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Analysis Smart Home

Seven years in, Nest is hitting its smart home stride

Nest started out slow, but Google's smart home company is quickly picking up the pace -- and surprising us with a connected device for nearly every situation.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

With the addition of the Nest Hello doorbell, the Nest x Yale lock and the Nest Temperature Sensor -- all of which are now available to consumers -- Google's smart home company now sells 11 different connected devices. But that wasn't always the case. In fact, Nest took years to develop into the Google-owned multi-device maker it is today -- even as arch-rival Amazon Alexa started later and grew bigger all the while. 

Lets take a look back at Nest's trajectory to see how we ended up here.

Timeline: Nest's main product launches and news

Nest got its start with the first-generation Learning Thermostat. At the time, the device -- dreamed up by Apple alums Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers -- was completely alien. Yes, round thermostats have been around since the 1950s (thanks, Honeywell), but a thermostat by modern standards was a utilitarian rectangle of white plastic you hid in a hallway and approached only when you wanted to adjust the temperature.

That all changed with Nest, because Fadell and Rogers demonstrated that a functional, app-connected, Wi-Fi-enabled gadget could also be beautiful -- and people would pay for it. Proof: Nest CEO Marwan Fawaz told CNET in February 2018 that his smart home company had sold more than 11 million devices since it was founded. Seven years of sales didn't go exclusively to Nest thermostats, but that's how it all started:

  • 2011 -- Nest introduced its first product, the Learning Thermostat.
  • 2012 -- The startup debuted its second-gen Learning Thermostat -- same features, slimmer profile. 
  • 2013 -- Nest expanded its scope beyond thermostats this year to the first-gen Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Similar to the Learning Thermostat, the Protect looked great and you could check its status remotely on your phone from the Nest app. 
  • 2015 -- Nest introduced a third-gen Learning Thermostat, a second-gen Protect and a new product -- the Dropcam-inspired Nest Cam Indoor. Even though 2015 technically saw three product launches, two of them were updated versions of existing Nest devices. 
  • 2016 -- The Nest Cam Outdoor debuted, a weatherproof version of the Nest Cam Indoor. Nest CEO and co-founder Tony Fadell also announced his plans to leave Nest. 

Picking up the pace

In Nest's first five years, it only developed three products and some new iterations of existing products. In the last few years, the company has introduced eight products -- for a grand total of 11 devices. That makes Nest one of the most comprehensive smart home and home security manufacturers around today, especially since all of these products are supposed to work together "seamlessly." 

For instance, if you unlock the Nest x Yale lock on your front door, your Nest Cam IQ Indoor can stop recording while you're home for privacy, your Nest Thermostat E can adjust to your preferred temperature and your Nest Secure alarm system can disarm -- all automatically. That sort of automation is great when it works, but not so great when it's difficult to configure. 

Maxime Veron, Nest's Director of Product Marketing, assured me this wouldn't be an issue. "Everything I'm showing you right now is all by default and then it's just switches -- not if this, then that, just, 'Do you want your Nest x Yale door lock to participate in Home/Away Assist?' Yes or no. The only other question we ask you is: 'How fast do you want it to automatically lock?'" He told me during a product demo. "We're trying to stay away from the IFTTT scenario, trying to build something that everybody can use," Veron added.  

Nest is also working closely with Google to add Google Assistant voice control to devices like the Nest Cam IQ Indoor. That means your Nest Cam IQ Indoor now works like a Google Home, Home Mini or Home Max speaker, with a few exceptions -- the IQ Indoor can't read the news, play music or podcasts or make calls. This should not only help Google compete with Alexa and Siri in the smart home, but also make Nest products more appealing to folks interested in controlling their devices with simple voice commands. 

We're looking forward to testing out Nest's most recent products, like the Hello doorbell, the Nest x Yale lock and the new Nest Temperature Sensor. Check in soon for our impressions of the products and how well they work as part of Nest's growing lineup. Read about how the Hello and other Nest products won't be sold on Amazon.

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