Nest is now bringing the same techniques that allowed it to change the way people think about thermostats and applying them to the smoke alarm. Yes, this company is trying to take the slightly radioactive household appliance that everybody needs and turn it into something that’s nice to use.
The resulting product is the Nest Protect, a combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarm that talks to you and hooks up to your smartphone or tablet. One of the Nest Protect’s key features is that it talks to you about a possible hazard before starting up an alarm klaxon. That way, you don’t have to worry about having to disable an alarm just because you happened to burn a batch of rice on the stove, or something.
In the event that the alarm does start going off, you can silence it just by waving your hand under the Nest Protect, or shut it up through Nest’s smartphone app.
A single Nest Protect is roughly half the price of the company’s thermostat at $129, and for complete coverage, you need to have them in multiple rooms of your house, which means blanketing your home with talking smoke detectors is going to cost a pretty penny. While it’s clear that these devices are better than the standard beige, chirping UFOs which are so ubiquitous in homes around the country, it remains to be seen whether they’re worth that much.
There’s one clear disadvantage to the Nest protect: if you’re the sort of person who walks around with a Windows Phone and a Microsoft Surface, you won’t be able to set the Nest Protect up in your house. According to Nest’s official instructions, it can only be set up through the company’s Android and iPhone apps.
Nest, founded by Apple iPod veterans Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, also has some Seattle roots, thanks to its VP of Technology Yoky Matsuoka, a former University of Washington computer science professor.
What household staple do you think Nest is after next? My guess is window shades.
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.