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The Nest No Longer Works with Control4 Home Automation Systems [Updated: Nest Kinda Responds]

Sections: Green Home Tech, HVAC, Smart Home

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As you can probably tell from how much we talk about it here at HomeTechTell, I’m kind of in love with The Nest Learning Thermostat. The idea of it, at least. I have to admit, I don’t have one, and recent developments have me waffling on whether or not to pull the trigger on the one sitting in my Amazon Shopping Cart.

A few months back, a company called HouseLogix developed a driver that allowed Control4 home automation systems to communicate with and control The Nest. Groovy, huh?

Not so groovy from the Nest point of view, apparently. Representatives from the company quickly sent HouseLogix a cease and desist letter. Then, this month, Nest introduced a firmware “upgrade” disabling the driver that many Control4 customers had already paid for, leaving them in the… umm… heat. Not cool.

There’s an interesting back and forth in the comments section Amazon about the situation that has since been memory holed, in which a representative from Nest named K. Brinks said, “I work at Nest and would like to offer some insight on this topic. Our first priority is to make sure your Nest works the way it’s supposed to. We simply can’t vouch for the unintended consequences that using third-party software could have on our services or your Nest.” Why that comment was deleted by the author isn’t quite clear.

HouseLogix’s page does give a glimmer of hope for a resolution: “We discussed the possibility of adding control system integration in the future and they are looking at a longer term solution.”

But that’s probably little solace to those Control4 customers who came home one day to find their systems rendered inoperative with no notice.

Does this kill my desire for a Nest for good? No, I’ll probably still end up getting one. But I have to admit, as a result my cursor keeps hovering over the “Proceed to checkout” button and hesitantly moving away.

Either way, I’ve reached out to the folks at Nest for a comment, and will update if they reply. Stay tuned…

[Update, 7/20/12] A representative from Nest has responded to my request for comment on this matter with, unfortunately, the exact same statement that appeared on Amazon, disappeared, and has since been reposted by the manufacturer in the comments section: “Our first priority is to make sure Nest works the way it’s supposed to. We simply can’t vouch for the unintended consequences that using third-party software could have on our services or your Nest.”

I followed up with additional questions about Nest’s general attitude toward advanced home automation, and the company’s openness to working with home automation companies to develop official drivers for its Learning Thermostat in the future, but haven’t gotten a response after a day’s wait, so I’m going to call this one closed for now unless representatives from Nest (or Control4) want to comment further on the matter.

In the meantime, I’ve completely canceled my pending order for a Nest of my own. The lack of current support for advanced home automation systems, I can forgive. The caution when dealing with third parties is understandable. The apparent overarching antagonism toward home automation integration has scared me off, though.

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  • Thomas Shafer (@thomasrshafer)

    I would bet money that Nest will be around long after Control4 has gone belly-up…

    • Cinematech

      What about RTI, Crestron, AMX, URC, etc…? Do you think Nest will be around longer than the entire home automation industry? Even if they do outlive Control4, how does that impact that what they did was unnecessary? How does using a “universal remote” to control the thermostat pose a threat of “unintended consequences”? Imagine if your TV manufacturer disabled the ability of the cable box remote to change the volume or turn the on/off. That wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense.

      • Dennis Burger

        ^

      • Thomas Shafer (@thomasrshafer)

        I would dare say yes…Nest at least has the potential to be around longer than the companies you mentioned, because they are adjusting to the coming change.
        What is the change? In the same way that the masses have abandoned CDs for the convenience of an iPod, consumers are going to willingly adapt to using the ‘App’ that comes with their systems at home. HVAC vendors, security companies, lighting manufacturers are already making their systems LAN ready and thus controllable from their own proprietary iOS app. Makes the control options available from any ‘automation company’ seem like an unnecessary third wheel.

    • http://www.control.bg milen

      I would bet money that Control4 will be around long after Nest has gone belly-up…

  • Dennis Burger

    Thomas, I disagree with you there. By that same logic, universal remote controls could be called a “third wheel.” Why not just use all of the remotes that came with your TV, surround sound processor, Blu-ray player, satellite box, media streamer, etc.? Surely you don’t have a coffee table full of remotes still?

    One of the advantages of a robust home automation system is interoperability between systems: Communication between your alarm system and lighting control system, for example, unlocks all sorts of lifestyle enhancing functionality. Ditto between lights and entertainment, lights and appliances, shades and HVAC, entertainment and HVAC… the list goes on and on.

