The Nest Thermostat was the golden child of the early DIY smart home. Finally, a polished, good-looking device that could be the centrepiece of a smart home. Sure, it wasnât the perfect smart home hub we dreamed of, but the functionality it enabled was pretty magical.
Lights turning off when your home sensed no one was there; shades raising to let the sun warm the house so the thermostat didnât have to; security systems responding to its Home/Away feature so you needn't remember to arm or disarm. It was far from perfect, but it was pretty damn cool, and crucially it didnât rely on you to do anything. It was the smartest thing in most of our smart homes.
Now, with the imminent demise of Works with Nest, our smart home dreams are crumbling, being replaced by a device we have to talk to, or use an app to control, the antithesis of Nestâs original ecosystem. According to Google, moving forward all smart home interactions will have to go through Works with Google Assistant and the Google Home app, which currently only has three triggers for Routines: voice, touch or schedule (it does promise more will come later though).
Essential reading: Everything you need to know about Google Nest
Even if Works with Nest partners such as Philips Hue, Lutron, and Rachio move to Works with Google Assistant, thereâs currently no way to replicate the functionality offered by their existing WWN programs. No more shutting off lights when the thermostat goes to Away mode. No more turning on your Lutron switches if the Nest Cam detects movement. No activating your Rachio sprinkler controller when your Nest Protect senses smoke.
It feels like a blow to the intelligent smart home. Google told The Ambient that it is working on presence and occupancy being supported, and says it will bring over Home/Away Routine triggers, but until that point, all our Nest smart homes just got a little dumber. Since the announcement, we've been talking to Google and third-party companies on the WWN program to see what all of this means for the future of your home.
How will this affect my smart home?
Come 31 August â or earlier if developers just decide to throw in the towel â no new Works with Nest integrations can be added. While Google initially made it sound like all integrations would stop working on 31 August, it's since clarified that existing connections will keep running.
That is, until you merge your Google and Nest accounts. As soon as you accept this merger, your WWN integrations will stop, even if itâs before the August deadline, and that will be that.
Google says the merger will let Nest and Google devices work together in new ways, without additional setup, and give you the benefit of one place to manage multiple homes and home members â the Google Home App (although the Nest app is staying, for now).
You can stay with Nest and be governed only by Nest's terms and privacy policiesâŚ but you won't get new features
If you choose not to merge and stick with Nest, that's fine (at least for the time being) and you'll be governed only by Nest's terms and privacy policies, not Googleâs. If you do this, you will get security updates, but no new features.
Also, some existing features in the Nest app will only be accessible from Nestâs website (such as purchasing Nest Aware subscriptions). If you buy a new Nest device once the account merging begins, you will have no choice but to sign up with Google.
If you decide to go full steam ahead with the new Google Nest, all those integrations Google says are coming to manage your smart home will need to be managed through the Google Home app. This also means Google's own smart speakers, like the Google Home, Mini, Nest Hub and the new Nest Hub Max are going to make managing your Google smart home easier. This is Google's world, we're just living in it.
Can I still use Alexa with Nest?
Yes. Google says it's working with Amazon to migrate the Nest skills on Alexa âto ensure a smooth transition prior to winding down the Works with Nest program.â A wise move, as cutting Alexa off from Nest would cause a lot of push back from users who bought the device with that capability as an advertised selling point.
What happens to my data?
Once you sign up with Google, all your smart home data â past, present and future â will go to Google. When it first purchased Nest back in 2014, Google said this would not happen. But, to no oneâs surprise, it now is. All your Nest home data will become associated with your Google Account. While any data from Google Assistant interactions is subject to being used for ad personalisation (you can opt out of this), Google says Nest device data wonât be used in this way, however users will not be able to review or delete their data unless they delete their account.
Users will no longer have access to their data from the API, which will shut out workaround solutions used to control Nest devices on officially unsupported platforms â such as SmartThings and Home Assistant. Work with Google Assistant, the replacement for Works with Nest, wonât allow the open API access that let these workarounds exist. It will also be a more tightly controlled system than WWN, with partner devices not having any access to or control of Nest devices.
