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Nest Protect Takes a $130 Shot at the Smoke Detector

By Wesley Fenlon

Nest's new home appliance is smart, just like its thermostat. And when it gets a whiff of smoke, it talks to you.

$130 is how much it will cost to protect you from the dangers of pan frying a steak. $130 is the price of Nest's new smoke detector, the Nest Protect. Like the Nest Thermostat, the Protect aims to reinvent a longstanding home appliance with something smarter and more efficient. For the Thermostat, that means learning your habits and adjusting temperatures automatically. For the Protect, that means, first and foremost, talking to you.

When the Nest Protect catches a hint of smoke, it won't immediately set off its klaxon. A calm female voice will instead say: "I detect smoke in the kitchen." Your steak is really sizzling.

Photo credit: Nest

Wired has a big feature on the reveal of the Nest Protect, which seems like a natural choice for the company to develop next. Smoke alarms are obnoxious and mandated, which gives Nest room for improvement and a guaranteed market. And the Protect will still blare out a warning siren if it detects a government-mandated level of smoke, but under that level, it behaves a bit more rationally.

Nest's smoke detector has sensors to differentiate between smoke and steam. It also has a built-in carbon monoxide detector, something that can also save lives (and is mandatory in some states). A sensor suite provides detection for smoke, steam, temperature, movement, and ambient light. When the lights go off, a ring around the Protect briefly glows green. When it detects movement, it glows white for illumination. A yellow glow means the Protect needs new batteries.

The device looks more rectangular than your average smoke detector, with a speaker grill-like faceplate styled after a sunflower. Nest wants people to love their Protect, but making the product work, and work well, fills a grander purpose: Keeping people from disconnecting their smoke alarms. We hate our smoke alarms so much, sometimes we'd rather unplug them than risk a false alarm. And when real fires happen, there's no warning.

Photo credit: Nest

Like the Nest Thermostat, the Protect can wirelessly communicate with other devices, so the carbon monoxide detector could tell your furnace to shut off, or the detector in the kitchen could warn you that it detects smoke in the bedroom. And like the Thermostat, the Protect will endlessly collect data, using algorithms to learn your routines and grow smarter. And it better be one smart smoke detector indeed, when it costs about $100 more than the small white devices in most American homes.