You Don't Own What You've Bought: Google Nest Edition

from the the-end-of-ownership dept

Well, here we go again. One of the common themes here over the past few years is how in the digitization of everything, the very meaning of “ownership” and “property” has changed — and not necessarily in good ways. The latest example: last week Google more or less announced the end of its “Works with Nest” program, as it migrates Nest from a separate entity into the Google mothership, and trying to move other “internet-of-things” devices into the Google Assistant ecosystem instead. As the Verge notes, this will upset a bunch of systems that used to work one way, and no longer will going forward.

The Works with Nest program has been around since 2014, and many device makers integrated their products with it. That now means thousands of devices and services are in limbo with no guarantee all of them will be ported into the Works with Google Assistant program, either because their developers don?t have the resources to rewrite their integrations or because Google won?t offer the same amount and types of data to third parties anymore.

Today, companies like Lutron, SimpliSafe, and others make use of Nest?s home / away states to control things like lighting, smart blinds, home security systems, and more. Some of these larger companies are hopeful that they?ll be able to bring all of their existing features over when they shift fully to the Google Assistant program later this year, but they can?t give their customers any real guarantee that things won?t change significantly.

A notice emailed to Lutron customers after Google?s announcement said that the ability to automate lighting functions based on the Nest?s home and away status, person alerts from Nest cameras, or smoke or carbon monoxide detection from a Nest Protect will be affected by the change. It will also remove the ability to control the Nest thermostat from within the Lutron smartphone app.

The Verge also put together a list of “popular Works with Nest integrations that will break” once Google makes this shift:

  • Amazon Alexa will not be able to adjust the Nest Thermostat or display Nest Cam feeds
  • Logitech Harmony remotes won?t be able to change Nest alarm and home / away modes
  • Philips Hue lights will not be able to change color when Nest Protect detects smoke or carbon monoxide, nor will they be able to change state when Nest Cam detects movement
  • Lutron lights will not turn on when the Nest thermostat or Nest Cam detects people
  • August Home will not be able to set the Nest Thermostat to home or away when locks are opened or closed
  • SimpliSafe will not be able to directly set the Nest Thermostat to home or away
  • Wemo switches will not be able to change state when Nest is set to home or away

The article goes into a lot more detail as well. There are good reasons for this move — Google itself says it will better protect user data and privacy, which would be a good thing (especially given the privacy shitshow that the IOT space has been over the years). But, it’s also a reminder that ownership has become a lot more nebulous when you’re relying on third party service providers to make the stuff that you bought actually work.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “You Don't Own What You've Bought: Google Nest Edition”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
ECA (profile) says:

Love technology.. except..

Advancement and Future proofing..
They like to Advance, but how many cellphones are STUCK in the past? Mostly because they dont have enough System ram to hold the OS..
How many older computer SUCK when running the newest Win10??
Will they Ever rehash windows to be abit simpler and not Need a TON of power just to run?? NOPE..
HOw old consoles have Gone away into the past??
What is the time frame to upgrade?? 3-5 years at this time.

HOw many of your things will become obsolete and Many NOT work very well in 5+ years??
Can you fix it…no you cant.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Love technology.. except..

Most, but a machine that ran Vista, runs Linux without a problem.

I’m not especially a fan of Windows, and definitely not a fan of Windows 10, but Linux doesn’t have nearly the same level of mainstream software support. Can people play Fortnite on Linux?

And no, messing around with WINE doesn’t count. The average user doesn’t even know where their downloads go or how to how to deal with an archive format that Windows doesn’t natively support, there’s no way they can figure out how to get a Windows program running under another OS.

bobob says:

Re: Love technology.. except..

HOw many of your things will become obsolete and Many NOT work very well in 5+ years??
Can you fix it…no you cant.

I suspect almost everything I own will still work fine in 5 years. For example, two guitars I own are over 30 years old and both work great and are worth considerable more than I paid for them. My tektronix scopes work great and I expect they will still work in 5 years. (I couldn’t care less about wasting money on couch potato conveniences.) Most everything I have is similar. Why? Because I waited to purchase something instead of buying the latest, greatest, shiney shit. And, yes, I can fix just about anything I own, my family owns or my friends own, but I refuse to fix stuff that is designed to be thrown away. Things like NEST and other IOBT crap are broken as designed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Love technology.. except..