Will everyone transfer to Works with Google Assistant?
Probably not. Google has made it clear that entry into the program is going to be carefully vetted, and manufacturers must comply with Googleâs privacy and data policies. Works with Nest partners, many of whom said they had no prior knowledge of the programâs demise, were on Twitter and in userâs inboxes fairly quickly following the news to explain how their devices would be affected and whether they would transfer to Googleâs new smart home platform. Brilliant, Control 4 and Lutron all posted statements telling their customers how this will affect them.
Googleâs choice to shut down the Works with Nest program is contrary to our belief
âWe are working closely with Google to understand how we can continue our partnership and still deliver the same product experience our customers expect,â August told us. Its lock works with the Nest Thermostat to trigger Home and Away, and also with the Nest Cam to take a clip of whomever entered your house.
Signify, the company which owns Philips Hue and one of the earliest Works with Nest partners, told us: âWeâre working closely with Google to continue to deliver the best possible experience to our customers. For now, we recommend keeping an eye on the Nest FAQ and Googleâs and our social channels for more updates as we approach August 31, 2019.â
Over at Abode, the smart home security system that also works as smart home hub, things didnât sound quite so positive. âWeâve always believed the smart home experience is made better for customers through interoperability and companies working together to give consumers choice,â Chris Carney, CEO & co-founder of Abode told us. âWhile Googleâs choice to shut down the Works with Nest program is contrary to our belief and against the direction we think the smart home needs to move, it is consumers who will be impacted the most.â
After Google announced it wouldn't kill existing Nest integrations come 31 August, Carney said: âWe are happy to see that Google seems to understand how detrimental it would be for existing Nest users to have their integrations stop working in August. As we said before, we believe in a smart home strategy that puts interoperability and consumer choice front and centre. Ideally, weâd like to see the Works With Nest program continue for all users, even beyond August, and Abode will continue to work with Google as their plans for Works With Google Assistant evolve and we hope that weâre able to collectively offer the same level of functionality and compatibility that made Nest such a successful brand and important partner over the last several years."
Google is closing in
Googleâs move is indeed about closing in its ecosystem, albeit in the name of privacy. When The Ambient spoke to Mike Soucie, senior product marketing manager at Google, about the closure of the program he said a big problem with WWN had been too many masters trying to control one product. Thereâs truth in this. I have a Nest thermostat whose fan I cannot stop from going off. My theory is I connected it to one of several indoor air quality devices I was testing at some point, and one of them has gone haywire. Now I canât figure out what that connection was (WWN has never had a uniform platform for you to see all your integrations, something it needed). Under a Google-controlled Nest, I should be able to find and eliminate the offending integration.
But by restricting access to its devices, Google is moving toward a closed ecosystem like Appleâs HomeKit. Devices have to be approved by Google and all functionality will go through Google, and the Google Home App, creating a walled garden of products, rather than the privacy fence Google is spinning.
Google is moving toward a closed ecosystem like Appleâs HomeKit
For the general consumer this is a key play. Products that just work together seamlessly, with no need to weave things together at the back end make sense. People often stick to one brand of appliances for their kitchen, why wouldnât they do the same for their smart home gadgets? Especially if it means theyâll work better.
For the smart home enthusiast however, this is a death knell for the open smart home; our interoperable ecosystem walking out the door. Google has already stated that IFTTT won't work with Nest products going forward, and therefore it's quite possibly similar systems like Yonomi wonât either. While Google says it will replace much of IFTTTâs functionality with its own Google Assistant routines, this is quite possibly the beginning of the end for the open smart home.
Appleâs HomeKit is a closed ecosystem, Google Nest is contracting, and while Amazonâs Alexa smart home system is still wide open, its recent acquisition of Ring, which is making major strides toward a complete smart home ecosystem (and ironically just launched its own Works With Ring program), indicates it might not stay that way for long.