Google's Nest Guard shows why closed platforms are bad for your smart home

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Once upon a time, Nest was an independent company, making waves with its innovative smart thermostats, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and eagle-eyed Wi-Fi security cameras. In 2017, Google Nest, as it's now known since being absorbed by the tech giant, ventured into the realm of residential security with the introduction of the Nest Guard, a product now being kicked to the curb.

A Google Nest Mini smart speaker
The Nest Mini smart speaker

Nest Guard: A sleek sentinel for the smart home

The Nest Guard was a stylish, intelligent security system equipped with motion sensors, window sensors, a keypad, and NFC key fobs. Although it raised some eyebrows with its undisclosed microphone, that's a tale for another day. By all accounts, it was a solid, albeit pricey, security option. However, my knowledge of the Nest Guard is purely based on third-party reviews and articles, as my personal experience with Nest products is limited to their smart speakers.

The sun sets on Nest Guard

Recently, Google decided to retire the Nest Guard, leaving current users somewhat in a quandary. While Google Nest has assured customers that their devices will keep functioning for now, the inescapable drawback of the Google Nest ecosystem looms large: it's a closed platform. As many a smart home aficionado will tell you, closed platforms can be a thorn in the side of seamless smart home integration.

The Google Nest Guard's keypad and NFC key fob reader.
The Google Nest Guard's keypad and NFC key fob reader

The double-edged sword of closed platforms

A closed platform, or walled garden, can feel like a cosy, curated space, but there's a catch: you're at the mercy of the manufacturer's whims. Should they deem a product unprofitable, it may be discontinued, regardless of your affection for it. The harsh truth is that no company will prioritize your love for a product over its financial viability.

The cloud's silver lining can turn gray

Many smart home products rely on cloud services, and when manufacturers pull the plug on these services, customers are left high and dry. Logitech Harmony Link owners, for example, know this pain all too well.

With Google Nest no longer selling the Nest Guard and its accessories, existing users are walking a tightrope. One faulty part, and your sophisticated security system could become an overpriced paperweight. The Nest Guard's limited compatibility means it only communicates with other Nest products, so there's no easy fix if you need to replace a motion or window sensor. This exclusivity, while creating a seamless ecosystem, poses a significant challenge for customers.

A ticking clock on support

Even if your Nest Guard is currently supported, the sands of time may run out when Google decides maintaining its cloud services is no longer worth the investment. While it's unfortunate for Nest Guard owners, they might have seen this coming had they paid closer attention to Google's history of product support.

Choosing the right smart home products: open the door to possibilities

You may have guessed from the name of this site, Home Assistant Guide, that I'm not the biggest fan of closed platforms or cloud-dependent devices. When selecting off-the-shelf smart home products, ensure there's a local API available. This way, you'll have a lifeline if the manufacturer discontinues support. Products with hubs often offer local control when connected to the same network.

Embrace the freedom of open systems

By “open,” I don't necessarily mean “open source”. Simply having local access to the device and a usable API can make a world of difference. My own smart home revolves around Zigbee products, which use an open protocol similar to Wi-Fi. With an application like Zigbee2MQTT, you can connect devices from a variety of brands, such as IKEA, Philips, Gledopto, and Xiaomi, to the same hub.

The beauty of self-sufficiency

My Home Assistant runs locally on my own server, granting me complete independence. Even if the developers were to abandon the project, my system would hum along undisturbed. My Zigbee devices communicate locally with Home Assistant, eliminating the need for cloud services. Plus, Home Assistant's open-source nature means that, with a little Python know-how, I could even develop it further.

Nest Guard alternatives: exploring new horizons

While I don't have personal experience with residential alarm systems, there are a plethora of alternatives to the Nest Guard that can be integrated with Home Assistant. A quick search reveals various Home Assistant-compatible systems and a Reddit discussion on alarm systems that work seamlessly with it.

My smart home features numerous Zigbee sensors, and when I'm away, any door sensor that changes to an open state triggers a notification. While this may not be the most advanced security system, there are undoubtedly more sophisticated options that support local control.

For the more hands-on homeowner, the DIY route offers an array of possibilities. ESPHome is compatible with several NFC readers, and NFC cards or key fobs can be purchased online at reasonable prices. With a handful of sensors and a soldering iron, it's not far-fetched to imagine creating a Nest Guard-inspired system tailored to your needs.

A portrait photo oif Liam Alexander Colman, the author, creator, and owner of Home Assistant Guide wearing a suit.

About Liam Alexander Colman

is an experienced Home Assistant user who has been utilizing the platform for a variety of projects over an extended period. His journey began with a Raspberry Pi, which quickly grew to three Raspberry Pis and eventually a full-fledged server. Liam's current operating system of choice is Unraid, with Home Assistant comfortably running in a Docker container.
With a deep understanding of the intricacies of Home Assistant, Liam has an impressive setup, consisting of various Zigbee devices, and seamless integrations with existing products such as his Android TV box. For those interested in learning more about Liam's experience with Home Assistant, he shares his insights on how he first started using the platform and his subsequent journey.

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