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Nest products get smarter by tracking everyone in the family

Nest products get smarter by t...
The latest Nest thermostat
The latest Nest thermostat
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Family Accounts allow up to 10 people to access the Nest products in a home, while Home/Away Assist is aimed at automatically identifying if anyone is at home
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Family Accounts allow up to 10 people to access the Nest products in a home, while Home/Away Assist is aimed at automatically identifying if anyone is at home
The latest Nest thermostat
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The latest Nest thermostat
The all-seeing Nest Cam
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The all-seeing Nest Cam

When Nest launched its first thermostat in 2011, its aim was for the device to learn the rhythm of a user's household so it could automate heating. Nearly five years, two hardware hardware updates and a Google acquisition later, a new software update is seeking to take the next step in automation, with family accounts and geofencing.

The update has been rolled out across all Nest products, including the Nest Protect smoke alarm and the Nest Cam. It sees the introduction of Family Accounts that allow up to 10 people to access the Nest products in a home.

Individual users can be added or removed from a Family Account via the Nest app, so each person can access and control Nest products themselves using their own account. This eliminates the need for users to share the login details for a single master account, and opens up a new world of tracking for the Alphabet-owned Nest.

Family Accounts allow up to 10 people to access the Nest products in a home, while Home/Away Assist is aimed at automatically identifying if anyone is at home
Family Accounts allow up to 10 people to access the Nest products in a home, while Home/Away Assist is aimed at automatically identifying if anyone is at home

The new Home/Away Assist functionality, meanwhile, is set up to automatically identifying whether anyone is at home. It uses geofencing to track a user's phone and detect whether or not they are within a given distance of their home. Geofencing, however, is not necessarily completely accurate or practical, and can count a user as being at home when in fact they are a few houses away. It is also rendered redundant if a user's smartphone battery conks out and, if used by only one person, doesn't account for other people being at home while the user is elsewhere. In other words, little Jimmy might freeze his buns off while account-holder Dad is making a pizza run.

The Family Account functionality is one way of combating this, by allowing the Nest thermostat to track whether or not any family members are within the geofenced area. It combines this data with that from activity sensors in its devices, which help identify whether people are at home, and algorithms that learn the typical rhythm of a household.

Depending on how you look at it, this either adds up to the exciting smart-home of the future taking shape or the beginnings of a Big Brother-like privacy nightmare.

The all-seeing Nest Cam
The all-seeing Nest Cam

If it's any consolation for privacy advocates, Nest users must each opt in to Home/Away Assist in order to use the functionality. Location status is also only tracked in relation to the geofenced area, rather than the precise location, and all user information is encrypted.

The new functionalities are accessible via the updated Nest app for Android and iOS. The video below provides an overview of Family Accounts and Home/Away Assist.

Source: Nest

Nest introduces Home/Away Assist.

2 comments
ChairmanLMAO
Has fencing? You put your bad relative on the list then the heat goes off automatically. Hmm that could be a selling feature.
Joe Blough
Men and women at rest or doing housework never agree on what is a comfortable temperature. To have a thermostat that everyone diddles with is heating and cooling hell rather than great technology. In order for any thermostat to actually offer anything that I want, it would have to control individual rooms and areas, not the entire home. This means that it needs room sensors and actuators to raise and lower temperatures and a person identification system so that it can learn what is comfort for each individual. But I digress, then what does it do when multiple people are in room? The solution to this is left to the student as an exercise.