Nest may have once been a company independent of Google’s control under Alphabet, but now the two firms are finally singing from the same song sheet. The two have come under constant criticism due to their vastly different approaches to the smart home market, but now thanks to last year’s reorganisation, which saw Nest absorbed by Google, there’s now a single vision for how to compete in the smart home market. We got to see the first part of that vision at last night’s Google I/O developer conference, with Google announcing that the Nest name will adorn the company’s smart home products going forward.
The first product to launch under the new Nest brand is the Google Nest Hub Max, a smart display that features a 10in screen and a camera for video calling. It is joined by the recently-renamed Google Nest Hub, which originally debuted as the Google Home Hub. The name change won’t apply to the Google Home, Google Home Mini or Google Home Max, however, although smart home devices from the company launched from now on will carry both the Google and Nest names.
The joining of the Google and Nest brands isn’t just a marketing tool. Google says it’s serious about bringing its values to the Nest brand too, and one of those values relates specifically to privacy.
Whether it’s Apple or Facebook, privacy has been a big buzzword in Silicon Valley over the last year or so, and now Google is jumping on the bandwagon. Arguably seen as the firm with access to more information about its users than any other, Google wants to show its users that it can be trusted with all of that data, as it’s putting the user in control. It’s already started that process with products such as search, maps and YouTube, but it’s also bringing that same approach to Nest.
Google Ends Works With Nest
Part of Google’s new approach to privacy means that we’re being forced to say goodbye to some key Nest features, such as Works With Nest, but privacy advocates will argue that it’s a small price to pay for better control over where a user’s data ends up. Thankfully, we’re also seeing the axing of some of Nest’s creepier features, such as the ability to disable the camera light when viewing the live feed.
Works With Nest has allowed device makers and app developers to build things that would interact with Nest products, but all of those integrations will break when Works With Nest is axed later this year. Thankfully, those still wishing to have their products interact with Nest cameras and thermostats will be given a new integration path, although it will be far more restrictive. Called Works With Google Assistant, this program will allow third-parties to develop integrations with Nest devices, but only a small number of thoroughly vetted partners will gain access to additional data about users, and only when the user has explicitly allowed the sharing of data with the partner.
Google has confirmed that under the new Works With Google Assistant program, users will lose access to IFTTT. That’s a major loss for the smart home community, but Google does note that much of the same functionality provided by IFTTT can be achieved through Google Assistant routines. Even if that is the case, there will still be a number of integrations that will be missing from Google’s approach vs IFTTT, with tens of millions of recipes already hosted on IFTTT for just about any smart home scenario.
Google Accounts Come To Nest
Nest’s new approach to privacy doesn’t just mean it will horde all of its users’ data and not share it with third-parties, after all there will still be some sharing, but it does mean it will be a better guardian of that data. That includes requiring approval for sharing data with third-parties, but also extends to the security of user accounts.
In recent months, Nest has suffered from some high-profile account breaches. That’s a concern amongst privacy advocates, and while Nest does offer two-factor authentication, Nest accounts are still less secure than those offered by Google. That’s why users now have the option to migrate their Nest account to a Google account – it certainly saves Google time, as it means it doesn’t have to completely rebuild the Nest account system in its image.
Nest + Google = A Smarter Home
While new product names and enhanced privacy are important, Google is not just imposing its will on Nest. Instead, the two companies are playing at their strengths and ensuring they both benefit. Google has excellent security and granular privacy controls, while Nest truly understands the smart home market and how to build products that will benefit end-users.
This two-way street is proven by the new Nest Hub Max. While it’s clear this is still a Google-made product, you can already see the heavy influences from the Nest team. That includes the fact that you can use the camera on the Nest Hub Max as a security camera – a feature not offered by competing smart displays. That makes it infinitely more useful than just a camera for video calling friends and families.
What’s next for Google Nest is yet to be seen, but it’s certainly the beginning of a new era for the smart home market.