Why Home Builders Don’t Like How Google is Integrating Nest Devices
Construction firms are reluctant to install Nest smart home devices as Google continues to integrate them into its larger tech ecosystem, according to a report from Bloomberg. Google’s changes to how Nest products operate make them less appealing to homebuyers and thus to companies constructing houses and apartments.
Google bought Nest four years ago for $3.2 billion as a way of becoming a significant player in the smart home market quickly while co-opting an important competitor. The high price tag reflected not only the technology underlying Nest’s smart locks, lights, and other utility controls, but how popular and widely recognized the brand was even in the early days of smart homes. Google has slowly integrated Nest since the purchase, only merging the Google Home and Nest brands into Google Nest for all of its smart home products in April.
One reason for Nest’s popularity was its flexibility and how it could adapt its products operating on other platforms built by other brands. Samsung, TP-Link, and other platforms could all operate a Nest lock or thermostat. Construction companies wanting to add Internet of Things smart home features to new buildings could include Nest devices in the property and trust that it would be usable to future buyers regardless of what smart home platform they used.
That flexibility is gone. Starting in September, connecting Google Nest products to other smart home devices requires using a Google account, including Google Assistant. The limitations imposed by Google suddenly make Nest products much less appealing to home builders, according to the report. They don’t want to demand that everyone in an apartment complex have a Google account and agree to Google Assistant’s privacy rules just to connect their stereo and lights on a single app. There’s also Google’s tech limits to consider. Premium smart homes with tons of different smart devices could overwhelm Google Assistant, rendering the high-tech home entirely dumb.
The Google Home
Google Nest is a critical part of Google’s efforts to dominated the smart home sector, so reluctance by builders to include its products could pose a problem. Google puts significant effort into encouraging companies to install Nest products, even creating a training program to teach professionals how to install the devices.
Google’s efforts have recently focused on new Google Nest products and features that make it easy for people to make their own smart home using only Google products. At the Made by Google event last week, the company repeatedly highlighted the potential for smart homes using only Google devices or at least centered on them.
The Google Nest Wifi showcases that approach particularly well. The upcoming device includes a central router with smaller beacons with Google Assistant built-in so that the voice assistant can be spread throughout a home. That goes well with new features like Stream Transfer, which lets a user shift audio and video playback between Google smart home devices in a network. Even if someone doesn’t own a Google Nest Home Hub, a growing list of Android phones can now turn into limited smart displays via the new Ambient Mode feature when plugged in and charging. Ambient Mode sets Google Assistant to listening for its wake word without needing to unlock the phone and users can control any connected smart home devices as though they had a Google smart display.
Every smart home device maker wants to get consumers to use their products or products built by their partners. Apple and Amazon offer their own takes on brand-exclusive smart homes, although the Nest brand arguably gives Google a strong advantage. Google’s decision puts pressure on Google Nest device owners to stick to its products and may boost the number of people with Google-powered smart homes. But, the change could backfire if it drives away the builders and construction firms who have reliably bought Nest products until now.