A thermostat that is 20 years old still works, but one that’s 5 years old doesn’t? Hmmm.

Remember, this is STRIKE TWO! Strike ONE was when they bricked people’s furnaces (keeping them stuck on or off!) with a firmware "update".

Fuck Nest. Buy something that "just works"…like Honeywell. Honeywell has the experience to know that you can’t brick someone’s furnace (or break 3rd party integration!) and expect people to keep coming back. Even their fancy communicating thermostats WORK, consistently, and will NEVER fail due to an update that is pushed!

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s the reason I don’t depend on "cloud enabled" IoT devices: I want to know that even if a service or company goes offline, my devices will continue to function.

If I lose my internet connection but still have power to the house, I want everything that doesn’t explicitly require an internet connection to continue functioning as originally designed.

If someone breaks into some company’s database, I don’t want them having access (encrypted or not) to years of my home activity data. That’s all stuff that can (and should) happen locally.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s not just "cloud enabled" devices. Don’t expect anything that depends on a google technology to work in 5 years (or less). This is modus operandi for google.

I’m in technology and I still use light switches, thermostat settings and door keys because IoT is still garbage, both in terms of security and stability. But letting google into your "smart home" is guaranteed to draw tears down the road. Every time.

Renee says:

Re: Re: Re:

Unfortunately out had taken me 2 years to realize Honeywell and the goggle assistant app has allowed a stalker to invade my home (all homes in this neighborhood has the same Honeywell system and up to date technology) I have been seen undressed, taking a bath and more private things. My 17 year old son and girlfriend have been viewed as well.
My question, because you seem to be technically sound. How did I “unhack” my Honeywell AC to regain my constitutional rights?

kennova (profile) says:

It wasn't that useful anyway

While I agree with your sentiment regarding the change, a company should also have the ability to make wholesale changes to it’s services for business reasons. Works with Nest was a pretty crappy program and didn’t offer the capability it should. I don’t know if Google will make it better (they may), but I won’t miss the Works with Nest program.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: It wasn't that useful anyway

While I agree with your sentiment regarding the change, a company should also have the ability to make wholesale changes to it’s services for business reasons.

The problem here is that they’re selling products that require that service to function. Though perhaps in this instance "selling" is the wrong word.

Google’s habit of shutting down services that don’t take off is annoying enough when it doesn’t break functionality in household appliances.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It's not just Google

Lots of devices become very useless once they’re discontinued and the external server they rely upon goes away. Look up "Iris by Lowe’s" for just one example.

I have no idea why manufacturers build this garbage; the primary usefulness of timers or remote controls is to switch the load from somewhere else in the same building… and there would be no need to rely on the outside Internet to do this if the factory would only design the items to work autonomously on a LAN if the upstream server goes away permanently. It’s a software change.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

At some point, we need to turn the narrative around. We need to acknowledge that we do own what we bought, that property rights still mean something, and that abusing technology to circumvent said rights cannot and will not be tolerated.

A modest proposal for fixing this issue: recognize in law that access to such services, being necessary to the functionality of the property that you bought, is an integral part of what you purchased, and therefore unilaterally terminating service is unjustly and unlawfully depriving you of your property. The key word here being unilateral. Google would be free to shut down a service like this, but only if they release the full source code to the servers, in addition to all technical knowledge and tooling necessary in good faith for others to be able to replicate it and ensure continuity of service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Or just don’t require the online service component to begin with.

There’s no reason for anything to be checking in to anyone’s mothership. The only thing that doing so gives the user is more product placement ADs, which many don’t want anyway.

If you want to be able to control what ever it is from your phone, a simple single port forwarding on a router should be all that’s required. Even then, most people foolishly leave UPNP turned on so even that requirement is moot.

Dynamic DNS? That should be part of the setup wizard that the thing comes with. Choosing a provider and entering in a set of credentials is not something that requires a command line or any other special knowledge.

Cloud storage? Whatever happened to local storage? There’s absolutely no reason for this one other than data collection / surveillance. Heck some HDD manufacturers sell home NAS devices. There’s no reason that can’t be expanded as part of the internet of things.

There is no valid reason at all for the online service components of some of this crap. The few excuses they can come up with are also easily worked around either by the product itself, or by existing standards. Time to quit falling for it.

Chris Pratt (profile) says:

Worth mentioning...

