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Nest leaves competition in the dust with new smart camera

It's not cheap, but it is good


We were given an early demo of the new camera, including a live demo of someone in a room several miles away. We walked away distinctly impressed.

We also quizzed Nest representatives about its data privacy rules and security features and were assured that the company will never sell or share your data without a customer's explicit permission. It also advises people using its facial recognition technology to inform anyone being tracked, and points to the automatic deletion of "unfamiliar" faces as evidence of its pro-privacy stance.

All the data is encrypted and is only stored on Nest servers within your account. Google doesn't get access despite owning the company. There was, of course, a security issue with Nest cams earlier this month, when it was revealed they can be wirelessly attacked via Bluetooth to crash and stop recording footage. The company has rolled out a fix and notes that no one has been able to hack into its camera's feed.

And then there was the time the old version of its Protect smoke detector went nuts on us.

As to getting past the sales pitch and on to real-world testing: obviously you can never know how a product will really function until you test it in a real-life situation. We should have a product review ready by the time the camera is on the market at the end of June. But based on previous experience with Nest's products, it only rolls out features when they have been locked down.

A first

Last November, we were sufficiently impressed with the outdoor camera's software that we noted it was the first product finally worth the monthly fee that is the dream of every smart camera manufacturer – constant revenue on existing hardware.

If Nest's new facial recognition and sound-based alerts work as reliably as its person alerts, then the $10 a month for 10 days of recording will be worth it for increasing numbers of people (you get three hours of recordings for free).

The only downside is the price. Packing three mics, a new speaker and a high-end processor into a camera doesn't come cheap.

Nest will continue to offer its other cameras for $199, but the new NestCam IQ will be $100 more expensive at $299 (if you buy two at once, the $498 price tag will save you $100).

The new camera will come with free person alerts but if you want the facial recognition technology, you need to subscribe to the $10 a month Nest Aware service ($5 a month for each additional camera).

That price point is pretty much untested in the consumer market. While there has been a gradual acceptance of the $200 smart camera as providing significantly more than the low-end $50 or $100 security cameras, the step up to a $300 camera is likely to give many pause for thought.

For that price, you can often get deals for four cameras. So the question becomes: how much is intelligence worth? Would you rather have four high-quality but largely dumb cameras covering your whole house or one that recognizes people and sends you smart alerts?

Nest is about to find out. In the meantime, it is good to see the company get back to introducing innovative hardware after several years of concerns that it had lost its mojo and maybe lost track of itself.

But as far as we are aware, there is no company that can touch it right now in either the smoke detector or smart camera markets, and the NestCam IQ is likely to lengthen that lead. ®

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