April 15, 2014

Why Nest Protect Reporting an Emergency Filled Me With Comfort

/via https://twitter.com/louisgray/status/456120763343327232

This morning, my Nexus 5 chirped with a notification I hadn't seen before. While I was at the office, my Nest application was telling me, in no uncertain terms, that there was an Emergency in the kitchen at home. There was smoke, and the alarm from our Nest Protect smoke alarm was sounding. I called home quickly, and my wife told me, embarrassed, there was simply a small issue with the microwave, and all was fine.

While getting alerted to something you can't immediately do something about is no doubt unsettling, it's also reassuring - especially when you consider the alternative (and status quo) is to not be notified until you come home and your house is ash. The Nest Protect alarm correctly detected smoke, communicated (in English) what the problem was, and notified me immediately on a device I always have with me. And as my wife confirmed, the device was being quite direct with her. "There's smoke in the kitchen," was the message from all our devices around the house.

I Can See Status of My 4 Nest Protects from My Phone

Prior to Google's acquisition of Nest in January, I had purchased four Nest Protect smoke alarms in December, to start an upgrade that felt long overdue. As is recommended by code, our home has smoke detectors in just about every room, and their ancient look and behavior, matched only by their limited abilities and nuisances when functioning, give us something of a love/hate relationship. Their every noisy chirp when batteries ran low had us racing from corner to corner in the house, trying to track down the decaying device, and their overreactions to burnt toast or anything else had us all too eager to leave them simply disconnected - which was no good.

So I was more than happy to take down four of the dusty beige models with no personality and start putting Protects in their place. With a little setup, each of the new devices connected, by Wifi, to one another, and they now hang quietly in our major traffic areas, waiting for any hint of trouble. And one perk, which few talk about, is the Protects' ability to function as a nightlight - providing illumination in near darkness, invaluable for the quiet tiptoeing in the hallways, past sleeping children at night.

Adding the Protects to our home in December seemed like a logical move after getting the Thermostat last year. And while they don't see as much activity as the Thermostat, which is constantly keeping our temperature in check, it's comforting to see their current status in the app, and know that all is well.

Today's "Emergency" was quickly resolved, and I got another update.

There's not much to be excited about when it comes to the world of smoke detectors. But as Nest said when they first introduced the Protect series of smoke alarms, "Safety shouldn't be annoying." Too often, people end up in the same situation we had been, where the alarms in their homes were sitting to the side, with batteries out, or batteries had simply gone out and were useless shells - doing nothing to ensure the safety of the people who needed them to work.

Like Sonos, you can view the status and manage any of the devices by name - usually tied to their location. As we placed Protects in my electronics-heavy office, the hallway between my kids' bedrooms, the kitchen and our living room, it's easy to know which device is following status of each location, and in times of assumed crisis, they work in concert to let you know an action has to be taken.

There's really two ways to do smoke alarms: The old way and the Nest way. Every older smoke alarm in my home is now assumed to be a liability, waiting for its time to be replaced. They don't talk my language, they don't look good, and they aren't equipped for this gadget-centric age. I've never gotten a notification from my older alarms, and I never will. Today's alert - even if it was a small one - confirmed that going with Nest was a good idea. And whether you think I'm biased because I work at Google, and can now count the Nest team as colleagues, consider I paid full retail for these devices (including the thermostat), and did so without any knowledge of an impending buy. That they're now working on our team is actually pretty cool. It's always good to have smart software impact my life.

Disclosures: Nest, as mentioned, is a subsidiary of Google, where I work. I purchased the devices prior to the acquisition, and haven't gotten any kind of discount or any favors for being on the same team now. I just have a bias in favor of products that work well.