Nest Protect

This post is NOT about technology in music education, but about some new technology in my life. I post this for anyone else considering this product.

The Nest Protect

I had mentioned in a tweet that my major Christmas wishlist was fulfilled by my parents, who came up from their home near Milwaukee to celebrate Christmas with us after Christmas. In particular, I was given a Quirky Pivot Power Genius, a power strip that bends (thus “pivot”) while two outlets are wi-fi controlled (thus “genius”) and a Nest Protect. The Power Genius went on a reduced price sale in December, and its features not only allow away-from-home operation, but also the ability to set a timer.

We have had a Nest Thermostat since nearly the first day of Nest products. We really like the Nest, and it is we believe the device has saved us its cost in energy savings. It not only allows you to set your temperature preferences, but it also learns your patterns in your house, creating optimized heat/air-conditioning settings for your life. We have a minimum temperature of 65 in our house, with a maximum of 80. Most of the year we live at 72 degrees, going down to 70 at night (although we do bump that up in the summer). We have been able to set the nest to “Away” when travelling, and it is nice to be able to check your house temperature at any time with the app that is available.

If you own two houses, or a house and a cabin, you really should look into the Nest, as you can have multiple thermostats in one house or in multiple houses. It really has been a wonderful purchase.

Our Nest thermostat

Last year, Nest began selling “Nest Protect,” a fire alarm and carbon dioxide detector. It links up with the entire Nest ecosystem, and offers a few other features. First, if it goes off, you can wave at it to turn it off. Second, if you have a wired alarm system (we do, as do most houses built since 2000), you never have to change batteries. Third, the system talks to you, and sends messages to connected devices, meaning other Nest Protects in your home AND your cell phone/tablet. So, if there is a fire in the kid's bedroom, Nest will announce, “Smoke is in the kid's bedroom” through every Nest Protect in your house, as well as to your cell phone. Finally, the Nest has a light, and turns on automatically to guide your way at night, or in the event of smoke in your house.

The nest costs $129, and isn't your average $40 smoke/carbon dioxide detector. You can buy the wired version or the wireless version (which requires batteries). My mother was accidentally given the wireless model, and it turned out that we needed the wired version (to meet modern building codes), so she exchanged it, and I picked it up on my trip to the IMEC this weekend. Let's be honest…this isn't a cheap solution. To my count, we have seven smoke alarms in our house (built in 2004), and if we replaced every smoke alarm, we would be paying nearly $1000 for Nest Protects in all those locations in our house. The truth is that we only need–by code–four units, one within six feet of every bedroom (right now, every bedroom also has a smoke detector), so two upstairs, and one on each other level (first floor, and basement). But what you get is a device that is interconnected with your entire Nest system with 24 hour monitoring. If you would buy a service, that cost would be at least $25 per month with installation. Don't forget, all smoke alarms should be replaced every seven years (meaning that our smoke alarms are overdue), so potentially this is a $560 to $1000 expense ever seven years, so $6.00 to $11.90 a year depending on whether we purchase four or seven smoke alarms. That's still less than half the price of a monitoring service, and you would be spending $160 to $280 on a “stock” smoke/carbon dioxide detector every seven years.

The only troubling aspect of Nest is that the company was purchase a couple of weeks ago by Google, which drastically wants to know everything about us so that it can sell information about us to the highest bidder (this is another reason to be cautious about Google in education). I'm not being mean–Google makes its money in targeted advertising based on the information it collects. The most anti-Google pundits are cautioning doom and gloom saying that Nest will be ripped apart and used in other Google products. To be fair, this has happened a lot to Google acquisitions. The most pro-Google pundits are saying that Nest will continue as a separate company, having a positive impact on Google which tends to be well engineered but not designed with style. Reality will probably end somewhere in the middle; I think Nest will continue with other products (such as taking over the slow-moving Lockitron wi-fi door lock) but I do think that Nest information will eventually make it into Google's servers. That's not okay with me, but they already have access to all my personal e-mail, not to mention all of my school material on GAFE. And if Nest can positively impact the style of Google services across the board, with the end user in mind, we all win.

Our old detector (smoke only) on the left, the Nest Protect on the right

At any rate, I'm very happy with our Nest and I believe I will be happy with Nest Protect. If we ever have a fire or a carbon monoxide issue, it will be worth every cent that we spend. We continue to move towards this “internet of things,” basically moving our house to wi-fi connected elements as it makes sense to do so; our garage door is wi-fi enabled (this is a blessing…you can see if the door is open), our front door will be (if Lockitron ever manages to send out their product), and now our thermostat and our smoke/carbon monoxide alarms.



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