In a switch announced Wednesday, Google will bring Nest Labs onto its hardware team in an effort to integrate the smart thermostat business with Google’s other smart home products.
Nest, which has been operating independently from Google for the past two years, will no longer exist as a separate unit under Alphabet's "other bets" group of projects.
“The goal is to supercharge Nest’s mission: to create a more thoughtful home, one that takes care of the people inside it and the world around it,” wrote Google’s Senior Vice President of Hardware Rick Osterloh and Nest’s CEO Marwan Fawaz in a blog post announcing the switch.
Based on the announcement, Nest’s products will likely soon function with the Google Home assistant and its other artificial intelligence products. The two companies are also expected to begin codeveloping products in the coming years that align their visions for the future smart home.
“All of Google’s investments in machine learning and AI, they can very clearly benefit Nest products. It just makes sense to be developing them together,” said Osterloh in an interview with CNET regarding the change.
"We've leveraged AI capabilities from Google in the past, especially in the computer vision space and facial recognition," Fawaz added to CNET. "Being part of the Google family, we get closer to that."
Nest, while recently sidelined by flashier entries into the market from Amazon and Google, was among the progenitors of the connected home concept. Fawaz told CNET that the company has continued to make strides in the past few years. Wednesday's announcement stated that Nest sold more devices in 2017 than it did in 2015 and 2016 put together. Fawaz said that Nest has shipped around 11 million products since its founding in 2011.
In that time, the company has also developed iterations of its thermostat and reimagined its acquisition of Dropcam technology into a product called Nest Cam. The company also launched its Nest Secure alarm system, a doorbell called Nest Hello (which comes with a free Google Home mini), and a smoke and carbon monoxide detector called Nest Protect. And it created its “Works with Nest” program -- which includes both Google Home and Amazon Alexa -- an assemblage of products that can pair up with its own.
Questions surrounding Nest’s place in the Google universe have swirled since the mega-company acquired it in 2014. In November, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google was considering bringing Nest back into Google as a strategy to compete with Amazon’s cornering of the smart home market. The announcement from Google and Nest may serve to dispel talk of internal issues -- at least for the time being.
In their joint announcement on the change, Google and Nest described the move and Nest more broadly as “an integral part of Google’s big bet on hardware.”
A united front could be helpful in competing with the other ubiquitous digital helpers of today -- Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. The market is only getting more crowded. Apple will release its HomePod speaker, with Siri as a voice-activated assistant, this week.
The integration with Google doesn’t make clearer what role energy efficiency will play in Nest’s future business. As a thermostat originally designed to shave down a customer’s bill and help the planet in the process, Nest has been reimagined as one cog in a larger smart home machine. Wednesday's announcement cites security, energy, cost savings and hands-free assistance as some of the reasons to buy into the smart home ideal.
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