Tech talk | Home Integration

The number of devices that can add automation to the average household continues to grow. Just about everything can be controlled from a device.
The number of devices that can add automation to the average household continues to grow. Just about everything can be controlled from a device.

Smart smoke detectors

I have spoken before about the smart home and the variety of devices that are either on the market or about to hit the market that aim to be at the centre of the smart home. For some people, the total integration of the home and taking that colossal leap into the unknown is a step too large to take. I get that. Given how new this market segment is and how many competing products there are makes it difficult to make any decision – and when humans are faced with that the normal response is to do nothing.

In recognition of that, there are some companies taking a different approach to the smart home. Nest is one such company which recently introduced some of their products into Australia after having already sent home automation into the mainstream in the US. In the US the trigger product was the Nest Smart Thermostat – introduced in 2011. It has built-in sensors to track your whereabouts along with algorithms to create a custom, auto-adjusting temperature schedule based on those movements in the home. The thermostat in the American home is a big deal, but in Australia we don’t tend to view the thermostat as a central feature in our homes – most homes don’t even have one. For a company like Nest to make an impact into the Australian market, their philosophy is to come up with one key product and then slowly ease you into the ecosystem – and before you know it you are living in a smart home.

That logic seems sound – but I was intrigued with the entry point that Nest decided upon. With all of the various devices available to Nest to slip you into the start of your journey from legacy home to smart home, Nest has made a choice that was not immediately obvious. Nest has decided that the first step to smartdom is…your smoke detector.

Australian law dictates compulsory smoke alarms, so Nest has decided to redesign the smoke alarm from being a simple passive device to something more active. So how can you re-design a device that is simply meant to make a noise when it detects smoke? For a start, it is connected to your smartphone – of course. Not only will the alarm sound to alert those in the vicinity there is smoke, your smartphone will receive a notification. It gives you more information to help determine if the smoke is from a fire or just burnt toast and you can silence the alarm from your smartphone. With multiple smoke detectors in your home the warning given also tells you in which room the smoke has been detected so smoke in the kitchen sends an alert to all smoke detectors so you are woken up in the middle of the night before smoke reaches your room. In the middle of the night the smoke alarm can be set to output a soft light if it detects movement to make sure you don’t trip over and a favourite feature is the ‘no chirps’ feature. Rather than an annoying chirp at some ungodly hour to let you know a battery needs replacing, an alert to your smartphone lets you know the batteries need replacing in addition to a green glow when the lights are turned off each night to let you know all is well. Lastly, with smoke alarms can be tested with a single tap on your phone.

Convinced? I am not sure that the product will inspire people to rush out and replace all of their current smoke alarms, but for required new purchases I am sure it will break into this market. And then they have you. Once you have one product, suddenly the Nest Cam looks like an easier choice for some home security cameras – and the journey continues. Nest is owned by Google so of course their products are fully compatible with Google Home and they have made the smart move to add Amazon Echo to the compatibility list. Nest was founded by two former Apple employees so they understand the need to make things just work – and simplicity is a key component of any products that are going to take over this category.

Whether it be smoke alarms or surveillance cameras or lighting controls, the Smart Home revolution is just starting. Take a look how it might work for you in your home.