The Nest Protect, The Most Innovative, Least Annoying Smoke Detector You've Ever Seen
Tony Fadell! You’ve just spent 18 years at Apple, designed the iPod, and changed the world! What are you going to do now?
The answer, evidently, was “reinvent the thermostat.” Fadell founded Nest, created the Nest Internet-connected thermostat—the one that sets itself by observing the patterns of human activity in the house—and found himself with another hit on his hands.
Tony Fadell! You’ve just made lightning strike twice! You’ve sold hundreds of thousands of your crazy, smart thermostat! What are you going to do now?
We’ve just found out the answer. Improbably, Nest has found another unloved, forgotten household appliance whose design and features haven’t changed for decades: the household smoke detector.
At the moment, what you feel about your smoke detector is probably apathy or hatred. Your one experience with it probably involves a brutal, terrifying beeping at 3:30 am that turns out to be nothing more than a low-battery signal. Or maybe the damn thing goes off every time you take a shower or heat up some soup.
No wonder, Nest says, that most deaths by fire can be attributed to smoke detectors that have been disconnected or had their batteries taken out.
The Nest Protect is a much, much smarter smoke and carbon monoxide detector.
It costs $130, which is maybe three times as much as a traditional dumb detector. And remember that you’ll probably need several of them. So, as with the Nest thermostat, we’re talking a healthy chunk of change for some really delicious features.
- It talks. When the Protect gets a first whiff of smoke or carbon monoxide, it doesn’t go all shrieky right off the bat. From all of the detectors in your house, you hear a chime and then a crystal-clear female voice: “Heads up! There’s smoke in the kitchen.” If it turns out to be no big deal—you’re cooking a grilled cheese—you can shut it up just by waving your arm at it four times. (It has a motion sensor in it.)
That feature alone might be worth $130 to some people.
Now then. If the Protect is convinced it’s something more serious, it gives you a more traditional blasting horn sound, alternating with the voice (this time saying “Emergency” instead of “Heads up”). This kind of alarm, you can’t shut off by waving your arm. (I tested a pair of Protects in my house. To simulate a minor smoke condition, I blew out a candle under the detector. To simulate a more serious one, I used a can of aerosol smoke-detector-testing smoke.)