We’re lazy homeowners. Well, at least that’s the perspective that Nest is basing its latest product development on, and the inspiration behind its long awaited release of Nest Secure – a spoke off of its hub of Nest Guard, and a seamless fit into its market of home security, announced last week. The thermostat and smoke alarm that most of us associate with the company, has evolved into a plethora of devices to make us feel even more snug and secure. Updated cameras (including outdoor) with facial recognition, video doorbells connected to the internet, motion sensors, and keychain fobs… all integrated into one system. Many would argue that this is nothing new – Samsung and IoT have been around for a while, and Nest certainly has its pool of critics. Yet its fans rave that the ‘piece de resistance’ in its new product is its integration with voice based Google Assistant (starting with the indoor IQ Nest cam).  And yes, there will be a day, when it will control ALL OF IT. To some people, that’s frightening. To others, it’s a God-send.

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Apparently, “Users often don’t want to have to physically interact with devices and apps to make them work.” How many of us remember having to physically get off of the couch to change the channel? Oh, the good old days. If only we had the luxury of our Fitbit back then, to give us credit and pride in those few extra earned steps.

But tie convenience to safety, and it’s skyrocketed to an entirely new level. One that might just make us forego the “big brother” paranoia and opt for the added dose of reassurance, security and peace of mind.  How many of us wouldn’t appreciate a  reminder while en route to work or dropping off kids at school, that we seem to have been the last ones to leave the house and forgot to set the alarm (all too likely amidst morning chaos)? Don’t worry… simply say “Yes” and Nest will see to it that your abode is locked down and secure. Exhale.

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It will be beyond smart in responding to your voice. And in true google ‘style’ (their alphabet parent) it will use AI to understand home habits and make suggestions. Intelligent ones, of course. Perhaps this is the real ‘piece de resistance’. Industry experts believe that this will be the differentiator that will keep Nest a step ahead in the competition of being the “Operating system of our lives.” Wait a minute. I thought “I” was the operator of my life.

So what happened to the “people part?” What happened to Neighbourhood Watch?  What happened to a good measure of security being how many people on your block know your child’s name? And what exactly happens in a dense, urban and shared environment such as a condominium or apartment building where there are so many interdependencies? Yes, some relationships exist out of necessity, but others are by choice. Just think of a concierge, doorman and/or security guard.  That’s an example of an intentional relationship within our communities that we design into our buildings.

It’s not to say however, that we haven’t looked at alternatives. We’re big believers in innovation and change for the better. There was a time when some communities we developed were involved in pilot projects with a “virtual” concierge, essentially replacing the “human” that you’d see every day when entering and exiting your building. In theory, it was great. It even saved on the bottom line. In reality? Not so perfect. There were of course, logistical challenges such as acoustic frustrations, particularly when trying to be discreet in conversations, as well as physical challenges that didn’t present themselves when you had a real “person.” A two dimensional person can’t walk a parcel to the storage room, or pick up a pen or stylus to sign something that requires authorization.  And to be honest, despite the pleasantries that can accompany pixels in a world where serotonin spikes at the sight of a re-tweet, a like or a share, it just didn’t cut it. There are some instances when technology is better suited to supplement face to face, rather than replace it. This is one of those times. We quickly learned that when it comes down to it, people prefer people. Even people who prefer privacy, prefer people to protect and safeguard it.

Skeptics need only sit in a lobby for a few hours, and witness the camaraderie and niceties that exist between residents and their first “face” of contact. They are crucial to so many successes of a community. And that’s something that I don’t think Nest will ever be able to capture.

But not everyone’s convinced that people are a critical ingredient in the mix. A good example was the recent announcement earlier this month of Bartesian, a cocktail mixing machine out of Kingston, ON that was inspired by declining attendance in bars and nightclubs. (Stats Canada reported that revenue for drinking establishments has declined by more than a third since 2001.) The Bartesian is now expected by many, to do to the bar scene – what the Keurig machine did to coffee shops. Offer an alternative to the do-it-yourself’ers who would rather stay in the privacy of their own home.


I’m not convinced. Have you noticed your local Starbucks or Tim’s have less of a line up since the invention of home-brewing? (Rhetorical, of course).

The resulting discussion I caught the tail end of on talk radio the same morning of the announcement, was that the predicted impact of this modern day gadget would have little if any impact on the bar scene in Toronto. Particularly in urban environments where homes are getting smaller – and people are getting “lonelier.”  People are craving that “third” place. Sadly, the loneliness factor we’re facing is impacting the co-living trend, according to the Urban Land Institute’s UK Conference. I repeat, people prefer people. I’d even go so far to say, the crave them.

And for that reason, we believe not only in putting in the physical infrastructure that makes an amazing place to live, but also the human infrastructure.  We believe that there’s relevance to the “being” part in “well being.”  That’s something you can’t put a price on. And as for technology and AI? I think Siri, Alexis and Google Assistant have a long way to go before they’re able to compete. They may quickly learn that it takes more than a Nest. They need a whole colony.

Feature Image Source; Nest.com




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