Google kills Works with Nest as it prepares for a Google Assistant future

The program that brought smart home devices together is ending

Google is killing Works with Nest
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Works with Nest, the platform built to get smart home devices talking to Nest products, is shutting down, Google has announced. The service will close on 31 August and will be replaced by Works with Google Assistant, Google’s services-based developer platform that the search giant is evolving into a smart home ecosystem. As of the end of August, all Works with Nest integrations will stop operating and developers must either transition their products to the new platform or end their compatibility with Nest’s suite of smart home products.

Guide: Migrating your Nest account to Google

Designed to help make connected gadgets more “thoughtful,” the WWN program extended the capabilities of Nest’s IOT smart home products, allowing third-party devices to communicate with Nest's so your home could react to you.

From changing your Nest thermostat to Away when you close your smart garage door controller, to turning your connected lights on when your Nest Cam sensed motion, Works with Nest was the original glue for the modern smart home. And now it’s dead. While partners can transfer their integrations to Works with Google Assistant, much of the openness and integration WWN offered will be gone. At the same time, Google is embracing Nest as its smart home hardware brand, putting its Smart Displays under the Nest name.

Essential reading: The best Google Home compatible devices

“Moving forward, partners are no longer going to be able to access specific Nest data," Mike Soucie, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Google, and co-founder of Revolve (the smart home hub bought by Nest and shut down in 2015) tells The Ambient. "They're going to have to rely on the Works with Google Assistant platform to create routines with Nest products."

Partners will have to rely on Works with Google Assistant to create routines with Nest products

The reasons for this are security and simplicity, according to Soucie. WWN allowed many partners to access data about Nest products that today Google doesn’t feel they should have access to. These include Home/Away data, motion, and temperature set points from its thermostat, and the ability to turn on and off Nest Cameras based on external events.

“That’s sensitive data that we need to be sure we understand what partners are using it for,” says Soucie. “As much value as this has provided in the past it's been a bridge solution. I use the example of, you can't have multiple masters in the home, there's too many ecosystems today.”

Instead of having individual third-party devices control the same product, Google wants to be your smart home’s master. “What we were finding is that multiple ecosystems and multiple masters were trying to control the same Nest device. And there was a level of confusion,” he says. “Now, rather than having multiple platforms and ecosystems control Nest devices, we're bringing it all under the Works with Google Assistant ecosystem, a single controller for all your Nest, Google, and third-party devices.”

Google kills Works with Nest as it preps for a Google Assistant future

One Google to rule them all

Google waited until this year's I/O developer conference to announce the change, as it lays out the next phase of its smart home strategy.

“This announcement is about bringing the best of Google and Nest together under a single roof, bringing all of our products, accounts, services and policies together,” says Soucie. “It’s about how we are moving forward into this new era of the connected home, creating the best possible experience to provide a more helpful home for the future.”

Multiple ecosystems were trying to control the same Nest device. There was a level of confusion

Google acquired Nest in January 2014, but the two companies didn’t formally come together as one until February 2018. “Two years ago we were limited by being two companies working together, there's always some sort of wall or barrier to what you can do, where you can go,” says Soucie. “That's no longer an issue, so it's pretty exciting moving forward.” Under the new Works with Google Assistant program all Nest products and Google Home products will work together natively.

“Nest and Google users will find that Nest products just show up in the Google Home app and start working out of the box together,” says Soucie. “Such as Google Nest Hub showing live video from the Nest Hello doorbell without additional set up. There's an immediate benefit for the consumers there. Moving forward, it's using Works with Google Assistant and the Home app as a central place to manage all your connected home devices, whether that's Google, Nest, or partner products and devices.”

Soucie says the Nest brand and app is staying, for now. He repeatedly referred to the Google Home Hub as the Google Nest Hub, which makes more sense after Google I/O, where Google Home Hub was rebranded to Nest Home Hub and released alongside the Nest Hub Max.

