Google Nest, which used to be its own company called just Nest and is now a brand of Google LLC, is well known for its smart thermostats, Google Assistant-enabled speakers, and Wi-Fi connected security cameras. While it obviously wasn’t the success Google Nest had hoped for, they also entered the residential security market with the Nest Guard in 2017.
The Nest Guard was a simple and sleek looking smart security system which shipped with motion sensors, window sensors, a keypad, and NFC key fobs. In controversy, it also contained an undocumented microphone, but that whole story is out of the scope of this article. All in all, it appeared to be a decent but pricey system. I do want to note, that I have no personal experience using the Nest Guard, or any Nest products besides their smart speakers, and my knowledge on it is based on third-party reviews and articles.
I wrote the above paragraph in the past form because Google decided to pull the plug on their Nest Guard just a couple of days ago. And while Google Nest has assured existing customers that their devices will continue to work for the foreseeable future, it does leave them in a bit of a pickle. That is because the Google Nest ecosystem has one major downside. It is a closed platform. And closed platforms are almost always bad for your smart home.
Table of Contents
- What a closed platform means for customers
- What to look for when buying smart home products
- What are the alternatives to Nest Guard?
What a closed platform means for customers
Call it a closed platform, walled garden, or closed ecosystem, when a customer invests in a system such as the Nest Guard you are bound to whatever the manufacturer decides to do. If your product is no longer profitable, it might well be discontinued. No company cares about how much you love their product. If it isn’t making them money, there is no point in supporting it any further.
And because so many smart home products rely on cloud services, once the manufacturer decides to disable the service completely, you’re out of luck. Just ask owners of the Logitech Harmony Link how they feel about cloud services.
Because Google Nest is no longer selling the Nest Guard, and more importantly for existing costumers, none of the accessories, you are one broken part away from having an expensive paperweight. The Nest Guard can only communicate with other Nest products. There is no way of connecting a cheap motion sensor to your existing Nest ecosystem. You can’t replace the window sensor with any alternative. Nest products will only talk to other Nest products, and that is a big problem for the customer.
And while your Nest Guard might still be supported now, once Google decides that keeping the cloud services online isn’t worth it, your device will be bricked. And while I feel sorry for anyone who happened to buy a Nest Guard, perhaps you should have taken a closer look at Google’s track record in supporting their own products.
What to look for when buying smart home products
What I’m going to advise you to do might not come as a major surprise. After all, this website is called Home Assistant Guide. I don’t like closed platforms, and I also don’t like devices that require a cloud service to function. If you are going for an off-the-shelf product, always make sure that there is a local API available. That way, there is still the opportunity to keep it running even if the manufacturer decides to stop supporting it. Some products which use a hub are usually also controlled locally when you are on the same network.
Open systems bring with them a whole host of benefits to your smart home. By open, I don’t necessarily mean open source. All that is needed is local access to the device and an useable API. Personally, I am quite heavily invested in Zigbee products. Zigbee is, just like Wi-Fi, an open protocol and when used with an application such as Zigbee2MQTT you can have devices from IKEA, Philips, Gledopto, and Xiaomi (to just name a few) all connected to the same hub.
I also love the fact that my Home Assistant is installed locally on my own server. Were the developers to call it quits tomorrow, my system would continue running as it has been. Because my Zigbee products all communicate locally with Home Assistant, I am not reliant on any cloud services at all. And because Home Assistant is open source, I could even develop it further (that is if I could be bothered to learn Python).
What are the alternatives to Nest Guard?
I have no experience with any residential alarm systems, which makes me incapable of suggesting any competing product to the Nest Guard. However, Home Assistant does integrate with a bunch of different systems. I also found this Reddit post which discusses alarm systems that integrate with Home Assistant.
As already mentioned, I have numerous Zigbee sensors in my smart home. Whenever I’m not home, I will receive a notification if one of the door sensors changes its state to open. That is the current status of my security system. I am sure there are more sophisticated systems available, which do support local control.
If you are willing to go down the DIY route, ESPHome supports a few NFC readers and NFC cards or key fobs can be bought online quite cheaply. This is again something I haven’t tried out myself, but I do believe it should be possible to build quite a convincing Nest Guard clone with a few sensors and a soldering iron.
About Liam Alexander Colman
Liam Alexander Colman has been using Home Assistant for various projects for quite some time. What started off with a Raspberry Pi quickly became three Raspberry Pis and eventually a full-blown server. I now use Unraid as my operating system, and Home Assistant happily runs in a Docker container. My personal setup includes many Zigbee devices as well as integrations with existing products such as my Android TV box. Read on to find out more on how I got started with Home Assistant.