One of the quieter announcements to come out of the Google I/O keynote earlier this week, was the fact that the Google Home division - or the company's smart home division - was rebranded to Google Nest. It signals a shift in Google's plans for the smart home.
With the rebrand of Google Home to Google Nest, the company also debuted a new smart display, the Nest Hub Max. It also rebranded the existing smart display to the Nest Hub.
On the surface, this looks like Google has finally figured out what to do with Nest, since it acquired the company back in 2014. The Nest division at Google has had a pretty turbulent five years at the company. Nest was spun out when Alphabet was created in 2015. Then its CEO and co-founder, Tony Fadell was basically ousted, it also lost its other co-founder Matt Rodgers. Nest purchased Dropcam, only to rebrand its products and not actually launch a new products for a couple of years. This is part of what led to Dropcam's founder leaving the company, and then publicly talking about how he wished he never sold to Google.
In 2018, Nest rejoined Google and was part of the hardware division at the search giant. And now, it is essentially taking over its smart home division, which is a long time coming. It seemed like Google had no idea what to do with Nest, and that it might actually put a "for sale" sign on the company, but instead it figured out a path forward.
One might look at this as Google combining its two hardware teams into one division, and while that might be true, Google is also looking at the security aspect of the smart home.
Google isn't as trustworthy as Nest
When it comes to smart cameras in your home and recording what's going on, many don't trust Google. And no one can really blame them as Google already collects so much information on us. Though, they do not hide the fact that they do collect this information. But the last thing that a homeowner might want is a security camera from Google in their home. Many may think that it'll be recording 24/7 and sending that info to Google to use for ad-targeting and stuff.
However, by putting this all under the "Nest" name, it sort of brings the smart home products out from under Google's wing. The products don't even bear the "Google" name. For example, the Nest Hub Max is simply that. Though, there is still a "G" logo on the back for Google. So Google isn't completely gone from the equation here. But the company is hoping, that by doing this, more customers will trust Nest products and put them into their homes.
The rebranding announced at Google I/O this past week was not the whole story for Nest and Google's smart home ambitions. The company also killed off the "Works with Nest" program, which means any products you bought to work with Nest, won't. At least in the coming months, as the program won't be totally killed off until August 31. But Google has also clamped down on privacy and security when it comes to the smart home.
Privacy is the name of the game
Privacy is a big deal when it comes to anything really, but when it comes to the smart home, it's even more important. And given Google's reputation for collecting a ton of data on every single user, focusing on privacy with this rebranding is a smart thing to do. While privacy really only matters when it comes to security cameras like the Nest Cam, it's still good to have better privacy across the whole line of smart home devices. For example, you don't need Google knowing what temperature you've set your Nest Learning Thermostat to today.
With these new privacy measures, there are a few things that existing Nest and future Nest owners are going to see. When it comes to Nest Cam products, users will now see a green light next to the camera, when it is recording. This is to indicate that it is indeed recording, so you can easily see that it is on. Up until today, that green light could be disabled from the Nest app. But that is not going to be the case any longer. This is also available on the Nest Hub Max.
The other big change comes to the "Works With Nest" program. As mentioned already, that is being discontinued. In its place will be a "Works with Google Assistant" program that will launch later this summer. It's going to be much more restrictive, according to Rishi Chandra, the vice president of Nest at Google. This new program is going to be very limited, so a small number of partners will be able to access additional data. But most importantly, this will only happen if the customer explicitly allows data sharing. It won't be an opt-out program, but an opt-in program.
There will be some growing pains with this, as you might expect, as some things are going to break as the Works With Nest program shuts down. That includes IFTTT. Customers will definitely complain, and we can already see Google's Product Forums filling up with people complaining about these changes. But it is being done for the better.
All of this comes as many 2020 Presidential Candidates are calling for big tech like Apple, Google and Facebook, to be broken up, as they fear that these companies have grown to large. And the latter two, do not really focus on user privacy. That is particularly true with Facebook, as we've seen countless times that it does not even really try to protect the data it collects from its users. Google at least shows that it cares, and has been giving users more control over the data that it does collect. The search giant knows this, and is doing what it can to keep these candidates from trying to break up the company. Focusing on privacy is a good way to do that.
Nest is a popular smart home brand, it's time to embrace it
Another reason why the rebrand to Nest is a smart thing for Google, is the fact that it is an established brand. Even before Google acquired it five years ago, Nest was a staple in the world of smart home products. Even before smart home products were really a thing. So Google saying that it is embracing that name, since it is an established brand, also makes a lot of sense. But also makes you wonder why Google didn't do this from the get-go, if Nest was such an established name?
When people think of smart home products, Nest is one of the first names that comes to mind. Similar to Apple and Samsung when it comes to smartphones. Not as many think of Google, when it comes to smart home products, as it has really only done Google Assistant hubs, like the Google Home smart speakers and smart displays. Smart locks, doorbells, security systems, etc., have all remained under the "Nest" banner.
Google, in a sense, is removing the fragmentation from its smart home division, by doing this. Instead of getting your smart home products from Nest and then getting a smart speaker or display from Google, you can get it all from the one company.
The Nest Hub Max is the first to showcase all of these changes
The first new product under this rebrand is the Nest Hub Max, and as we've seen already, some of the changes that Google announced to privacy are present on this new device.
That includes the green light next to the camera, which will show up when the camera is recording. It will turn orange when you have moved the slider to turn off the camera and microphone. This was an important feature for Google to figure out, as most people don't want a camera on their smart display, unless they can tell easily when it's recording, and able to turn off the camera completely. Though, even with this camera, many people are unlikely to actually put this into their bathroom or bedroom. But this product is meant more for the Kitchen.
This rebranding has been rumored for a few weeks, and it's good to see that Google actually did it. When you think about the rebranding from Home to Nest, there are more reasons to do it, than not to do it. Despite Google's cheesy line of "you make it a home, Google makes it a Nest" in the keynote earlier this week, it is actually true. And the Nest name really plays into making your home a smart home.
So far, Google has only rebranded the Home Hub to the Nest Hub, but expect the existing Google Home, Home Mini and Home Max to all get rebranded in the very near future. Works with Nest will also be killed off later this year on August 31. So everything isn't changing all at once, but some big changes are coming for both brands.