Last week, Google held its biggest conference of the year, and made some pretty big announcements. At Google IO 2019, it covered a lot of ground from changes coming to Search and Lens (more AR!) to major improvements for the Google Assistant.
It also rolled out some new hardware like the Pixel 3a smartphone, along with the Google Nest Hub Max smart display. And that's where things got interesting.
Google has owned Nest for a few years, but it's always operated separately - until now. With this announcement, all Google Home products are now part of the newly-named Google Nest brand. That means if you have any Nest products like thermostats or security cameras, you'll soon be asked to migrate over to Google and it's going to come with changes.
Nest and Google finally become one
Here's a little backstory: Nest Labs was founded in 2010 by a couple former Apple engineers, and its Nest Learning Thermostat that was released the following year became a huge hit.
Next came the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector, and when it later acquired Dropcam, it got into the security camera business.
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Here comes Google. You might not know it, but Google purchased Nest Labs in January of 2014. For the first few years, Nest was able to operate independently under Google's hardware division before they merged last year. Then both teams worked together, although on separate products.
Now any separation is gone, as all Google home products are being rebranded with the Google Nest name. That includes Nest products, Chromecast streaming sticks and Google Home smart speakers.
What the Google Nest rebranding means for you
If you have one of Nest's Learning Thermostats, or any of its other products, you'll see nothing has changed in the Nest app or otherwise - yet. Changes are on the way, however, and they could be a big impact on how you use those devices.
Google says over the next few months, it'll be inviting people with Nest accounts to migrate over to Google accounts. It wants all things, including apps and hardware from both companies, to work together seamlessly.
As an example, in its Q & A, if you have a Nest thermostat and a Google Home, you can just tell the smart speaker to "make it warmer" to adjust the temperature without any additional setup or permissions.
Well, what if you don't want to migrate? Google says you don't have to, but you'll be cut out of future new devices and services. Basically, all you get by staying are security updates. But it says you'll also be lacking "enhanced security" you would get by switching to a Google account.
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume most of you who are reading this already have a Google account (you do if you use Gmail), so you shouldn't need to create a new one.
Nest, Google and your privacy
Google also addresses privacy regarding the transition from a Nest account to a Google account. For instance, (and not at all surprising) Google will be collecting data from the Nest camera and Nest Hello video doorbell recordings, along with any information being collected by sensors built into other products like the Nest thermostat. It said it's going to use that data to improve features and services, and not for targeted advertising.
It's a whole new ballgame if you decide to use your voice, though. So if you plan to use Google Assistant from a smart speaker or your smartphone to control a thermostat or other devices, you're basically saying bring on the ads.
Here are some helpful links to read more of the existing and updated policies. You can also adjust your existing Google settings:
- Learn about Google Nest, account changes and more
- Google Nest privacy
- Google Privacy & Terms
- Choose what to share with your Google Assistant
- Google Ad Settings
Changes to 'Works with Nest'
With Google trying to show it's become the champion of your privacy, one of the other changes it's making is cutting out third-parties' direct access to Nest devices. That means if you own another smart device that came with a "Works with Nest" seal, that's about to change.
The official "Works with Nest" program will shut down on Aug. 31, 2019. So let's say you have Chamberlain's MyQ smart garage door opener. Once the program ends, you'll no longer be able to directly integrate Nest thermostats or doorbells into the MyQ app. Even if you decide not to convert to a Google account, it's still going to stop working.
Google is encouraging developers to join the "Works with Google Assistant" program instead, which if they do, will allow you to control third-party devices with voice commands. The difference is, you'll be able to use Google Assistant to control third-party devices, but those other companies won't have direct access to your Nest equipment like they did prior.
What happens next?
So you might be asking, what happens now? If you're talking about right now, nothing. You can prepare to move your Nest account over to Google by checking your settings and reading the conditions through the links above, but details about actually making the switch have not yet been released.
If you have a Nest Aware subscription, the service is not going to change. The only difference is that once you migrate to Google, you'll be maintaining that subscription from the Google store instead of Nest.
Here's something to keep in mind: your other family members' access. If you use the Nest app, you're aware you can add family members and give them limited access, but you can restrict them from making any changes to settings or the accounts.
But when you eventually migrate over, Google will ask you to "unify" your homes and member lists across the apps for consistency. You, as the owner, have to decide who from Nest and Google are coming to the new unified home.
The problem is, once you add someone to the new unified home, they immediately have the same rights as you to every device and every setting. That also means they can remove anyone from the unified home- including you.
Choose wisely who you add to that list. Otherwise, you better watch out the next time you ground your teenager. They might just kick you out of your own virtual household.
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