Nest aims for central role in connected homes, enticing developers to integrate

Outside developers can now use Weave, an application layer that rides on top of the Thread network stack

The big winners in connected homes will be vendors of whole platforms, not individual products, and Google's Nest division is pushing hard to play that role. 

After pioneering Thread, a low-power networking protocol, Nest is now introducing an application layer that device and appliance makers can use to integrate their products tightly with Nest's. 

The new tool, called Weave, is for direct interactions between devices without resorting to processing in the cloud. That's good for in-home connections that are fast, don't require much energy and work even if the home's Wi-Fi network is down, said Greg Hu, senior manager of the Nest platform. Nest already uses Weave in its own products.

Yale Locks is the first adopter of Weave with its Linus lock, going on sale early next year. The lock will be able to work closely with Nest's devices. For example, if the Nest thermostat has turned off heating or air conditioning in a home because it deduced that no one was home, the Linus lock will be able to tell the thermostat instantly when someone comes home and unlocks the front door. That's quicker than figuring out if someone is home by sensing activity in the house, so the thermostat can start up faster, Hu said.

Device makers can also use Weave with Wi-Fi, but Thread is ideal for many types of home devices like the Linus that run on batteries, Nest says. The lock's two AA batteries will last about 18 months using Thread, whereas the lock probably couldn't go more than two weeks with Wi-Fi, he said. 

The Thread networking layer, which started at Nest but is now promoted by an industry body called the Thread Group, is likewise open for use with different application layers. ZigBee Cluster Library is one of those. But by making both components available to other device makers, Nest is laying the groundwork for turning its own products into centerpieces of consumers' connected homes. 

It already does so through Works with Nest, a developer program for integrating third-party products with Nest devices. More than 11,000 developers have accessed Nest APIs through the program, and one out of every eight homes with a Nest product also uses another product integrated with it through Works with Nest, Hu said.

Nest is now making it easier for consumers to find Works with Nest products. It's introducing the Works with Nest Store, an online catalog available on the Web and in the Nest apps for iOS and Android. Developers can apply now to have their certified products appear in the store. 

Integration can mean two devices working together or may even go deeper. Yale, for example, let Nest develop the remote controls for the Linus lock and place them in the Nest iOS and Android apps. That saved Yale the work of writing a set of apps for the product, something many device makers don't want to spend time on, Hu said.

Also on Thursday, Nest is introducing the Nest Cam API for third parties to integrate their devices with the connected camera that Nest announced earlier this year. Several already have, including Philips, which is linking its Hue connected lightbulbs to the Nest Cam so they can turn on if the camera sees movement. 

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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