A series of announcements at the Google I/O 2019 conference will utterly change how the company approaches smart device platforms. This is especially important for the “Works with Nest” program — which is being shut down.
Does that mean that your non-Google smart devices will lose compatibility with Nest devices? Yes, it does. But the issue is also more complicated than that. Let’s talk about this big Google change, why the company is taking such a risk with consumers, and what it means for your own smart home.
Google purchased Nest in early January of 2014 (for a cool $3.2 billion), but the company is only now pushing Nest as its primary smart home platform. We’re not sure what will happen with all Google Home devices, but the “Google Home” brand is going to officially be the “Google Nest” brand going forward, and future Google smart devices will probably be relabeled under the Nest title.
We’ve already seen this in action: Google announced a new smart display along with the news, similar to the Google Home Hub, but this one is called the Nest Hub Max. When referring to the Google Home Hub, the announcers only referred to it as the “Nest Hub.” So yes, there are new names to get used to.
Works with Nest was a program that connected Nest devices with other smart home platforms so that they could all work together. For example, if you had a Nest thermostat, you could connect it to an Echo device from Amazon, and use Alexa voice commands to control your thermostat. Google had hundreds of these compatibility connections with various platforms, allowing Nest products to work in homes with complex smart device environments.
That will all come to an end when Works with Nest fully shuts down by August 31. Some smart companies may sever their Nest compatibility before then just to save time. This is likely to lead to a lot of customer disappointment, and it will be interesting to see how Google deals with that.
Come August, those with Nest devices may find that they can’t be controlled anymore, and that creating connections or smart “scenes” aren’t possible. In fact, if you aren’t specifically using the Nest app to control your device, it’s not going to work (at least not like it once did). You can take a look at all the current devices in the program and bid them farewell, while checking to see if you’re affected. Some of the more popular platforms (there are around 3,500 brands in the program) that will no longer work with Nest products include:
- The customizable IFTTT platform
- Amazon’s Alexa, and any devices enabled with Alexa
- The convergence platform Control4
- Simplisafe security
- Logitech Harmony devices
- Philips Hue Devices
- Lutron devices
- Samsung SmartThings and any other platform with open source Nest configurations
Now that most of the bad news is out of the way, let’s look at what Google’s doing about it. Works with Nest will be replaced by a program called Works with Google Assistant (which has existed previously, but now takes on a much larger role). As the name indicates, this program will admit devices that will be able to work with Google Assistant voice commands, presumably via devices like the new Nest Hub Max and Google’s rebranded smart home controllers. Google Assistant is also available on many smartphones, a number of third-party smart displays (like Lenovo’s smart display), and other devices, which should also support this new and different compatibility.
Don’t expect all your old platforms to make the jump to Works with Google Assistant, however. Google VP of Nest Rishi Chandra made it clear that the new program would be very restrictive, and Google would only hand out limited authorizations after careful scrutiny. Some platforms, including Control4, have announced they have already applied for certification. For others, notably Alexa, it’s unlikely Google will again grant compatibility to rivals. Their relationship is probably finished.
So why all the changes? It comes down to brand recognition and data privacy. Google may be a household name when it comes to internet searches, but it’s not the sort of recognition you want with a smart device — where the name can imply that the device may be watching and collecting data on you, as some Google Home devices were indeed found to be doing by mistake. Nest, meanwhile, is a trusted name. People like Nest devices. So the rebrand makes sense from a business perspective.
Ending the Nest program also helps Google emphasize a focus on privacy. Works with Nest required a whole lot of data to pass to other platforms, essentially out of Google’s control. With current concerns about spying smart devices and past failings in this area, Google decided that was no longer worth the risk. With the new framework, data will be much more tightly controlled by Google and essentially stay under Google’s protection while you use your smart device.
The cost of that change is very high, and limits the usefulness of Nest products. But fans of Google Assistant, without many current smart devices, may be happy to join a smart platform where privacy is more of a guarantee.
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