Google’s Nest: What’s on The Horizon With Alexa?

Things are changing at the search giant, Google with smart home devices now all consolidated under the name Google Nest.

What does this big reveal from the I/O 2019 keynote mean for the smart home division, though? More importantly, what does it means for you, the consumer?

Does Nest Still Work with Alexa?

As we mentioned earlier this week, Works with Nest is pronounced dead, to be laid formally to rest on August 31, 2019. For anyone who bought into the Nest system to enjoy that seamless automation, this is bad news indeed. Nest products won’t suddenly stop working and the existing devices will still work with one another but how about that third-party integration?

We’ll direct you to the company statement on the special support page set up for Nest and Alexa stating “there’s no change to device functionality with Alexa right now and that the Nest skill on Alexa will be migrated in the lead up to August.”

The Nest skill on Alexa will be dead on August 31, 2019.

Read the full statement right here.

What’s Google’s Incentive?

Is This Really About Privacy or Locking Down Ecosystems?

Now, it’s common knowledge that smart devices can collect plenty of information but what use is that data to a company and how sensitive is it really?

Think about the Nest Learning Thermostat…

Is this really a device where user data is in any way open to abuse?

While this is just one example of a benign product, it nevertheless prompts the obvious question…

Is Google’s stated intention of eliminating weak spots from third party links in the name of protecting user privacy really the core reason for cutting out the competition?

Or is it just that, an attempt to raze opponents from the playing field completely?

Admittedly, this is pure speculation and we’re not going to attempt a definitive answer. All we’re doing is suggesting that when Google’s Rishi Chandra talks about the need for a single ecosystem with all devices singing in harmony, that day could be closer on the horizon that the current mishmash of set-ups might suggest.

What’s Happening at Nest?

On the Nest help page, there’s a breakdown of what exactly is happening as the company becomes Google Nest and there’s a summary of 3 core elements of this rebranding:

  • A single Google Account for device management
  • A single third-party device ecosystem, Works with Google Assistant
  • A single and adjusted set of privacy commitments

It’s telling that privacy is dropped in almost as an afterthought. What appears far more prominent is the forced migration to Google Accounts and the standalone functionality of Google Assistant.

Google Nest: The New Order

Here’s the official Google line on the merging of Google and Nest:

Every decade, there’s a big computing shift. 20 years ago, it was the transition to web. 10 years ago or 12 years ago, it was the transition to mobile. And now, we’re in the third stage, AI or ambient computing.” – Rishi Chandra, Google

What’s the big deal with ambient computing then and what does it even mean?

The reason Chandra qualifies AI computing with the additional term ambient computing is because this next projected wave doesn’t focus solely on pushing AI forward.

What’s equally important in 2019 is a more unified consumer platform rather than a collection of disparate devices.

Forced to rethink product development to chase this goal, Chandra outlines 3 core obstacles in the way of Google successfully constructing that cohesive ecosystem:

  • The need to develop a range of devices that all operate neatly within a single ecosystem
  • The sensitive nature of smart speakers with the need for increased privacy with communal devices like these
  • Public resistance to existing privacy commitments

To this end, the recent merging of Nest and Google to form Google Nest comes with a new overarching product philosophy along with fresh data privacy policies.

Part of the collateral damage of this radical shift is the Works with Nest Program, due to be wound down by the end of August this year.

Hello To Works with Google Assistant

If Works with Google Assistant sounds familiar, this entity already exists but it’s now set to take on a much more prominent role.

This program will accept a range of other devices using entry points like Nest Hub Max which we’ll look at below.

Beyond this new smart display, Google Assistant also comes baked into many smart phones, and other third-party smart displays like the Lenovo.

This program is liable to be very restrictive so don’t expect a shower of compatible devices right out the gate.

It’s highly unlikely Alexa will be granted certification which is understandable given the direct competition.

Why the generally limited nature of Works with Google Assistant, though?

Well, as you all know, smart devices are highly efficient at collecting data. This came to light when Google Mini was busted eavesdropping on users.

With no Works with Nest link in the chain and much tighter controls exerted by Google, they’re hoping to assuage consumer concern with regard to privacy.

Google Nest Hub Max: The Smart Display Retooled

While Google I/O is not usually the forum for hardware announcements,   there were some surprises unveiled at the 2019 conference.

Alongside new versions of Pixel, Nest Home Hub was also revealed as the natural successor to Google Home Hub.

Don’t be wrong-footed by the Max suffix, this is a smart display rather than another addition to Google Home Max.

The generous 10-inch screen, a marked improvement on the original Home Hub’s 7-incher could best be described as fit for purpose. While it’s not the sharpest or most vibrant display you can get in 2019, this is almost by design…

The underlying aim is not a foolhardy attempt to make Google Nest Home Hub the single best smart speaker, smart display and smart security camera rolled into one. Instead, this device is targeted firmly at beginners to home automation who want a combined device that delivers on all fronts. It also offers a fantastic entry point to Google’s whole range of smarts.

So that display, then…

Another superb feature the camera permits is Face Match. We mentioned earlier the privacy issues of using communal smart displays or smart speakers in multi-person households. During set-up, you can enable facial recognition for up to 6 users given you increased privacy and more personalized search.

The camera also makes video calls possible as long as the recipient has Duo installed on their compatible device.

Whether Google Nest Hub Max makes sense for you, as always, depends largely on intended purpose and usage.

This neat model won’t be much use if you fancied replacing your Nest devices with an all-in one solution. It’s great for renters since you’ve got no issues with mounting cameras but overall functionality is not as robust as using standalone security solutions.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking to thrust your way into home automation, this smart display is an exceptional entry point and we’re genuinely looking forward to it hitting the shelves. Release date was dropped on stage at I/O as “some time between June and August” so there’s not long to wait!

Final Word

We hope that you’ve got a decent insight now into the latest developments with Google and Nest.

If you bought into the Nest ecosystem and you have any concerns about compatibility or what this merging means for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’ll be more than happy to help.

Come back next week when we’ll be bringing you more of the latest smart home news so you can always stay on top of changes like that likely to impact the functionality of your connected home.

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