All in all Google is actually handling this pretty well. They’re not shutting off Works with Nest, merely deprecating it. Existing functionality will continue until, to paraphrase Google’s press release, the majority of skills and devices under that program have of been migrated to Google Assistant. In particular, they’re working directly with Alexa to migrate over support, and have similar partnerships with other companies. It’s hardly an apocalyptic event. While the danger the article points out is a valid concern, in general, it doesn’t have much applicability to this particular situation.

D. Facto Matteris says:

Re: Oh, look: an every two years Zombie supporting GOOGLE!

Chris Pratt: 3 comments total, near evenly spaced. Begun Feb 12th, 2015.

WEIRD. Since these zombies look the type who’d have multiple accounts all over, then managing them — even to recall after two years that have an account — must take some managing. Sure, it can be on a computer… BUT THEN WHY have an account for trivial remarks once every two years?!

WEIRDEST site on teh internets.

You see the same "couple dozen" regulars: about half of those vary, half show nearly every day: A. Stephen Stone, ECA, Thad, PaulT, several who think putting "Anonymous" in screen name is witty…

A similar number of screen names recur without account: Christenson, TFG, Rocky…

A number of "accounts" are clearly astro-turfing: the aggressive and bombastic Gary and Scary Devil Monastery most prominent.

A large number of ACs are just one-liners and/or blithely supportive. Almost never does an AC strongly disagree with the piece.

There’s not ten cents worth of difference in opinion between the above: left liberal libertarian on the surface yet blithely support corporatism! It’s the most uniformly orthodox site I’ve ever seen. Atop that is while fanboys carp about corporate personhood and control, they never take Masnick to task for his blatant corporatist views, even though he states support by Google and Silicon Valley on the Copia site! Complete disconnect.

Also roughly half a dozen new accounts every month. Few of those continue after first, let alone interested: Matthew Cline is an exception.

Then are the FEW dissenters who except for a couple recent don’t have accounts.

And that’s it. Not a single stated goal or bullet pointed principles. But over the course of a week you’re near certain to see: attack copyright by highlighting anomalies, attack the police for any pretext, attack "conservatives", defend Facebook / Google, and advocate unlimited immigration into the US.

Not much to show for twenty years. Makes you wonder why Masnick keeps on doing exactly the same schtick; not only never attempting to attract larger audience, but ensuring slow decline by disadvantaging certain viewpoints with the lie of "hiding" by "the community" when it’s actually Administrator decision.

Anonymous Coward says:

Say what you will, I refuse to let these spies into my home. I don’t need a Nest that someday Google decides is not making enough money to continue to hold open the servers it takes for them to function. Don’t suppose I have to mention what happened with Microsoft’s music selling venture or the Rio, who suffered the same fate.

I have no problem with an analog thermostat that will be working 20 years from now, even if it won’t hold the temp to the nth degree in accuracy. Nor do I mind a digital that won’t connect to the net. But I refuse to buy one of the IoTs that may quit working tomorrow, not because it’s broken but because it is no longer supported forcing you to go buy another of some other make.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m not a fan of most IoT devices for piss poor security. Homekit stuff is all Encrypted from the start. So that I do trust.

I really like my Ecobee 4 Thermostat and it’s remote Sensor for Temp/movement. You can set it up to do some cool things. I can’t as my retired Dad lives at my house. He’s home most of the time. Generally likes it warmer and cooler than I would set it. But he can adjust the temp on his iPhone. He’s 72.

What I like and what HE really likes is what I did for the Garage. First off I have Homekit/Siri controlled Garage Door Opener. So he can tell Siri to open and close the door. Generally, he does that when one of his friends come by and pick him up. He doesn’t have to bring a RF remote with him.

All he has to say is "Hey Siri, Close Garage" and it closes. I can lift my wrist, and just go "Close Garage" to my Apple Watch 4. BAM it closes. What is really NICE is using Homekit Light Switches for my garage lights, I have the one side we walk through all the time linked to the Garage Door. So when the Door starts to open, the lights on that side light up. When it closes, the lights go back off. I have it do it all the time. But can set it for So longer before sunrise and after if you want. You set it up using Apple’s HOME app. It’s pretty simple. Every week or so, he goes out to a friends house for dinner, and it’s daylight and gets home when it’s dark. Now he sees so much better than what little light comes from the opener. I don’t want him tripping over something he can’t see. Best of all, you don’t need to even use SIRI. It works with the Wall mounted button or the RF Remotes also. It doesn’t matter what you use.