    This technological proprietarianism you’re advocating is the exact opposite of progress. I’m not saying home automation is for everyone. I’m not saying it’s affordable for everyone. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with your not having such a system. But why are you taking people to task for wanting to use one app on their smart phone or tablet instead of a multitude of disconnected apps? Why intentionally lock them out of advanced functionality and less clutter? The HouseLogix driver didn’t take over the Nest. It didn’t tamper with its operating system. It didn’t install different software on the thermostat. It didn’t disable Nest’s own control app. It merely sent the same sort of control commands over the network that Nest already allows with its own software.

    I could give you a list of thermostats a mile long that offer advanced functionality similar to the Nest, and come with their own smartphone/tablet apps, yet play perfectly well with Control4, Crestron, AMX, etc. systems. That’s the future. That’s the way things are heading. Home automation system are adapting to the new control paradigm much more quickly than you’re giving them credit for.

    For all its gorgeous design, for all its advanced features, for all the functionality that the Nest offers that other thermostats in its price range don’t, the company’s attitude toward home automation is backward, not forward-thinking.

  • Cinematech

    I agree Dennis, and I was in the middle of typing a very similar reply. I view a multitude of disconnected apps as the digital equivalent of a coffee table covered in remotes. Who would want to bounce between apps to change things like volume, channel, temp, lights, then back to the app that does volume when a commercial comes on. Given the option (and financial ability) most consumers that I have met want a simple interface that seamlessly performs all of the above tasks. Dedicated apps are great in usage scenarios where the entire “system” is the thermostat or maybe a light or two but not complex systems with multiple components.
    Even so, the forecasted failure of the entire automation and control industry and Nest blocking the use of third party control systems, are mutually exclusive events.

  • Thomas Shafer (@thomasrshafer)

    Dennis & Cinematech, both very well informed opinions. I respect your thoughts.
    And you touched on the pivotal point of this whole discussion…cost. As an automation dealer, I’ve observed that my market is unwilling to spend money on automation of any type. Most think a $500 URC is absurd, so a $5-10K automation system is usually out of the question.
    So, if you are in markets where home owners have no concern about cost, then sell them all the automation you can muster up!

  • Dennis Burger

    Excellent point, Thomas. Home automation hasn’t reached the point of mass appeal yet. And if someone from Nest argued, “We don’t see the value in spending time and money to help develop official drivers,” that would be one thing. I think you could back that argument up. I wouldn’t agree with it, but I think you could back it up.

    But for them to pour time and money into making sure that their thermostat is intentionally incompatible with Control4? That seems backwards to me. Very backwards.

  • http://www.privatetheaters.com Troy Janda

    Thomas,
    to say that your market does not support the cost of an automation system is ludicrous…instead what your statement really says is the following: you personally don’t see the need for home automation and, because of this, you find no value in selling or promoting it to potential clients….this is why your clients are not buying home automation or more advanced control solutions….in other words, you are letting your own personal likes, dislikes, priorities, and budget affect your sales qualification process…for which, I’m just guessing as an integrator of many years, you have litttle to no training in competent sales qualification….the reason I can say that is because I have been there, done that early in my career…fortunately, I worked for a large specialty retailer with phenomal sales training and learned how to properly qualify and sell to customers of all income levels….in the end, you are limiting the potential for you to sell your customers what they want…..from one very experienced integrator to another, I implore you to go to CEDIA and take some sales qualification training….it will greatly improve your bottom line and make you more money…..your goal as an integrator should be to present potential clients with a solution that meets their wants and needs not yours….I can assure you home automation is viable in your market….I am in a small population market and do primarily project-based work….not a single one of my systems is sold without a simplified control solution…for me, I sell Control4 into 100% of the systems we integrate…you can too and should be….you are shortchanging your customer and your own income potential by not doing so

  • cw

    You love or hate home automation. I love it. Nest will someday play…Or they are working closely with Apple on there own home automation setup.

  • Joe Ellett

    Hmm, the Nest folks did come from Apple… Walled garden should be expected.
    I expect openness in my hardware.

    No Nest for me.

    Check out the Amond+ on Kickstarter for an example of someone taking home automation in the right direction.

    Almond+ ( and other compatible systems) for me.

  • Adam Hill

    This is so short sighted that it is plain laughable. There can be no justification for at least making the basics available via some sort of API… whether or not people actually use it, the development effort involved, given what they already have, is pretty much zero, whereas the possibilities opened up by doing so are huge. I HOPE that they change their attitude, or else something better comes along – because I’ll certainly not be buying one unless or until they do.

  • Rabih brahim

    Stupid step from nest