Nest Secure’s Control Hub Has a Microphone – Users Only Found Out When it Became Google Assistant Enabled This Week
Nest announced this week that its security alarm system control hub, the Nest Guard, can double as a Google Assistant enabled device, saying that the functionality will be “pushed out to all Nest Secure systems both new and old” on Tuesday. Although the news that the Nest Guard can also be used like a Google Home device is significant, the real story here is user concern as the company never disclosed that there was a microphone in the device. On Tuesday, TechCrunch reported that neither the product’s spec page or manual included anything about a microphone. The spec page has since been updated and today it states the Nest Guard includes “Built-in Google Assistant” and a microphone. Here is a response from Nest to a concerned user:
We included a microphone in the Nest Guard with features such as the Google Assistant in mind.
It has not been used up to this point, and you can enable or disable it at any time using the Nest app.
— Nest (@nest) February 4, 2019
TechCrunch also reached out to Google regarding the inclusion of a microphone, a Google spokesperson stated,
The Google Assistant on Nest Guard is an opt-in feature, and as the feature becomes available to our users, they’ll receive an email with instructions on how to enable the feature and turn on the microphone in the Nest app. Nest Guard does have one on-device microphone that is not enabled by default.
One can conclude that Nest built a microphone into Nest Guard with the anticipation of adding features down the road. Doing so allows for current users to easily participate in changes, and allows Nest to make updates quickly and efficiently. However, given the rise of concern over user privacy in IoT devices, Nest should have been transparent about the inclusion of the microphone, even if it is not enabled.
The Google Assistant update also could have generated Nest positive media coverage if they had been more forthcoming as it essentially turns the Nest Guard into a Google Home device at no cost to the consumer. Nest Secure already supported Google Assistant integration, but now with the microphone update it can also double as a smart speaker in addition to being the main hub for smart home devices. But if consumers aren’t interested in adding a smart speaker to their home, the update is optional.