Less than a year after launching a connected smoke detector, Nest is updating the software to add a few extra features, including the ability to detect steam. The features are useful, but none of them address the issue with the wave-to-silence feature that Nest discovered in April. The problem theoretically could let someone wave to silence a legitimate smoke alarm, and led to the recall of 440,000 devices and ended up forcing Nest to drop the price of the device from $129 to $99.
The company also is announcing a partnership with Airbnb where select hosts on the house-sharing site will get up to 500 Nest devices to help manage their homes while they are away. While that’s exciting news for those hosts and good marketing for Nest, let’s focus on those Protect software features. There are some UI tweaks to make things prettier as well as more substantive stuff.
- Steam Check: Exactly what it sounds like. About 15 percent of the time the Nest Protect mistakenly sounds its alarm in the presence of steam, so now it uses a humidity sensor on the device to check for steam. If the Protect is sure it’s steam, it doesn’t go off.
- Historical data: Much like the Nest thermostat, the smoke detector now shows users a 10-day history of their activity. While most people will likely see a bunch of green bars every day as above, Maxime Veron, head of product marketing at Nest, said that a lot of people use the Pathlight feature that also shows up on the history to track when their kids wander about the house in the middle of the night.
- Pathlight changes: Speaking of that Pathlight feature, folks can now control how bright the path light is and even set it to stay on all night.
- Carbon monoxide details: The Protect can now tell you how much carbon monoxide it detected and how long it detected it, which may help medical personnel treat anyone with carbon monoxide inhalation.
- New Languages: The company is adding Dutch and French because it has a large number of customers in those countries even thought it doesn’t officially sell its products there.
Veron also offered an update on the Nest Developer program, which has over 3,000 parties signed up so far. I was curious about the rate limiting that the company had alluded to in its Google I/O presentation, because it seemed like it might frustrate developers seeking real time access to the status of the home. It also made it sound like the thermostat would act as the de facto hub for the Nest connected home.
Veron explained that some of the limits were because thermostat and Protect are power constrained. If a user doesn’t connect the thermostat to wired power, having someone hammer it with API requests would kill the battery. Thus the thermostat instead reports its status and temperature every minute or so up to a server, which is where the requests are made and distributed.
As for the developer’s program, I’m hoping we’ll see and hear a lot more about it in the coming months. So far, there are only a few partners and I haven’t really had much chance to test anything out. Later this fall we’ll see Google integration, which means we can command our Android phones to change our thermostat settings via voice and perhaps get some interesting geolocation features.