clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Nest's Next Frontier for the Smart Home Is All About Security (If It Can Pull It Off)

For Alphabet's home unit, a stall in getting things out the door.

Rachel Bracker for Re/code

Since joining Google’s fold two years ago, Nest, the connected-device maker, has yet to release its own new connected device.* But it’s plotting some. And the focus of these products is around home security, a potential development that would pit the Alphabet company against a slew of startups and some large established firms like ADT.

We had caught wind of one of these projects under wraps, and The Information (paywall) unpacked three of them today in a broader report about leadership instability at Nest.**

There’s Flintstone, a wireless hub that would tie a Wi-Fi router to a series of Internet-connected devices across the home with more efficiency than Bluetooth. It would lean on Thread, the connected-device standard that Nest has been pushing for over a year. A project called Pinna develops sensors to alert when doors and windows are open. And there’s Keshi, a portable Bluetooth sensor that can attach to a keychain.

This is a smart, necessary direction for Nest, which has positioned itself as making devices for “the thoughtful home.” Sales of Nest’s camera device have performed well, but its other two products — the smart thermostat and smoke detector — have flatlined, according to multiple sources. So they need new revenue sources. People may not pay for a smart lightbulb or a smart doorbell in their houses. They do spend on security.

That said, there’s mounting evidence Nest will face difficulty getting these out the door. Part of this is technical hurdles. Another part is an ongoing culture clash inside the company and micromanagement that several former employees said cripples product development. CEO Tony Fadell, a former Apple exec, has tried to infuse his former company’s DNA across Nest. That means a preference for only pushing polished products out the door, an antithetical approach to its sister company, Google.

For example, these security projects have been gestating for some time. The Information reports that Nest has worked on Flintstone for over three years. Pinna was responsible for spiking a similar unreleased product at Dropcam when the camera company was acquired in the summer of 2014, according to the report and multiple sources.

The Information also has a lengthy, damning report on the internal tension within Nest that has contributed to its product stall.

That includes a steady drain of staffers, particular after the Dropcam acquisition. Thread, a networking standard set by several companies, is central to these unwrapped projects. Last month, Chris Boross, a marketer at Nest and its representative on the Thread group, left Nest. The company did not comment on his replacement.

“I would be surprised if they launch any hardware this year,” a former Nest employee told me.

Reps from Nest and Google/Alphabet declined to comment.

* Its only new hardware, the Nest Cam, was a repackaging of its acquired Dropcam product.

** The Information also reported that Google is working on a competitor to Amazon’s Echo home device. As we previously reported, Nest had aspirations to do this as well. Unfortunately, we’re not sure about Google’s product nor what part of the Alphabet it would come from.

This article originally appeared on