One of the great mysteries of the smart home world over the past few years has been the relative quiet of Nest, the one-time connected home star that burst onto the scene with the launch of its impressive Nest Learning Thermostat and, two years later, a smoke and carbon monoxide detector by the name of Nest Protect.
After Nest got acquired in early 2014, updates slowed to a crawl, and much of the news that did come out from the company during this time was bad. While there was occasional news about Works with Nest and Thread, you were just as likely to read about management dysfunction under Tony Fadell and product recalls. The only wholly new product line introduced into the Nest family during this time was the Nest Cam, a product that, in reality, owes more to Dropcam (another acquisition by Google) than to internal development from Nest.
But now there are indications the company might be waking up from its long slumber. In a recent story in The Verge, Nest product manager Maxine Verson hinted that the rest of 2017 should be busy for the company:
Verge writer Vlad Savov writes, “Veron tells me Nest’s relative silence in recent times is about to be a thing of the past. “I am very excited about the next six months,” he says with a grin, “we’ll talk again soon and you’ll understand why.”
Savov goes on the speculate that the next product might be a cheaper home thermostat. A welcome addition to be sure, but I think for those who witnessed Nest’s early days of innovation, a lower-cost version of an existing product is hardly something to get excited about.
The product I’m excited to see is Nest’s long-rumored home security system. My own sources have confirmed the existence of this long-gestating project and, given Google’s patent filings in the space, I think a Nest home security system could be truly differentiated. Add in the fact they just introduced a camera with facial recognition capabilities – an interesting potential component of a smart security system – and we may be getting close.
Another potential product is a video doorbell. While the market is certainly crowded at this point, Nest’s brand name and recent development of a Pro group that supports home builders and integrators could help a Nest video doorbell get traction.
Whatever Nest does, chances are it’s been limited to a certain set of products by its parent company. Alphabet/Google has let non-Nest groups develop products in some of the most interesting areas – voice assistants and mesh Wi-Fi for example – while Nest has largely stuck with thermostats and cameras.
One thing is certain: the company’s new Nest Cam itself is a sign of progress. With it, the company has started to integrate image-based AI into its Nest cams, a potential indication that it – like Amazon – sees computer vision as one of the key new frontiers in the smart home.
And who knows? Maybe now – if the new camera and hints being dropped are any indication – maybe Nest truly has something new and interesting up its sleeves.