Nest is updating its Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector with brand new software that will be better able to distinguish between smoke and steam to cut down on false alarms. The new upgrade comes just three months after the company resumed selling the original version, which the company recalled after engineers found a major flaw with one of its core features in lab tests -- although this latest version doesn't fix the problem that led to the recall.
The new Protect detector can identify steam by taking more nuanced readings from the device's humidity sensors, said Nest's head of product marketing, Maxine Veron.It also has additional features to help users better understand when they may be at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, and provides information in its companion app for first responders and physicians in case of an incident.
The app will keep a 10-day history of Nest Protect readings at users’ fingertips, Veron said, which could prove useful for medical professionals who may need detailed information on how high carbon monoxide levels have been over a period of time, to judge exposure. Nest’s app also now gives users instructions on how to recognize CO poisoning systems and even how to set up an evacuation plan.
The new launch comes after a busy summer for Nest, which was acquired by Google in January. In June, the firm bought the security camera company Dropcam, which has allowed it to add cameras to its own line of smart products for the home. That reflects the ambitions of Nest, and Google, to dominate the market for smart appliances and wearable devices. The so-called "Internet of Things" market is expected to explode in the next few years. As Business Insider reported, there are currently an estimated 1.9 billion such devices on the market; that's expected to grow to 9 billion by 2018.
There are some caveats. Security researchers, in fact, have been able to tap into Dropcam's feeds -- though the hack did require getting physical access to the device. Still, the rise of Internet-connected appliances such as washers and thermostats has raised concerns that manufacturers aren't thinking about security enough. It may be kind of funny to think about refrigerators sending spam e-mails, but there are serious implications for what happens when devices are increasingly connected.
Nest has encrypted Dropcam footage and has also worked with other companies and developers to make its products interact securely with other smart devices. For example, Veron said, the company has joined forces with Mercedes Benz to have some models of car work with the Nest thermostat to signal when users are getting close to home and adjust their homes’ temperatures accordingly. Nest also announced Thursday that it’s providing its smart thermostats to Airbnb hosts in the U.S., with an eye on reducing energy consumption when rental properties aren’t in use.
Current Nest Protect owners will get access to the new software for free starting Thursday, and it will continue rolling out over the next two weeks. While there are some notable upgrades, the new software does not include the Wave feature, which allows users to turn off false alarms by simply waving their hands in front of the device. This is the same feature that triggered the first recall. For now, Nest has not been able to solve problems with Wave. In some lab settings, the feature led to some genuine alarms being turned off by accident.
“We were sad when we had to pull it out,“ Veron said. “We are committed to crushing alarms at their source” with features like steam check that strive to lower the incidence of false alarms. Plus, the company is still looking for ways to offer “Wave” or another feature like it, in the future.
“We are committed to find a way to silence these alarms,” Veron said.