Interacting with Google has always meant making something happen on a screen–getting a search result, sending an email, adding a calendar event. But this fall, giving Google a command will have immediate consequences in the physical world.
That’s when Google’s new integration with Nest hardware is set to go live, according to the smart home device maker: “Just speak a command: ‘OK Google. Set Nest to 75 degrees,’ and your Nest Thermostat will do as you say.” This pairing of the thermostat and Google’s “Actions” service is the most visible interaction between the two companies since Google bought Nest for more than $3 billion earlier this year.
The neat trick is just one of many revealed in Nest’s announcement today that it’s now offering an API, or application programming interface, that lets developers connect software and hardware of all kinds to the Nest smart thermostats and fire alarms. According to Nest senior product manager Greg Hu, Google will use the API in much the same way that third-party developers like Whirlpool and Mercedez Benz already have. “The program lets any connected platform integrate with Nest,” Hu says.
“Just speak a command: ‘OK Google. Set Nest to 75 degrees,’ and your Nest Thermostat will do as you say.”
Though Google’s integration with its Google Actions service won’t arrive until August, many third-party integrations are already available. For example, Jawbone’s UP24 fitness band can tell when its wearer wakes up. The band can ping Nest when you rise, and the thermostat that will automatically set itself to your favorite temperature. Through an integration with Mercedes, your car can tell Nest when you’ve left or arrived home and set the temperature accordingly.
But the possibilities don’t end with temperature. Since Nest’s thermostat knows when you’re home or away, other smart devices can use that data point to adjust their own functionality. Wi-fi-enabled LIFX lightbulbs, for example, can randomly turn lights on and off for security when they “know” via Nest that you’re gone. The LIFX bulbs can also connect to Nest’s smoke alarm to flash red when high smoke or carbon monoxide levels are detected. The smoke alarm also works with IFTTT, which can send neighbors a text message when it senses smoke.
As a still-new company working hard to push the idea of the smart home into the mainstream, Nest is following a time-honored blueprint by opening itself up to outside developers. As Apple, Facebook, and Google itself have all demonstrated, platform trumps product alone in driving massive adoption. To draw users to Nest who might not have considered themselves prospective smart home customers, the company needs to make as many channels as possible available to attract interest.
But while Google said at the time of its acquisition that Nest would continue to operate as an independent company, it’s hard not to see Google’s own integration with the Nest API as a sign of things to come for the search giant. As Google’s spending spree on new companies shows, the company knows search alone is not its future. Google Now is Google’s effort to anticipate what you want to know before you even ask for it. This fall will also see the integration of Google Now with Nest. Along with predicting your information needs, Google will now make your home nice and cozy for you before you even get there.