Tony Fadell on Nest’s Plans to Infiltrate Your Home
Nest Labs is already well known by early tech adopters for its “smart,” energy-saving thermostats and smoke detectors. And it’s not only consumers that have taken notice: Internet giant Google acquired Nest Labs earlier this year for $3.2 billion dollars.
But Nest, led by former Apple iPod executive Tony Fadell, says it is exploring a variety of areas ripe for innovation, beyond just thermostats and smoke alarms.
During an interview with Walt Mossberg earlier today at the Code Conference, Fadell said “there’s security, there’s health … we’re looking at all the various things that are associated with the home.”
“I think there are a lot of unloved categories in the home,” Fadell continued. “Like Elon [Musk] has done with Tesla, you can go in and rethink how you re-do electric motors in those products.”
When later pressed by audience members about specific applications — such as automated health and safety features for seniors, water-conservation products and even high-tech toilets — Fadell said those are all things that are “very interesting” to Nest, but was characteristically Apple-like in his avoidance of specifics.
Fadell did emphasize the importance of the software experience, especially in the iteration of new products. “Just like your smartphone has many many apps on it, we think there [could be] many apps in your home but you don’t necessarily need new hardware,” he said.
Another topic of discussion was Nest’s recent merger with Google, and the interaction between the two companies now.
As Re/code reporter Liz Gannes wrote, Nest has said it intends to separate future plans from those of Google and that it had no intention of sharing user data with the search giant. But she also points out: Both companies also speak in vague terms about these topics.
At the Code Conference, Fadell shed a little more light on how things are going — at least, for now.
“Of course we talk,” he said. “But it’s only been 14 weeks. We meet on a regular basis, every eight to 10 weeks, so we’ve only had one so far. And I meet with Larry, and then we talk with various members of Google about things that we might be able to put into our products.”
“So you haven’t gotten the memo on data collection yet?” Mossberg asked.
“There is no commingling of data,” Fadell responded. “There is none of that. We have our own management team. We have our own culture. We have our own brand. So nothing has changed in that regard.”
Interestingly, Fadell didn’t make any future-looking statements about whether the two companies will share more beyond resources at some point — just that Google, right now, doesn’t have access to Nest data. (Fadell also recently reinforced to Re/code that Nest thermostats will not show advertising, after an SEC filing by Google implied as much.) But it’s a question that’s likely to come up again as future Nest products are released and the company goes deeper into the home.
Since it was acquired by Google, Nest has suffered one snafu: In April, Nest halted sales of its new “smart” smoke and carbon monoxide detector due to a software feature that could potentially disable the device during an actual emergency. More recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a belated recall of the product, even though a firmware update had been issued and existing smoke detectors would still be usable with the update.
Fadell, not surprisingly, downplayed the incident during the onstage interview, saying, “No, we didn’t recall anything. But the [CPSC] has a form, and the form can’t be changed after 20 years. So it’s ‘recall.'”
“Recall” isn’t the only word — or words — bugging Fadell these days. Turns out he’s not a fan of the phrase “Internet of Things,” either.
“The ‘Internet of Things’ is a term for this audience,” he said. “It’s not a term for consumers. People don’t buy things, they buy an application or product for a specific purposes. So when people ask that I say ‘No, we’re not an Internet of Things’ company.”