Nest’s smoke alarm stumble (and creepy capability)

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been paying much attention to the Nest smoke alarm because, like its thermostat, it solves a problem I don’t have. But a lot of people have been attracted to the devices because of their emphasis on design and user interface. After all, Google didn’t buy the company because it wanted to get into the thermostat business.

Unfortunately, in the case of the smoke alarm that emphasis might have blinded them to more practical matters. The alarm was designed to be silenced when you wave your hands underneath it, thus eliminating that annoying issue that often crops up when you’re cooking something that gives off even a little bit of smoke. But Nest forgot something pretty important, people have a tendency to wave their arms around when there’s a real fire. To their credit they’ve temporarily halted sales while they investigate. But now here comes the creepy part.

They remotely turned off the hand waving sensing on any alarm connected to the Internet via WiFi. In other words, Nest (and now Google) has the ability to control your smoke alarm without your knowledge. Sure, this is a situation where doing so makes perfect sense, but as I’ve often said if Nest can access your smoke alarm over the Internet, someone else can as well.

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