While everybody was distracted by the big name Google I/O announcements like Android 5.0 and the smartwatch-focused Android Wear, the company, and its subsidiary Nest was outlining details on its plans to own your home.
What the company envisages is a fully connected home, which utilizes a web of smart devices, all using Android-based software, and all communicating through the Google cloud. These devices would interact with the inhabitants of the house through voice commands and sensors integrated into the Google Now service.
Google acquired Nest for over 3 billion dollars at the beginning of the year, and slowly but surely it is weaving it into the fold of the Android ecosystem. The first major step towards cross platform horizontal integration is the ‘Works With Nest’ product certification. Initially launched with a variety of popular products, the certification allows the device in question to communicate with a Nest Thermostat.
This, for instance, would allow a Jawbone wristband to wake you up, and at the same time increase your heating. Or, alternatively, it would allow your car to communicate with your Nest Thermostat when you get close to your house, cueing the device to increase the ambient temperature of the house.
Currently, the most serious barrier to creating an interconnected smarthome is platform fragmentation. Many smart household devices exist, all controlled by individual proprietary apps. ‘Works With Nest’ should solve this through a common control infrastructure, that should be popular enough to be included in new smart devices for your home. Through this control infrastructure, the Nest Learning Thermostat will become the brain controlling all of the other smart devices in the room.
As well as these, Google has announced that its Google Now service, in the coming months will also get the ‘Works With Nest’ label. This will then open up a whole new level of functionality for this Nest network, as users will now be control their ever more connected ‘smart home’ through voice command. In effect, Nest will be the eyes and brain of the smarthome while, Google Now devices, such as smartphones and smartwatches become the ears. Rather than placing microphones around your house, Google simply makes use of the ones we carry around with us all day.
While in theory this sounds like a cool idea, and an elegant solution to platform fragmentation within the home, it obviously poses massive privacy questions. Most notable is the ongoing controversy over how much data Nest collects on its users and passes on to Google’s own data cloud. If Google moves slowly enough with this technology, they should be able to easily convince customers to invite their presence (and omnipresence) into their homes, however should they move quickly, Google could be seen as the nosy housemate nobody wants to flat with.
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