The recent shake-up in the executive ranks of Nest had a lot of people wondering what the future held for Nest, specifically in regards to its product lineup. Today that question is at least partially answered. Nest just revealed a new home security camera, one targeted at outdoor monitoring, and a new software feature that utilizes tech from Google.
Called Nest Cam Outdoor, the camera is similar in many ways to the Nest Cam that the company released last summer (now called the Nest Cam Indoor). The wired outdoor cam captures 1080p HD video, has a 130-degree wide-angle viewing lens, and has a two-way mic so that users can communicate remotely with people that might be in or near their home. Their prices are the same: $199 for an indoor Nest Cam, $199 for an outdoor Nest Cam, which ships in the fall. And like the previous camera, the new one works with a mobile app that offers live video streaming and, as part of a subscription, advanced video features.
The main differences are in the design and waterproofing. Nest Cam Outdoor is white, designed in the style of a rounded spotlight, and was built to withstand the elements. And, since easy installation has always been one of Nest's claims, it seems relatively easy to install: you smack a magnetized disc on the back of the camera, and then hang the camera on a magnetic surface (Nest suggested gutters in my brief demo earlier this week).
The camera comes with 25 feet of cable, a 10-foot cable attached directly to the camera, and another 15 footer with an AC adapter. One upside of a wired outdoor camera is, presumably, a more reliable video feed; the downside is that you have to position it close to a power source.
The other obvious drawback of a DIY solution like Nest Cam Outdoor and some of its competitors is that they're not offering a totally comprehensive security solution for your home; they're not tied to an alarm system or professional monitoring service. But off-the-shelf cams are also a lot cheaper than professional monitoring systems, and it's an area of technology that some people say is only growing.
Nest's software will know when a person is in the frame
Nest has also made improvements to its mobile app and Nest Aware software, which costs $10 a month for a premium subscription. The mobile app will now show wide-angle previews of the video your Nest Cam is shooting, as opposed to a small, circular thumbnail. More interestingly, Nest's director of hardware product marketing, Maxime Veron, says the company has partnered with the deep learning team at Google to develop software that will recognize when a person has entered the frame of the outdoor camera, as opposed to, say, a car or an animal, and send a mobile alert to the homeowner. Some competitors, like Simplicam and Netatmo, already offer face detection, but this is a first for Nest.
Nest says the outdoor camera has been in the works for about a year (so, long before founder and CEO Tony Fadell's recent departure).
I also asked Veron whether Nest worked with Google, which acquired Nest Labs back in 2014, on any other aspects of the new camera; he said Nest did not. Which is both surprising and not: Nest sold to Google with the impression that it would be given a long runway to do its own thing while still utilizing Google resources, and Google's corporate restructuring last fall literally cast Nest into a separate area of the company.
The bigger question is what's next for Nest
But it's also not crazy to think that at this point, with both Nest and Google having smart home products, that Nest might have borrowed more technology from its parent company, or vice versa. Basically, this camera answers some of the short-term questions about Nest, but it's still unclear what Nest's long-term role will be within Google, or rather, Alphabet. I'm told the new Nest Cam Outdoor will work with Google Home, whenever that launches. But Nest operates entirely on its own smart home platform, separate from Google (and separately from Brillo, Google's Internet of Things platform that we haven't heard all that much about). It also doesn't work with Apple's HomeKit.
So at the moment, we know a few things: first, that Nest still makes good-looking, intuitive smart home products; that it does so almost entirely on its own, despite being a part of the behemoth that is Alphabet; and that, rather than working with other big smart home platforms, Nest is intent on getting consumers tied into its own software, and wants you to control your devices from there. What we don't know is what that really means for Nest beyond this.