Google kills Works with Nest as it preps for a Google Assistant future

Another ecosystem bites the dust

The death of smart home platforms has become more frequent (Iris and Stringify both shuttered this year) as the industry moves to the mainstream and companies consolidate and contract as they try to figure out how to play to the average consumer. But the demise of WWN will be tough to swallow for both smart home users who have come to rely on it to help their disparate devices work together, and for developers who embraced the openness and functionality it offered in improving their own products.

These changes may not come as a shock though. An announcement on Nest Developers’ site said client reviews were suspended due to upgrading of systems, hinting that changes were underway. An update posted in November said Nest was “currently restructuring our developer program” and was no longer accepting new developers or performing reviews for existing developers.

When you entrust your actual home to a company, you want to know they won't pull the plug on you

Chad Laurans, founder of smart home security system Simplisafe, which has been a Works with Nest partner since December 2015, says it won’t impact his company directly, but feels Nest’s customers will be the most adversely affected.

"Google has discontinued a number of products over the years – Google Glass, Google Reader, Google Plus. So has Amazon – think of the Fire Phone,” he tells The Ambient. “It makes sense: they are both huge companies juggling a lot of projects. For us, as former integration partners, Works with Nest shutting down is not a huge blow, because our product stands on its own. But I feel bad for the customers. It's one thing to change people's apps or gadgets. When you entrust the integrity of your actual home to a company, you want to know they won't pull the plug on you."

Soucie says Google has been working with partners to move them over to Works with Google Assistant, so that customers won’t suffer. “It’s our goal to provide ample notice to our partners, to the industry, and to users, because we do know that a lot of people have spent years using Works With Nest to set up different interactions,” he says. “There'll be some time to help transition users and partners over.”

Entry into the new ecosystem is not guaranteed, however, although Google says the development process is simpler and easier than WWN's. When asked if anyone could be part of the Works with Google Assistant program, or if there might be specific categories exclusively for Nest and Google products (thermostats, security systems, and cameras for example), Soucie replied: “It depends on their integration. What I can say is if those categories or industries are dependent on Nest device data, then no, they can’t. We have to be more secure in who has access to that data and that's a promise and a commitment that we're making to our users.

“It’s not a closed system,” he continued. “It's an open system, but the front door is through Works with Google Assistant. It’s about registering your devices, what its capabilities are. So I don't want to categorically start looking at each one and say this is excluded or included, but it's about making sure it meets our security and privacy standards.”

Will it all Work with Google?

This move brings Google Assistant closer to the other major ecosystems in the smart home space – Amazon's Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit, and Samsung's SmartThings. With its voice, touch, and schedule interfaces for triggering routines and smart home devices, Google Assistant has a good start, and its integration with Google Services is a major plus.

The goal is to match the level of feature parity that Works With Nest enabled

But with the demise of WWN, Google has taken some of the “smart” out of the smart home, leaving an automated home instead. Nest still has its Home/Away Assist mode, which uses geofencing to operate your Nest devices, but the integrations with other partners, such as turning your Philips Hue lights off when your Nest goes into Away mode, are gone – for now.

“The goal is to match the level of feature parity that Works with Nest enabled,” says Soucie. “We're not quite there yet. We're working on it and we believe that we'll have that parity by the end of the year.” He says presence and occupancy triggers are also on the roadmap.

As for integration with those other ecosystems, don’t hold your breath. “We understand that our users use different kinds of platforms and especially the big partners, and we are in talks to see what we can do moving forward here. But nothing to announce today.”

Consolidating its services and devices under the Google Assistant umbrella will create a simpler, more unified platform for Google’s smart home users. But the loss of Works with Nest, an open platform that, while sometimes confusing, allowed your devices to respond to you rather than needing a command, feels like a step backwards in the evolution of the smart home. Whether this contraction will result in the birth of a better, smarter, more intuitive connected home is something we will wait to see.

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