Nest is taking several steps to help increase the number of smart home devices that will work with its thermostat, smoke detector, and security camera. In the process, the Google-owned company may have signaled the end for smart home hubs as we know them.
The first aspect of Nest's announcements is that it's opening Nest Weave, a protocol used by its devices to talk to each other, to other developers. This low-power communications protocol essentially creates a mesh network. As a result, only one of the devices in the network — that Nest thermostat for example — needs to be connected to the Internet. While other protocols such as Z-wave and Zigbee can also be used in this manner, neither have the backing of a single company as powerful as Google. The first non-Nest device that will use Nest Weave is a new smart lock from Yale, called the Linus lock, which will be available in 2016.
One of the biggest pain points for anyone looking to set up a smart home is that it's very difficult to know which devices will talk to each other. To that end, Nest is opening the Works with Nest Store, an online database of every device that will work with Nest products. Currently, there are around 40 products listed on the site, including everything from the Pebble smartwatch to Philips Hue lights to the Petnet, which lets you feed your pet remotely.
Lastly, Nest is also opening the API to its Nest Cam, so that developers can better link their smart home devices to the security camera. Initial partners include August locks, Petnet and Philips Hue. For example, homeowners might be able to have their Philips Hue lights turn on automatically if the Nest Cam detects movement, or set the Nest Cam to take a picture if their August lock detects a door has been opened.
Nest says a number of companies, such as GE, Lutron, and Belkin WeMo are planning to incorporate Nest Weave into their products. Nest also partnered with Qualcomm to create Nest-certified kits.
Apart from the fact that Nest's mesh network technology could beat out other low-power communications protocols — and obviate the need for a central, stand-alone hub such as the Quirky Wink — this move also sets Nest up in direct competition with Apple's HomeKit, which is also looking to create an integrated ecosystem of smart home products. It's doubtful if any other smart thermostat company, such as Ecobee, will want to partner with Nest — or if Nest will let them. Ultimately, though, it will be not only the number of products available under a particular smart home system, but the ease with which those products can be added by a consumer that will ultimately decide a winner. At this point, that's anybody's guess.