philips Hue system, for example (my apologies to anyone who has read this rant from me before). The starter pack for the controller and three bulbs costs $200, and every bulb after that costs around $60. There's a set of about 10 recessed bulbs in my basement all tied to one wall switch. I could spend as much to add all ten lights to my system as it would cost for one Hue bulb. Sure, with Hue I could control each bulb individually, but that would cost $600 and take up 10 of the 50 total devices I can have tied to one bridge.

All these other products have similar price issues, which is one of the reason I stick with the relatively inexpensive ZWave standard. It may not be cheap, but it'll pretty much all work together and cost less than the alternatives.

Essentially, I tell people that if they want to make all the basic "things" in their home automated, it's going to run - on average - about $100 per "thing" once all is said and done. That's lights, [controllable] appliances, ceiling fans, etc. That's before you get into the more expensive stuff, like the front door lock (about $250), blinds (anywhere from $300-500 per blind, if you don't end up replacing them all), water shut-off ($350), and more.

It's an expensive hobby, and I'm hoping somebody will bring that price down. That's one of the things I'm excited to see with Google's acquisition. They've shown us with Android that they're willing to "give things away." One of the reason ZWave products are expensive is because it's a licensed technology. I'd love to see Google buy the ZWave alliance next and eliminate the licensing cost. That would be a huge step in making these devices affordable enough for mass consumer adoption.
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lwdupont

I was just thinking about buying some of their smoke detectors, and this new saddens me. it doesn't make any sense to me why an online advertising company is purchasing a company that makes these types of devices.

Maybe they want to diversify their business. Still, it's hard for me to trust Google. (I can't put my finger on why however).
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Musikon

*EDIT: I guess what I was trying to say was that our anonymous information is used for targeted advertisements. And what with all the NSA talk as of late, I don't want Google, the NSA, or anyone to have information on when I'm home, when I'm not, etc. That's what makes me nervous about this acquisition. I bought a Nest because I was interested in what they were doing, I was not interested in Google getting even more of my data.

If it means Nest products and home automation gets cheaper and more affordable, I'm all for that. I think Google can help provide that, I just want to know at what cost to us.
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Musikon

Nest says customer data will NOT be shared with Google, I say "we'll see": techcrunch.com­/2014­/01­/13­/nest­-says­-customer­-data­-...
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logicslayer

I would imagine everyone is collecting information. Anonymous? Who really knows? Do you use the internet? Then your actions are probably tracked in some form. I choose not to put on the foil hat.
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Dignan17

Sorry, that's just silly.
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logicslayer

Nice try NSA agent Dignan17. :P
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Dignan17

[redacted]Your account has now been flagged by Prism.

We're watching you... [/redacted]

Damn, I thought we got that new tag inserted into HTML5... We'll have to talk to the W3C...
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TennSeven

Since Google has never sold anyone's information to any bidder, I'm not sure where your concern comes from, unless trolling, then please ignore.
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dave

This isn't entirely true. Perhaps "sold" isn't entirely correct, but they definitely play it fast and play it loose with user data: articles.latimes.com­/2013­/feb­/14­/business­/la­-fi­-tn...
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TennSeven

Yeah, I don't agree with the "fast and loose" part. As Google notes, the information is required for developers to make further transactions and its privacy policy clearly states the information would be sent on to the developer. As one of the developers notes, the information exchange treats the customer as the developer's customer, not Google's customer, which I think would be preferable to any developer who is actually serious about running a business.

These developers are not "third parties," as the article alludes, because you are buying software directly from them! Additionally, the information they are receiving about you is clearly outlined in the policies, terms and services. This is hardly "fast and loose," as the term is usually applied.

Similarly, when you go to a brick and mortar store (or restaurant, or whatever) and a merchant swipes your credit card in a POS system, that merchant gets back your name and other identifying and transactionally-related information about you, the merchant's customer. I don't see much of a difference here.
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Musikon

As someone who already has one, or rather my parents have one, I am more than slightly worried about what Google plans to do with this acquisition. Hopefully, business will go on as usual and they won't make any drastic changes, but I bought a Nest because I believed in their company. And they had great customer service. I probably wouldn't have bought one if Google was in charge.
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gRagib

As much as I love Google, I always cringe when they buy a startup. Same for Yahoo (Astrid, Rockmelt).

I don't want to sound like a luddite (because I'm not one. Hello! I'm on this website), but I kind of don't trust any cloud service to be around for as long as I need it to do my job. Hence, I pretty much always have a roll-your-own solution in the wings just in case disaster strikes. Along the same thought, I do not start using any random cloud service unless I have a roll-your-own solution up and running reliably inside my firewalls. Probably the only exception is Google web search.
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Seanengadget

I have 2 Nest's in my house. Now I wish I didn't.

I'm expecting to see web ads for sweaters on days that Google thinks my house is too cold.

I avoid google as much as I can and if I'm forced to do something like sign up for google+ in order to use the damn thermostats I already bought I am going to be seriously pissed.

Would I buy another Nest product? Never.
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logicslayer

Sweet. No, it doesn't change my mind. I eventually want to get one.
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HughesNet

Doesn't change my mind in the slightest. But then again I don't have any problem with Google.
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flackend

I've always wanted one. I just didn't want to spend the $250. But now, I'm not as tempted.
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