By Peter Griffin 13/12/2017

This is a Sciblogs series running through until Christmas Eve highlighting some of the gadgets we’ve been using this year… gadget no. 2

A couple of weeks ago, an alert popped up on my phone informing me that there was an unfamiliar face in my living room.

Nest Cam IQ

‘Good grief!” I thought. A burglar is probably unplugging my Xbox console, ready to make off with it and my prized Twilight Zone DVD box set.

I opened the Nest app on my phone to see what carnage was unfolding in my living room nine thousand kilometres away (I was in Tokyo at the time). The person captured by the Nest Cam IQ sitting on my TV cabinet turned out to be my partner – reclining on the couch folding washing while she watched the type of trash TV that would never grace the screen had I been there.

I simply hadn’t plugged her image into the Nest app as a recognised face. Relieved, I pressed the speaker button on the Nest app and in a commanding voice, like that emanating from the telescreen in Nineteen Eighty Four, demanded “stop watching that crap!”.

Such is the fun you can have with the Nest Cam IQ, an incredibly easy to set up security camera that uses your home wi-fi connection to let you monitor your home from afar and speak to people caught on camera.

There are a lot of home security cameras on sale that offer the same type of functionality, but the whole market has been in need of the simplification and “appifying” that Nest has delivered in the Cam IQ.

Easy set-up

To set up, I plugged the camera into the power socket, connected it to the wi-fi network using the Nest app on my phone and registered my own face as a recognised person. You can register other people at any time, including by approving people the Nest Cam has flagged as unrecognised.

The camera quality is very good (it has a 4K imaging sensor and high dynamic range) and while the camera doesn’t rotate to give you a 360 degree view, it will expand 15 degrees in either direction and let you zoom in for a closer view. It also has a night vision mode which offers pretty good visibility. When you log in via the app to see what the camera is showing, it will automatically zoom in and track a person captured by the camera which is smart and useful.

A window into my (rather messy) world.

The microphones in the Nest do a good job of picking up voices and other sounds in the room. I’ve had several conversations with my partner via the Nest Cam IQ which have worked well despite a slight lag in transfer. It isn’t primarily a communication device, but a monitoring gadget after all.

Nest is all about the internet of things (IoT) so it allows numerous Nest devices to be managed via the one app. You can add additional cameras, such as the cheaper Nest Cam Indoor ($359) or the waterproofed Nest Cam Outdoor ($359) to give you multi-room viewing. You can even add and control the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm ($219) an intelligent safety device that will alert you via the app if your smoke alarm is triggered.

The Nest IQ Cam will record the last three hours of activity captured by the camera, which is then viewable in the Nest app. But it doesn’t record and store video continuously unless you subscribe to Nest Aware, the video storage service that gives you 10 days of video playback ($16) or 30 days ($34).

Nest Aware adds some more intelligent features, such as the ability to tell the difference between a person and a dog, so you won’t get constant alerts about your pets’ movements while you are away. It can also apparently recognise sounds and voices.

However, Nest has on occasion flagged unspecified movement with me via app alerts – probably a seagull passing my living room window.

Who is it for?

The Nest Cam IQ is ideal for anyone who wants to keep an eye on their property while they are away and wants the convenience of being able to do so via an app.

The ability to easily add multiple devices in one or more locations will appeal to those who want to keep an eye on the bach or office as well as the primary home. I’m no security nut, but it is also quite nice now and then, on a slow day at work to peer into my living room and imagine myself sitting on the couch watching Twilight Zone re-runs.

See below for a Q&A I did with Nest’s London-based head of product marketing, Lionel Guicherd-Callin.

How developed is the market in New Zealand for internet-connected safety and security devices?

New Zealand has been traditionally very forward moving in their uptake of technology, including connected devices, and has strong internet penetration and speeds compared to the rest of the world.

Funnily enough, although we’ve only just launched in New Zealand, there are already Nest devices in Kiwi homes because people love our products so much they bring them back from overseas. With this launch, we are providing easier access to our products and making services like Nest Aware, our cloud recording service, available.

That said, we believe the majority of people will buy our products because they are ‘internet connected’ but because they are the best smoke alarm or security camera on the market that deliver a range of thoughtful features.

Nest became famous for its smart thermostat? Why is that product not coming to the New Zealand market at this stage?

Whilst we know there are already Nest Thermostats both installed and loved in New Zealand – we want to ensure we deliver the best possible experience to our customers and that involves significant compatibility and feature testing which we have yet to complete.

It really comes down to what kind of heating and cooling systems are most common in a market. The bulk of our Ducted air systems are multi-zone, or split systems controlled by a remote. These are the most common in New Zealand, and in these cases – Nest Thermostat won’t work.

We hope to bring the Nest Learning Thermostat, and our other products, to New Zealand homes in the future and will keep you updated on how this progresses.

What are the lifespan of these products? Can consumers expect to still be using them in five years, 10 years?

Absolutely you can. Nest products are top of the range products built to last. We launched our first Nest Thermostat in 2011 and still provide software updates to it.

Nest Protect will speak to you and send a notification in the Nest app when it needs to be replaced. Nest Protects have to be replaced after 10 years — as this is the lifespan of the sensors – and our cameras continuously receive updates.

How easy are these products to install? Is it anticipated that consumers will be able to install them all themselves?<

Nest’s point of difference is the simplicity of which they can be installed and used. Nest Cam Indoor installation is as simple as opening the box, plugging it into a power outlet, downloading the Nest app and syncing the devices.

Nest Cam Outdoor provides several flexible options in terms of installation. You can screw the camera’s mounting plate into a wooden or brick surface and attach the camera to it, or you can use the mounting magnet to attach the camera to a magnetic surface such as pipe or steel beam, or your Colorbond gutter, wall or fence. We would always recommend getting permission from your landlord when making holes in walls for example.

Nest Protects can also be DIY installed. For those who are a little unsure we recommend getting a sparky to assist.

What sort of internet access is required?

With the camera at 1080p, customers will use roughly 450 kilobits per second (Kb/s) on average, with peak of 1.2 Megabits per second (Mb/s) of data. To be mindful of customers’ Internet bandwidth, Nest Cam is set to 720p by default. Customers can easily change to 1080p within the Nest App, under Settings.

We generally recommend users have a minimum of 2Mb/s internet upload speed. With Kiwi’s average speed running at 12.9 Megabits per second, most New New Zealand households will have more than enough bandwidth to accommodate Nest products in their homes.