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10/8/2013
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Nest Smoke Detector Adds Tech Sex Appeal

No ordinary beige smoke detector, Nest Protect warns in a human voice and can be shut off with a hand wave.

For Nest founder and CEO Tony Fadell, irritation is the mother of invention. In a blog post on Tuesday, he recounts how he lay in bed one night, staring at the blinking light on his smoke detector, unable to make sense of it and worried about being awakened by its low-battery chirp.

Worse still for Fadell, who evidently has internalized the aesthetic fanaticism of his former employer, Apple, the smoke detector was unlovely.

"The smoke alarm was a black box painted beige," Fadell said, as if its uninspired color scheme were a sin equal to its annoying sound and its inscrutable blinking. "I trusted it with the safety of my family, but my first instinct was to tear it off the ceiling every time it made a noise. And we've all been there."

No doubt many of us have been there -- but not all of us have a company that can do something about it. Believing that most people hated their current smoke alarms, Fadell thought Nest could make one that people would adore.

[ Is the Chrome browser headed for the has-been heap? Read Google Chrome: Has It Peaked? ]

The result is Nest Protect, an attractive $129 smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector that can be controlled with a gesture, can communicate with mobile devices, and that warns about problems in a human voice. Citing a study by researchers at Victoria University, the company claims that spoken alerts provide not only clarity about what's wrong but awaken children more effectively than an alarm noise.

In an echo of Apple's strategic linkage of its iPod hardware and iTunes software -- Fadell served as senior VP in Apple's iPod division for two years -- Nest Protect also communicates with Nest's first product, the Nest Learning Thermostat, through the owner's Nest account. In the event that carbon monoxide is detected, Protect will instruct a Nest thermostat in the same home to shut off a connected gas heater. The device also acts as an additional motion sensor, which is used to instruct the thermostat when people are home and rooms should be heated.

Nest Protect includes other thoughtful touches absent from typical smoke alarms. It lights up when it detects motion nearby. It provides a heads-up warning to explain where trouble has been detected and to allow occupants to silence the alarm with a hand wave if the situation is not an emergency. It makes its battery and sensor status available on mobile phones and tablets and will send alerts if it detects smoke or carbon monoxide.

"It's time to love your smoke and carbon monoxide alarm," Fadell said.

Nest Protect, available in black or white and shipping in early November, might just make that happen.

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Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
10/10/2013 | 1:29:10 AM
re: Nest Smoke Detector Adds Tech Sex Appeal
I don't want to love my smoke detectors. I just want them to go off when there's smoke in the house.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/10/2013 | 12:37:42 AM
re: Nest Smoke Detector Adds Tech Sex Appeal
My guess is Nest will get acquired by Apple as part of its Internet of Things expansion, if Google doesn't get there first.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/9/2013 | 4:43:01 PM
re: Nest Smoke Detector Adds Tech Sex Appeal
Imagine having nothing else to worry about when lying awake than that your smoke detector might chirp?
dbtinc
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dbtinc,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/9/2013 | 12:32:30 PM
re: Nest Smoke Detector Adds Tech Sex Appeal
Is this a product for people with too much money and no creative ways to spend it?
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
10/9/2013 | 2:11:14 AM
re: Nest Smoke Detector Adds Tech Sex Appeal
My smoke alarm goes off every time I cook a frozen pizza, so I don't think my fire department wants it connected to their alarm system in some direct way. Alarm fatigue is a big obstacle in the expansion of the internet of things.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/8/2013 | 11:08:35 PM
re: Nest Smoke Detector Adds Tech Sex Appeal
It's definitely aiming at an upscale market, but that strategy has worked for Apple.
OtherJimDonahue
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OtherJimDonahue,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/8/2013 | 10:22:00 PM
re: Nest Smoke Detector Adds Tech Sex Appeal
The idea is OK, and as Nathan says it's more what it portends than what it is now. But at $130 per item, that's going to add up really fast throughout a house.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/8/2013 | 9:28:50 PM
re: Nest Smoke Detector Adds Tech Sex Appeal
For $130, I would assume consumers would expect the detector to be fully connected and responsive and assist them in reporting any real fire emergencies. I think that's the next frontier for the technology anyway, and this should bring us a little closer.
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