The outside light on the side of my garage over the side fence I would NEVER USE. I would take out the garbage and feel around for the gate lock in the dark. Now I lift my wrist and go "Turn on Outside Garage Light" and BAM Siri turns it on and I can now see. I like light switches for lights. You don’t have to change Bulbs and make sure you leave the power ON for your light to go on/off with an app or voice. If Someone switches the switch off, the light won’t go on. Using a Smart Switch, It has all the smarts there. You don’t touch the bulbs. The switch still works like a manual switch as before. So anyone can turn the lights on/off.

In my Master Bath, I have a cheapo glow light switch so I can see it in the dark. I don’t need to waste money for a Smart Switch there, or in a closet, etc. I started with 1 Smart Switch. I currently have 3 now. Buy what YOU need or want. You sure as hell don’t need to get everything at once and spend a bundle of money.

The thing with Light Switches, you also need the white wire. Many times that could be missing. The switch always needs power to work. I would double check that you do before getting one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Once Google acquired NEST, you should have sold that off and moved on. In typical Google fashion, it abandons things. Google employee’s all want to work on the newest cutting edge stuff. Not older software and hardware and so they get discontinued. The NEST is junk. Limited support!!! Go get the Ecobee. They Support Apple Homekit, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Samsung Smartthings and IFTTT. The remote temp/movement sensors are also nice. I suggest the Ecobee 3 over the 4 which has built-in Alexa. I’m a homekit house, but I do have a DOT. I don’t really find voice control useful at it. I’d rather just use the touch screen. Get a DOT and place that someplace more useful if you want Alexa.

The way Google operates, I’m also surprised Google Search and GMAIL is still around. But that’s where Google is making most of their money, Search. GMAIL is so big, I can’t see them letting that die anytime soon. Everything else is fair game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There’s still one Blockbuster, and Netflix still rents physical media (with much more selection than their streaming service). But physical media related to copyright maximalists isn’t a good example of owning what you bought; the companies are constantly trying to ensure you don’t. Apart from DRM, they’d make rental illegal if they could (e.g., video game rental in Japan, Redbox’s legal troubles).

Rekrul says:

Why isn’t there a smart toilet yet that recognize when a man is standing facing the toilet and automatically raises the seat, or automatically puts it down when someone has their back to the toilet? Why must I continue to suffer the hardship of having to manually raise or lower the seat myself??? And where is the remote flush function so that I can flush it from across town if I think I’ve forgotten to flush it before I left the house???

How can I live like this???

Agammamon says:

While I am a tech enthusiast, it may just be my advancing age – a thermostat with a touch display is neat, what use do I have for an internet connected one?

My current one is internet connected (came with the house) and the touch display makes it super-convenient to program/adjust. The extent of its useful internet functionality is that it can poll a set website to get the outside temperature – probably taken at a temperature station 20 miles away and in a completely different environment. Whoopee.

My hot water heater (a heat pump type) also is internet connected with a touch screen. This screen, again, makes it super convenient to switch settings, control temperature, and . . . look at inlet and outlet temps. I mean, I do look at them – because I’m a nerd – but I don’t really have any use for the information other than ‘look at this neat thing’. If I want to take granular control over the thing, I could turn it off with my phone when leaving for work and turn it back on when coming home. If I did that every day I might save a whole $10 over the course of the year. And only with the occasional cold shower because I forgot.

My front door has a keypad lock – I just got this super-cool thing right when its been superseded by facial recognition locks sigh. Its not internet connected and I’m not seeing any advantage to having one with a camera and internet connection. If I want to let someone in remotely I can text them the secondary code – no need to program their face into the thing before hand. If I want a visual record of who is coming in – that’s what the security camera is for.

A lot of the internet connection stuff seems to be solutions in search of a problem. A refrigerator that keeps track of what’s in it and generates a replacement list – neat. Not necessary but neat. I mean, maybe if I had a household of 10 plus people or ran a restaurant it might be necessary but I can open the door and see what’s missing in about 60 seconds. One that orders shit for me? No thank you. One that sends a list of the crap that’s inside and how often its consumed? Fuck off and die.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...