Google announced the end of “Works With Nest” at Google I/O 2019. Many companies, from IFTTT to Philips Hue, use Works With Nest to automate your smarthome. Those automations will break soon.
The “Works With Nest” program is an API third-party companies used to integrate your Nest devices with your smarthome. That shutdown doesn’t happen until August 31, 2019, but after that date, any company or service that uses the program to access data and work with your Nest devices will be cut off. What does that mean for you? It depends on both the companies’ willingness to move to Google’s new program and your willingness to make use of new integrations.
“Works With Nest” Automated Nest Devices
If you own a Nest thermostat or camera, you might have set up Works with Nest integrations without realizing it. The program allowed third-party devices to talk to your Nest devices so they could work together. The list of supported devices is extensive and covers everything from Control4 smarthomes to Lifx and Philips Hue Lightbulbs, to August Locks, Lutron, and more.
The idea is straight forward. For example, if your smarthome-enabled garage door opened, it could reach out to your thermostat and inform it you arrived home. It could tell Nest to adjust the thermostat or start recording with your Nest Camera.
The Program Gave Your Data to Outside Companies
Google sees a fundamental issue with this form of integration. Under the current API, adjusting your thermostat gave full access of your Nest data to your smart garage opener and the company who makes it. That makes some sense. Before telling your thermostat to turn your heat up or down, the other company needs to know how it’s currently set. Once that data leaves Google’s servers, Google can’t make any guarantees that it will be adequately secured or used appropriately.
You can see this in action with a custom made app we made for a home-built smart mirror. The app displays the current and set temperatures along with humidity data. It isn’t showing on a Nest or Google device, so we’re extracting the data from Google’s servers (and technically making the data available on a local server).
From a privacy standpoint, that may be fine as we own the data. But, if an individual can pull all this information using the Works with Nest program, so can a company. Technically speaking, this one-off app could be published, and anyone could use it by signing in with a Nest Account, thus handing over the data of anyone who used the app to a single developer.
Sure, it’s each user’s decision—but does everyone really understand the decision they’re making and how much data they’re handing over?
Works With Nest is Going Away, But All Is Not Lost
If your smart devices or services talk to your Nest products through Works with Nest, they’ll lose that capability after August 31st. Any integration you set up, such as a door lock telling your Nest camera to record, will stop working.
Google is offering a replacement service called “Works with Google Assistant.” The replacement service isn’t Works for Nest renamed; it will require effort for companies to switch over. The experience will be different, both for the companies that implement it and you.
While Works with Nest handed data and control of Nest products to third-party companies, Works with Google Assistant does not. Instead, Google handles everything from data to control. Your data stays with your Google account. On the one hand, that provides more privacy and security for your data. On the other hand, it does offload some work to you.
Your locks, garage door openers, and lights won’t be able to decide what the temperature of your house should be. And they’ll lack the access to make any changes. Instead, you’ll be required to set up routines in Google Assistant to accomplish those tasks. You choose to have the thermostat adjusted and by how much, or the camera started because someone turned on a light or opened a door.
That’s how it will work if the companies can or will make the switch from Works With Nest to Works With Assistant. IFTTT is silent on the matter. On Twitter, Philips is referring users to Nest’s site for more information, but that doesn’t say anything of the light bulb company’s plans going forward. You can find Philips listed in the Works with Google program, but Philips may have more work to do to take full advantage of the service.
On the other hand, Control4 and Lutron both sent us press releases pledging to make the jump to Works with Google Assistant.
What You’ll Need to Do
In its FAQ, Google explains that to take advantage of the new service, you’ll need to convert your Nest account to a Google account when it sends out invites later this year. If you have both accounts already, you can merge them. But you may not want to do that immediately. The moment you make the switch, your Works with Nest integrations stop working. If the other products in your house aren’t updated yet, you’ll have to wait for added functionality. In its press statement, Control4 advises its users not to make the switch right away:
Control4 is currently working on a new Nest driver through the “Works with Google Assistant” program with the intention to make it available before the shutdown of the “Works with Nest,” however this is dependent on receiving Google certification. Control4 is advising users to wait to make any changes to their “Works with Nest” or Google accounts until after the new driver has been installed.
You should check what integrations you are using, and what those companies are saying before merging your accounts. After you do migrate, you’ll need to set up routines to control your devices. The process to migrate your account isn’t clear at any rate, Google says it will start emailing Nest users over “the next few months” so you have room to wait.
If you never integrated your Nest with other smarthome products, this doesn’t affect you at all. If you have set it up, your data will be in the hands of fewer companies going forward. That’s good for your privacy, even if sole control of your data is also desirable for Google.
While this is inconvenient in the short run, it will make your smarthome more secure in the long run.