Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Nest today announced a game-changing step that may help the thermostat and smoke alarm manufacturer to establish itself as a dominant force in the race to turn the smart home and the internet of things into a reality — giving Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and other competitors a lot more to worry about.
In a post on the company’s blog, Nest today announced that apps and devices by other developers and product manufacturers will be able to access and interact with Nest’s thermostat and smoke alarm through the Nest Developer Program. Outside apps and devices will have access to the information that Nest uses sensors to detect, and the connected services will be able to share information with each other, using Nest as a hub, or an operating system of sorts. However, Forbes reports that third parties will not have access to the motion sensors on the thermostat and smoke alarm. Nest co-founder Matt Rogers wrote on the company’s blog:
“Other companies make digital control panels and apps that let you turn things on and off around the house. But we want to go beyond simply linking and remote controlling the devices in your home. What we’re doing is making it possible for your Nest devices to securely interact with the things you already use every day. Things like lights, appliances, fitness bands, and even cars. Because when we make connections between these different parts of your life, we can create personalized experiences that do even more to keep you comfortable and safe.”
Nest was found by Rodgers and former Apple executive Tony Fadell, and was acquired by Google for $3.2 billion in January. Last week, Nest signed an agreement to acquire Dropcam for $555 million, and at that time said that it wouldn’t share customer data recorded by Dropcam with anyone, including Google, as reported by Wall St. Cheat Sheet yesterday. It’s so far unclear if third-party apps and devices will receive access to Dropcam’s footage, but Nest says that all apps and devices will have to get user permission before sharing any data that they collect with Nest and other connected services, and that developers will be reminded of how the data that they collect can be used.
In today’s blog post, Nest also outlined the product integrations already in place for the thermostat and smoke alarm, intimating that it expects there to be many more to come. LIFX lightbulbs can pulse red to warn residents in an emergency, or can turn themselves on and off when homeowners are away on vacation to make it look like the house isn’t empty.
Mercedes-Benz cars will let Nest know when the driver will arrive home, so that Nest can begin heating or cooling the house to bring it to a comfortable temperature. Whirlpool washers and dryers will get information from energy providers to avoiding running cycles during energy “rush hours,” when electricity is in high demand. A partnership with Jawbone sends Nest information from the UP24 band, so that the system will know when the wearer wakes up and can heat or cool the house to the optimal temperature.
Further partnerships, listed in a dedicated section Nest’s website, include integrations with Google Now, Chamberlain, IFTTT, and Logitech. In a link to Nest’s parent company, Google, Google Now is integrated with Nest to enable temperature adjustments, but it could ultimately connect with other devices through Nest and offer voice control over the entire smart home. However, Forbes reports that so far, Nest is treating Google’s product as it would any other of the devices and services that developers seek to connect with its platform.
The groundbreaking announcement comes as the smart home evolves from what was once a futuristic concept to a reality that manufacturers are racing to implement. As Nest wrote today, the company’s goal is to “create a more conscious and thoughtful home,” moving beyond the idea of a user manually controlling everything from a hub himself. To create the “conscious and thoughtful home,” Nest is moving from supplying individual pieces of the smart home — a smart thermostat, a smoke alarm, or video monitoring with the acquisition of Dropcam — to opening up its platform as a hub for a variety of smart technologies to communicate with each other.
Since those devices will use Nest almost like an operating system, Nest is opening up its platform to a huge variety of ideas and innovations. That transition could see Nest’s smart thermostat evolving into the point of control and coordination for a large number of other products, among which consumers will be able to take their pick to piece together their ideal smart home.
Apple recently unveiled its own home automation standard, HomeKit, which allows users to control lights, doors, and thermostats from an iPhone. The HomeKit framework will launch with iOS 8, and manufacturers like Philips (NYSE:PHG) and Honeywell (NYSE:HON) will introduce compatible products, which will all be controlled from the user’s iPhone.
Startup Quirky takes the idea further than Apple, and recently launched Wink, a hub that will interface with a variety of compatible smart home products. Wink will be able to be controlled via an app that’s available for both Android and iOS. Like Nest, Wink aspires to create an operating system for the smart home.
Opening its platform to the app development community is a move that could eventually see Nest dominating the smart home, as developers are able to build on what’s already been done and create apps, services, and products that communicate with those already connected to Nest. It seems that Nest is taking a page out of Google’s book, and looking to replicate its parent company’s success with the wildly successful Android platform, which is beginning to compete with Apple’s iOS as a premium platform for app developers.
Accompanying the opening of the Nest platform is the introduction of the Thoughtful Things Fund, launched with Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The fund will support emerging companies with ideas to “expand what the conscious home can do.” That seems like a smart investment, and coupled with Nest’s opening of its platform, should accelerate the development of the smart home and the competition to create a piece of it.