Google-owned Nest takes on Apple’s HomeKit, opens up API for developers

Nest Developer Program (teaser 001)

Nest Labs, the Google-owned maker of the popular Nest thermostat and smoke detector, has signaled its intention to open up its technology to third-party developers by launching the Nest Developer Program last September.

Since then, Nest has been building a real-time web API for the Nest Learning Thermostat and today, ahead of Google I/O which starts tomorrow, the program has gone active.

The official API allows the Nest to work with all kinds of devices, from smart light bulbs to various home appliances to fitness bands and even cars. “Connect your Nest to things inside and outside of your home, and we’ll get even better at keeping you comfortable and safe,” says Google.

Contrary to previous assurances by Nest co-founder and former Apple engineer Tony Fadell, Nest devices will need to share some data with Google so the Internet giant could understand your daily habits and intelligently propose new ways of saving energy around the house…

According to Nest, the road to a more conscious and thoughtful home starts with the Nest becoming a hub for your smart home. That’s where the official API comes into play to allow Nest devices to securely interact with third-party accessories.

And to speed up development of Nest-compatible solutions, Google’s VC arm called Google Ventures (an early investor in Nest) and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers have set up a fund to help entrepreneurs bring their conscious home ideas to life.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, to realize this integration Google and Nest will need to share user data after all.

The opt-in will allow Google to know when Nest users are at home or not, allowing them to set the temperature of their homes with voice commands to a Google mobile app.

It will also allow Google’s personal digital assistant, Google Now, to set the temperature automatically when it detects, using a smartphone’s location-tracking abilities, that a user is returning home.

Keep in mind that Nest co-founder Tony Fadell previously promised not to alter terms of service for data sharing with Google.

“Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services,” wrote Nest back in January. “We’ve always taken privacy seriously and this will not change.”

The integration with Google will be like “any other third party,” Nest co-founder Matt Rogers told WSJ. For starters, any accessory linking to Nest – including Google’s own devices – will have to clearly inform users why it needs their data and how it’ll be used. Also, customers will be able to un-link their devices from Nest through the mobile app at any time.

Nest 2.0 image 002

Among a bunch of ‘Works with Nest’ integration partners are such names as Logitech, Mercedes-Benz, Whirlpool, LIFX and Jawbone. Here’s how these firms are leveraging Nest integration.

  • LIFX: LIFX lightbulbs can work with your Nest Protect to pulse red in an emergency, which can help grab your attention and alert those who are hearing impaired. Going on vacation? Once your Nest Thermostat goes into Away mode, LIFX can make it look as if someone is home by automatically turning on and off your lights throughout the house.
  • Mercedes-Benz: As you drive home, your car can let Nest know what time you’ll arrive. That way your thermostat can start heating or cooling at exactly the right moment, and your home is the perfect temperature as soon as you walk in the door.
  • Whirlpool: If you’re signed up for Rush Hour Rewards with a participating energy provider, Nest can let Whirlpool know when an energy rush hour is about to happen, and your washer or dryer will delay the start of the cycle until the rush hour is over. You end up earning extra rush hour rewards and using less energy when electricity is in high demand.
  • Jawbone: Your Nest Learning Thermostat knows what temperature you like your home to be in the morning and your UP24 band can tell when you wake up. Together, they can make sure your thermostat starts heating or cooling before you even get out of bed.

Privacy watchers caution that any data sharing of Nest users’ sensitive private information such as their daily habits opens the door to potential misuse.

As Engadget reports, GTVHacker just revealed an exploit for the Nest Learning Thermostat that could let malicious users monitor whether you’re home, sniff your network traffic, or even crank up the temperature a few degrees, remotely.

A spokesperson for Nest responded that its software “doesn’t compromise the security of our servers or the connections to them and to the best of our knowledge, no devices have been accessed and compromised remotely.”

It’s interesting that Last Friday Nest announced the purchase of video-surveillance startup Dropcam for $555 million.

A story yesterday by The Information claimed that Tony Fadell has become Google’s top dog for hardware after Sundar Pichai reportedly shut down Google’s Android hardware initiatives.

Fadell himself took to Twitter to deny the rumor, writing that he runs Nest as a separate business with its own management and brand.

Meanwhile, Apple remains the biggest elephant in the room. Its own HomeKit got announced during the June 2 WWDC keynote as an extension of the ‘Made for iPhone’ certification.

The basic idea is to consolidate management of HomeKit-certified smart appliances and connected home accessories so users could tell Siri things like “get ready for bed,” which would enable all of your smart door locks, turn off the lights, lower the temperature and so forth.

What do you make of all this?

Can Nest become an operating system for the smart home of sorts?