Facial Recognition and Smart Doorbells

Two Trends Come Together with Nest’s Hello

Last week, Alphabet’s Nest division unveiled a series of home security products. As innovative devices for the smart home segment have been pouring onto the market, Nest has faced internal and external pressure to expand its portfolio. The company seems to have squandered its early lead and rivals have been grabbing share.

Nest claims that it has doubled its hardware portfolio by launching a family of devices that create the company’s new Nest Secure alarm system. The solution includes the Nest Guard security base, Nest Tag fob to arm and disarm the system, and Nest Detect sensors to monitor when a door or window opens or closes and to detect motion in a room. Nest Secure communicates through a Wi-Fi router, allowing the homeowner to check the security status. The Nest Guard hub is cellular-enabled, allowing it to jump directly to an operator’s network in case the Wi-Fi network is disabled. Nest charges $5 per month for this optional service or $50 per year.

Nest executives pointed to customer frustrations with current security systems, which are often plagued with complex set-ups and accidental triggers. The company says it’s working to simplify a product segment — as it did with thermostats — that’s intimidating for many consumers to buy, install and use.

Nest also introduced the Nest Cam IQ outdoor security camera with 4K and HDR technology. Particularly interesting is the camera’s ability to recognise faces. This gives the device a level of intelligence, enabling it to identify people it detects and send notifications only when it senses a person that it doesn’t recognise.

Facial recognition is slowly becoming a ubiquitous feature in consumer electronics and is also being deployed for financial authentication. Apple introduced the feature in its iPhone X and there’s also evidence of the technology being used as a method of personal authentication by some payment services such as Alibaba’s Ant Financial (see Paying with a Smile).

Nest also launched a smart doorbell, a product category that’s becoming a crucial entry point to the smart home space. This is a market currently dominated by Ring, a company that CCS Insight estimates has already sold millions of connected doorbells. We recently wrote that Ring’s success has been noted and would attract new rivals (see Belle of the Ball).

Nest’s smart doorbell, called Hello, supports high-definition video and audio. Like devices from Ring, this little doorbell is very capable. But Hello goes a bit further. It’s also capable of recognising faces. Even something as small and ordinary as a doorbell is becoming smart enough to distinguish between people. Biometrics have become this pervasive.

Nest said it will begin shipping its Hello device in early 2018 but didn’t announce a price. It will have to be competitive. We expect companies such as Ring and DoorBird to introduce their own smarter doorbells and cameras equipped with biometric features.

Technology such as facial recognition seemed like science fiction not long ago, but soon will be old hat in simple consumer electronics products.