If you follow trends in home improvement or technology, chances are you’ve heard of the Nest Thermostat, a re-imagining of the traditional home thermostat. Nest Labs, the mind behind it, is now trying to do the same thing with another device found in many homes: the smoke detector.
Introducing the Nest Protect, a modern update to what many consider an unattractive, boring and annoying piece of hardware. Like the Thermostat, it features a sleek and modern design, which makes it very easy on the eyes. The main feature of the Protect is that upon sensing an emergency, it will tell you by voice, letting you know precisely where it’s happening. Not only that, it will also display different colors depending on the level of the emergency. A little bit of smoke from the toaster will be yellow, while a full kitchen blaze will be red. The device is scheduled to release in November 2013.
Nest Protect can talk, it can change colors, and it’s aesthetically pleasing, but what about the original smoke sensor? What exactly is wrong with it that required the need for such a drastic overhaul?
The Forgotten Smoke Detector
Ask any homeowner about their smoke detector and more often than not, you’ll either hear that “it’s just there”, or “it’s annoying.” That’s precisely the problem – most homeowners completely forget that they even have a smoke detector, meaning they forget to replace the batteries when necessary, resulting in a useless sensor. If they’re not forgetting, they’re completely turning off the smoke detector to get rid of the annoying beeps.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), almost two-thirds of US home fire deaths happened in homes with no smoke alarm or had a smoke alarm, but it was turned off or defective. The NFPA also reports that 73% of home fires, in which smoke alarms failed, were due to missing, disconnected, or dead batteries.
The fact that homeowners are turning off their smoke detectors – sensors meant to protect you – is a serious sign that something needed to change. Nest Protect is trying to do that by getting rid of those annoying beeps and replacing it with a soothing voice that will calmly explain the situation. It will also send notifications to your phone, so you’ll be aware wherever you are.
Concerns from a Security System Owner’s Perspective
There’s no question that the Nest Protect is an innovative take on a bland household device, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Take a look at the Nest Thermostat – it’s a finished product, but there are still a number of users complaining about bugs and errors. For a sensor designed to protect your home, you don’t want bugs or errors. There are other questions as well:
- How often will it go off due to false alarms? Often, the annoying beeps from the traditional smoke detector were set off by non-emergencies, like steam from the shower. As of now, there’s nothing to say that this won’t happen with the Nest Protect. There may no longer be an annoying beep, but that doesn’t mean false alarms are gone as well.
- Is the Nest Protect worth it? At a price of $129 per sensor, it’s certainly not cheap. Other smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can be found for $100 or cheaper. Many states have laws that require homes to have multiple smoke detectors, so it can be costly to replace all the smoke detectors already in your home.
- How effective is a security sensor that’s not being monitored? That’s the biggest concern of ours when it comes to the Nest Protect. It may have the ability to talk and it may have the ability to send alerts, but none of that will matter if the user is not home or doesn’t have their phone.
For example: you’re in a meeting at work and cannot check your phone. You forgot to put out a candle and a fire breaks out in your home and Nest Protect is sending alerts to you. Unfortunately, you’re unaware and still have 30 minutes left in the meeting. An hour later, you’re receiving a call from the fire department saying a part of your home has burned down.
The Importance of Home Monitoring
When it comes to home security, you want to have a security system that is monitored. In the example above, a FrontPoint Security Smoke and Heat Sensor might have made the difference. Like the Nest Protect, the Smoke and Heat Sensor would have detected the fire and tried to alert you via texts (included with Interactive Monitoring). The Monitoring Station would have also been alerted and would try to call you to confirm the emergency. If you couldn’t pick up because you were in the meeting, the fire department would have been dispatched. This is the difference between a fire that did minimal damage, and a fire that burnt down your entire house.
The home security industry can certainly take note of what Nest Labs is doing though. Modernizing common devices like the thermostat and smoke detector have brought attention to what used to be household afterthoughts. Innovation is key, especially in the home security industry. New ideas mean new ways to protect your home. FrontPoint Security will certainly be keeping an eye on Nest Labs and figuring out ways to incorporate similar technologies into our wireless security system.
The Nest Protect has some incredible features, but doesn’t do enough to improve the most important feature of a smoke detector: security. Nothing shows that the Protect is more reliable or safer than a monitored smoke detector. Sleek designs and cool features are always a plus, but not at the expense of protection. When it comes to security sensors, you need a monitoring station behind them. It’s always reassuring to know that someone is watching your back, so why should a security sensor be any different?