Google To Make Homes Even Smarter

John Lister's picture

If you could control the majority of your home and appliances with a smartphone, which devices would you want to control? Google has pondered that very question, and has recently announced plans to open up its 'Nest' technology to independent developers, so that household gadgets can easily communicate with one another.

Nest, which Google bought for $3.2 billion in this past January, made its name with an "intelligent" thermostat system. The system automatically learns your patterns of activities in the home with preferred heating and cooling levels. It then automatically develops a custom program so the heating or cooling is switched to your preferred temperature when you are home, but switches off when the house is empty. If you're coming home early, you can adjust the temperature remotely with a smartphone or via the web.

Nest later developed a smoke alarm that includes voice commands, a nightlight to confirm the battery is still working, and a smartphone message alert if the alarm goes off while you are away from home. The two products already communicate with one another: if the alarm detects a carbon monoxide leak, it can automatically cut the power to the heating system.

Now, Google says it will make it possible for developers to make technology that interacts with Nest products. It's doing that with an Application Program Interface (API) -- in effect, a computer code 'gateway' that provides third party access to the devices so that they can be further developed. (Source:

Google Nest API Hook-up Could Benefit Hard Of Hearing

Examples already announced include Mercedes car dashboards having a control to turn heating on remotely as soon as the car is 30 minutes from home, and high-tech lightbulbs from Lifx being able to flash red when the Nest alarm detects smoke - something that could be particularly useful for deaf people.

The move opens up possibilities such as weather apps being able to remotely change heating settings if the short-term forecast changes unexpectedly. Nest is also looking at buying a firm that makes window and door motion sensors, which could be combined with the smoke alarms and text message alerts to make a home security system.

Google to Formally Review Nest Apps

Google insists that it will make sure any technology accessing Nest is genuinely useful and respects user privacy. It's using a formal review and approval process for any technology with more than 1,000 users.

The announcement follows controversy as Nest was forced to temporarily halt sales of its smoke alarm system. The issue was due to a feature that allowed users to wave their hands to silence an alarm; however, further testing showed that it was possible to disable the smoke alarm system using non-human movements, such as the backdraft of a fire. The feature has since been removed from the system. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Does using your smartphone or web access to control various parts of your home and appliances sound appealing to you? Do you see such home technology as useful, or just the opposite? Do you trust Google and other companies not to abuse the access they'll have to your home devices? Lastly, are you worried of potential attacks from third-parties (such as hackers) accessing your home and appliance smart devices?

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