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Google wants to connect to your home through Nest ‘smart’ thermostat

By Brandon Bailey
San Jose Mercury News
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COURTESY OF NEST - NEST
The Nest thermostat begins reprogramming itself for more efficiency after about a week. Among its features, the system senses when the house is empty and makes adjustments. NEST

Moving to become the center of your “connected home,” Google’s Nest Labs said Tuesday that it’s opening its platform to outside developers who want to build apps that connect with Nest’s “smart” thermostats and other gadgets.

One of those partners is Google itself, and that means Nest will be sharing some of its user data with the giant Internet company – but only on an opt-in basis, according to Nest co-founder and head of engineering Matt Rogers.

Cue the nervous jokes and privacy concerns about Google, the online advertising behemoth that already knows quite a lot about people who use its online services.

With its thermostats, smoke alarms – and its plans to buy the video monitoring company Dropcam – Nest potentially has the ability to know even more about what’s going on in its customers’ homes. But Nest has been adamant that it won’t abuse the information. Earlier this year, when Google announced plans to buy Nest, its founders assured customers that:

“Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest’s products and services. We’ve always taken privacy seriously and this will not change.”

Some of the new apps Nest is working on with its partners could be alternately creepy or comforting, depending on your outlook.

For example, Nest said it’s working with light bulb-maker LIFX to create bulbs that turn on when Nest’s thermostat knows you’re gone (so potential burglars think you’re at home), or that glow red when Nest’s smoke alarm detects an emergency. It’s working with Mercedes-Benz on an app that lets your car notify your thermostat that you’re on your way back to the house. And then there’s the planned app for the Jawbone fitness band that can detect when you wake up in the morning, so the house can start heating or cooling before you even get out of bed.

Nest also is reportedly working with Google on mobile apps that would let users adjust their thermostats by giving voice commands to their smart phone, or let the Google Now personal assistant signal the thermostat that a user is on his or her way home.

But app developers will have to tell users how their data is being used and give them an option to easily disconnect an app, Rogers told the Wall Street Journal this week. That applies even to Google, he said, adding: “We’re not becoming part of the greater Google machine.”

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