Nest is secretly planning a move into digital health for elders

Records show that it was behind the purchase of a health-tracking startup last year.

Nest is quietly planning a move into digital healthcare off the back of its purchase of Seattle-based startup Senosis Health. Google's smart home brand has remained tight-lipped since the deal came to light in August 2017. But its secret is revealed in internal communications and financial documents on the Senosis acquisition obtained by GeekWire.

The filings show that it was in fact Nest, not Google, that snagged the company; a UW spinout that turns smartphones into health-tracking tools using their built-in sensors. Its products include HemaApp, which checks your blood's hemoglobin count using your phone's camera, while SpiroSmart uses the microphone to measure your lung functions.

Only Nest isn't ready to go public with the move just yet. Records show the firm has been ordering personnel not to mention the company's name and barring UW from publicizing the deal. "It turns out Nest is much more secretive than the rest of Google or Alphabet," Senosis co-founder Shwetak Patel wrote in a June 2017 email to UW's Fiona Wills. "They seem to be particularly sensitive in this situation since they don't want people to know they are getting into a whole new line of business, digital health, until they are ready to publicly announce."

More than a year later, nothing's changed: Nest, UW, and Senosis are all refusing to comment on the deal, which took place before Nest merged with Google's hardware division in February. In the interim, CNBC reported that Nest is targeting seniors with its products -- which would reportedly involve using motion sensors to help older people move around at night (by automatically switching on the lights, for example) or "predicting potentially life-threatening falls."

As CNBC noted, Nest's CTO Yoky Matsuoka will discuss the "challenges" of building tech that "seamlessly blends into the lives of elders" at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care's conference next month. We've reached out to Nest for comment and will update this article with its response.

Before joining Google's ranks, Matsuoka worked at another tech giant that's eyeing digital healthcare, Apple. Amazon is also in the planning stages of its own health project, in conjunction with Warren Buffet and New York-based bank JPMorgan Chase, eyeing cost-reduction while improving patient care with the aid of technology.