When Google announced on May 7 that it was moving its smart home devices under a new Google Nest brand, it was a historic pivot in the company’s product strategy.
It’s more than just a branding game. Google decided it was time to say goodbye to the smart home and hello to what it calls the “useful home”.
See also: What is a smart home?
Now that the announcement has had time to materialize, it’s worth taking a closer look:
When Google planted the smart home flag
Google bought Nest – name, people, and technology – for $ 3.2 billion in early 2014. Analysts hailed it as a bold move.
The world’s best-known tech company was becoming a player in a smart home market that is expected to grow by billions of dollars over the next decade. And all it needed was about 5% of its cash reserves, which was practically cushion money for Google.
But the crystal ball was a little cloudy. Would Google use its massive power to push Nest to greater heights of innovation and reinvention? Or struggling to find a strategy in an “Internet of Things” that is only beginning to mature?
There’s no question that Google’s acquisition of Nest was a game-changer. But it was a surprisingly turbulent race to get to what appears to be the final destination.
See also: These are the 10 most valuable tech brands
Alexa says hello
When Google bought Nest, there was a lot of pressure coming from another tech giant. Amazon introduced Echo, the now ubiquitous smart speaker that includes Alexa. For the first time, a smart home device could play music, answer questions, create to-do lists, and even order pizza.
It was a small step in the development of artificial intelligence, but it developed at a rapid pace over the next two years. This gave Amazon a decisive advantage in the smart home war.
Going nowhere, slowly
Meanwhile, Google’s smart home efforts were stuck in the mud with disagreements over product development and business strategy, as well as the departure of key Nest executives.
When Google finally responded to Echo in 2016 with its voice-activated smart speaker / assistant, the Nest brand was nowhere in sight. Instead, it was called Google Home.
Live separate lives
Nest also stood out from Google, with slower-than-expected product development. It continued to develop new versions of its flagship Nest Learning Thermostat and launched its second product, the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector in 2013.
Next is the Nest Cam security camera in 2015 (thanks in large part to a $ 555 million purchase from Dropcam), followed by the release of a high-end Nest Cam IQ in 2017.
Nest dives into home security
The brand finally grabbed major traction in September 2017 with the release of the Nest Secure home security alarm system, a DIY system with professional monitoring from Brinks Home Security. This was quickly followed in 2018 by the Nest Hello video doorbell and the Nest X Yale lock.
But the question still remained: why would a company – even with the size and power of Google’s brand – create smart home products without taking advantage of Nest as the most well-known smart home brand?
One mark is better than two
Fast forward to the Google I / O 2019 conference. Nest had been treated as a separate entity until it became part of Google’s smart home division in 2017. This paved the way for the unification of the entire Google’s smart home technology into one product family under the Google Nest brand.
It took Google longer to find its way with the Nest brand. Then again, companies worth nearly $ 1 trillion can afford to bang their feet on occasion.
But is the marriage of the two brands the right decision at the right time?
Make up for lost time
As of January 2019, Amazon Echo, Dot, and related Alexa devices control about 61% of the US market, according to voicebot.ai, Google Home and its related devices have gradually gained ground to a 24% market share. These numbers represent a loss of market share for Amazon of almost 11% over the previous year, while Google Home grew by around 5.5%.
For a company already building a smart home dynamic, rebranding Google Nest isn’t just the best way to keep up. It will probably be an effective booster rocket.
The path to follow
Rishi Chandra, vice president of products and general manager of Google Nest, has a clear vision of the strategic landscape of its smart home devices.
“The wallet will be called Google Nest, just like (the smartphone wallet) Google Pixel,” Chandra recently told Fast Company. “We’re aligning the Pixel with mobility, and Nest will be home.”
When it comes to new products, Chandra said, the goal for now will be to give new products a Nest identity. Other products such as Google Home and Google Home Mini will gradually receive the new branding.
“These things are never instantaneous,” Chandra added.
Rebrand, then revolution
In an interview with The Verge, Chandra said the rebranding was more than just a name change. This is the next step in the evolution of IT and technology:
No user required
Until now, interacting with a computer usually required a user. Whether you use social media or send an email, it requires action on your part.
Ambient computing does not require active participation. The Nest Learning Thermostat is a prime example. It learns more about your surroundings, your lifestyle and even the seasons. You can control it manually, but it can adjust automatically without your intervention.
More sophisticated examples are smart speakers and virtual assistants. They recognize and learn, then adapt accordingly to provide the optimal response or action.
Separate devices, one ecosystem
If that sounds a little confusing… well, it is. Chandra told The Verge that smart home devices will be proactive – learning from a user’s behaviors or even facial recognition – and will all work together in a single ecosystem.
“There isn’t a single device that makes your home smart,” Chandra said. “Each device has different types of sensors, inputs and outputs and capacities. But from the user’s point of view […] it should give the impression that it was intended as a single system design that all works together. “
And that’s where the name change comes in. Chandra said the challenge is “to bring our products and assets together to really solve the next generation of computing that we need to bring home.” That’s what really motivated this drive to bring Nest and Home together – to actually think about it in a very different way. “
Robert Ogle is a writer and editor with seven years of experience in the home security industry. He is currently a senior writer at Brinks Home Security and previously was editor of Security Nation magazine for the Electronic Security Association. Robert also focuses on smart home technology trends, as well as the impact of disruptive innovation. Connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/robertogle/.