NEST Thermostat

NEST Thermostat (Photo credit: jeffwilcox)

Hot on the heels of technology companies at CES 2014 selling their visions of the future, Google buys Nest, a manufacturer of smart home devices like thermostats and smoke detectors, for $3.2 billion. Cash.

Cue the speculation cycle as to how the tech giant will use its new toy, and who it beat to the punch to do so.


Securing the Google Home

CEO Larry Page is excited as Google buys Nest, even with the hefty price tag. In a statement following the deal announcement, he stressed that Tony Fadell’s company is “already delivering amazing products you can buy right now… that can help keep your family safe.”

But these products are individual devices with defined limits of operation. Impressive, but limited. What Google plans for its acquisition is likely to be far more integrated and complex, given the natural fit with its Android platform and constantly evolving Google Now and Glass products. It isn’t hard to imagine attempts to link apps to home security systems, unlocking doors and controlling access remotely via a smartphone.

Some of these applications could be very useful, admittedly, but the notorious malware that often plagues Android devices, combined with the early stages of many futuristic Google products, should give us pause for thought.

As exciting as the potential for a fully connected ‘web-controlled home’ is, there’s a very real danger that Google attempts to run before it can walk, as it has done in the past with products. Those failures, such as social networks and TV initiatives,┬átended to be benign. Translating them too quickly to our homes could prove to be much more damaging.


Next for Nest?

Industry experts vary in their opinion as to how much this latest purchase will benefit Google, and how it will use Nest.

The company has certainly gained some talent and broadened its home technology horizons with the move, but the price tag concerns some analysts. Nest CEO Tony Fadell is widely respected in the industry but his longer term dreams aimed at the ‘Internet of Everything’ face significant hurdles, many technological, some cultural.

Should everything come under the Google umbrella for a streamlined solution, or will a mix of third-party software lead to more innovative products and programs? If the latter, when does the need for high security trump the need for innovation? And how cautiously should the roll out of products proceed? Beta-testing when home security is at stake is surely out of the question. This latest move by the increasingly pervasive company certainly raises more questions than it answers, at this point.

Technology always moves too fast for some, but the speed of evolving interconnected devices and seamless link up with our physical world is occurring at such a pace that sufficient checks and balances may be lost in the blur. We see this now with copyright, as lawmakers attempt to work with technology companies to address damages that went unchecked for so long. If that same phenomenon moves into our homes and personal data, as we have seen in the past six months, the public outcry could be deafening.


Enhanced by Zemanta