Trust is Nest’s new angle as Hackers attack smart homes

The question of Nest selling your personal data wasn’t a top concern with consumers until it sold its entire company to Google, an organization that arguably could have access to more web-connected data points than any other in the world.  Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of the smart thermostat maker signaled its intention in the smart home market, setting off a flurry of questions as to the long term implications of Google’s home automation plans.

The security concerns has promoted a response from Nest CEO Tony Fadell, who vows his recently acquired company will take users’ privacy into consideration.  There are no plans to immediately update Nest’s privacy policy, but future changes could enable opt-in choices for users.  Fadell also promises to keep Nest’s policies transparent, hoping to alleviate users’ concerns, sharing his plans at the DLD Conference in Munich this week.

“At this point, there are no changes,” Fadell explained. “The data that we collect is all about our products and improving them…If there were ever any changes whatsoever, we would be sure to be transparent about it, number one, and number two for you to opt-in to it.”

Connected data, connected home


Nest currently collects certain data on its smart thermostat and smoke detectors for the purpose of improving its products, the same reasoning other connected gadgets and home automation solutions employ. The matter of to whom this data belongs is still up in the air, and Google’s impeding presence in privately owned homes only brings this matter to the forefront.

Unlike the established PC industry, or even the burgeoning smartphone market, connected gadgets often have lower security restrictions and remain largely unregulated and lacking such standards. Hackers are catching on, finding smart appliances an attractive front to attack.  According to a recent report from Proofpoint, a massive botnet attack surged between December 23 and January 6, 2014, tapping in through homes’ router networks.

Despite the security risks, homewoners are taking to smart solutions citing convenience as a priority. According to a recent report from Sunrun, 55 percent of U.S. consumers are decreasingly bothered by these concerns, as they continue to use  devices to connect and track their personal lives.

Determining which brands to trust will become an increasingly important deciding factor for consumers, as security features become points of differentiation.  In the meantime, here’s three Nest alternatives to consider, if you fear Google may get its hands on your data one day.


Three Nest alternatives


image courtesy of ecobee

The ecobee Smart Thermostat comes with its own web portal and mobile app, so owners can easily monitor and control their home appliances even when out of the country. The web portal features Home IQ and DataRhythm technology which allows users to see their energy consumption and become more efficient and cost-effective. Appliance performance is also monitored and alerts are activated if anything needs servicing. The DataRhythm technology learns user preferences over time to eventually automate cooling and heating decisions.

The ecobee device also features weather updates so owners know whether they need an umbrella, a coat, snow boots, or whatever the weather calls for before they even step outside. The ecobee Smart Thermostat may look bland to some, but the company’s GelaSkins can spice things up. These covers not only protect the ecobee Smart Thermostat, they also make it more aesthetically pleasing. The ecobee Smart Thermostat costs $469 and will likely required professional installation.

3M Filtrete WiFi Remote Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat

The 3M Filtrete WiFi Remote Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat comes with a WiFi module which allows it to be controlled using Internet-connected devices such as smartphones, tablets or computers. It also has a filter indicator which reminds users to change the filter – one of the most commonly forgotten tasks.

Available on Amazon for only $129.99.

CyberStat CY1101 – Wireless Internet Connected Programmable Thermostat

The CyberStat CY1101 – Wireless Internet Connected Programmable Thermostat costs only $79.99 on Amazon, making it appealing despite its simplistic design. Temperature can be adjusted remotely using a smartphone or any other Internet connected device, making it possible to turn the AC or heat on or off without being home.

The biggest downside to the CyberStat is that initial setup requires an iPad, iPhone, iPod-touch, Macbook or a Linux laptop. However, once set up, any platform including Android and Windows-based devices can be used to control it.

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