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Can We Add Nest Protect To The Google Home App Yet?

If you search for “Nest Protect” – the smart smoke and CO alarm – you’ll be greeted with Google’s logo and the words “Google Nest”. It’s clearly a Google smart home product:

A Google search for 'Nest Protect'
A Google search for ‘Nest Protect’, showing the various Google links.

So logic would dictate that you can manage Nest Protect in your Google Home app, right? Well, for over half a decade, this wasn’t possible at all. You had to run two different apps – the Nest app for the Nest Protect, then the Google Home app for some other Nest and Google products. But on 11th August 2020, version of the Google Home app was released that had the ability for Nest Protect to be managed within Google Home.

For 6 years it wasn’t possible to add or manage Nest Protect from the Google Home app, but on 11th August 2020, this ability was finally added. Existing Nest Protect devices will be auto-added to Google Home after this date.

What is Nest Protect?

Nest Protect is a smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector and alarm, with smart functionality. This brings a few benefits of traditional detectors:

  1. This is an all-in-one unit, unlike most detectors which either offer smoke detection or CO detection – not both.
  2. You’ll get notified of sensor failures, therefore knowing that you’ll need to contact Nest support to get a new device.
  3. You’ll be notified of detected smoke or CO when you’re not home. This is great for detecting intermittent issues like a CO boiler leak or an electrical device which is starting to fail and sometimes emitting smoke. With traditional detectors, if you aren’t around to hear the alarm, tough: you wouldn’t know there’s any issue.

There are both battery and hard-wired options for you to chose from, and the battery version notifies you (via the Nest app) when the battery is running low.

Nest Protect was first released in October 2013, with the 2nd generation model coming out three years later in July 2015. It currently retails for $119 for the cheaper wired version, although the price has dropped to $84 during Black Friday events.

Nest Labs was founded in 2010 by two former Apple engineers, launching their flagship Nest Learning thermostat in 2011. Whilst I’m not personally a fan of smart thermostats, its success is undeniable and it’s one of the first devices which got the mainstream public really thinking about ‘the smart home’.

The company quickly expanded to around 135 employees in 2012, and releasing a range of products – including the Nest Protect detector – in 2012 and 2013.

Nest Labs purchased Dropcam, a WiFi security camera company, in 2014. This meant that Nest offered smart thermostats, cameras, smoke/CO sensors, alarm systems and more.

It’s therefore little surprise that, owing to Nest’s commercial success, Google swept in and purchased Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in 2014. And this is the link between the two companies, even though Nest continued to operate as a separate company from Google between 2014 and 2018.

Killing Nest

Google started building hardware devices (such as the Pixel phones) from 2016 onwards, signalling a push to get into producing and selling more physical devices. As a result of this, in 2019’s Google I/O conference, it was announced that Nest would be folded in to Google’s operations – basically saying that Nest would no longer be a standalone company. In other words, “Google Nest” was born.

This change was fairly controversial, however, because Nest had a really open software API called ‘works with Nest API’ which meant that other programmers could integrate with Nest products fairly easily. Google shut this API down from August 2019 onwards, however, triggering a backlash because many people had purchased their Nest devices because of its openness and ease of integration.

Google therefore issued a statement on their blog explaining the decision more, but essentially boiling down to “yes we’re killing off this openness, but features will eventually be moved to Google“:

The decision to retire WWN [Works with Nest] was made to unify our efforts around third-party connected home devices under a single platform.

Moving forward, we’ll deliver a single consumer and developer experience through the Google Assistant.

We know we can’t build a one-size-fits-all solution, so we’re moving quickly to work with our most popular developers to create and support helpful interactions that give you the best of Google Nest

Google Blog, 16th May 2019

Google essentially tried to calm Nest customer’s anger by saying that yes, things will be moving to Google (and we won’t shut down the Nest API whilst we do this) but don’t worry, we’re working with other “popular developers” to provide integration to further improve your experience.

How well has this plan – published almost a year ago – worked out? Let’s do a 2 minute Google search to find out:

And the official answer to all these questions and feedback? “It’s not currently possible“.

Right, so Google’s clearly communicated plan hasn’t worked well, at all! “Popular developers” have not provided any new external integration for Nest Protect, and it’s still not available in the Google Home app either.

This is quite poor, but at least you can still manage Nest Protect in the Nest app. The downside, of course, is that some Nest products need to be managed in the Google Home app, whilst others still require the Nest app – meaning you need two mobile apps for the same company!

Managing Nest Protect right now

To sum up, between 2014 and most of 2020, the Google Home app didn’t support your Nest Protect devices. If you have migrated your Nest account to Google, it still wouldn’t appear in the new app: you’d still have to use the old Nest app to manage Nest Protect.

But on 11th August 2020, version of the Google Home app was released which started supporting Nest Protect natively:

A phone screenshot showing three Nest Protect devices now appearing in the Google Home app.
Three Nest Protect devices now appearing in the Google Home app.

This is a nice step forward and some welcome integration from Google, although some concerns have been noted:

  • The room or nickname of the Nest Protect device isn’t shown, so it’s hard to know which device is which.
  • You also can’t differentiate between battery powered and wired-in Nest Protect devices.

Hopefully this will be added in due course, however.

In terms of other Nest Protect integrations, Alexa still doesn’t support Nest Protect either, despite hints in 2019 that this was being worked on. According to Google’s own support pages, only the Nest cameras/doorbell and thermostat work with Alexa right now.

So what third party integrations do work with Nest Protect? As far as we can tell, none. Previous integrations with products like SmartThings, IFTTT and Home Assistant worked with the open Nest API, which is now closed to new developers. If your previous Nest developers account is still open then you can use that, however.

The only products that work with Nest Protect are therefore other Nest products, as outlined on another Google support page:

  • Google Nest thermostats can display an alert, and shut off forced air systems (with smoke emergencies) and traditional heating systems (with CO emergencies).
  • Google Nest cameras will start turning on and stream the video capture to your Nest or Google Home app, assuming that emergency clip recording is enabled under “Protect -> Settings -> Works with Protect” (it’s off by default).
  • Other Nest products will also sound the emergency alarm if they support this.

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