At Home with Tech

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Tag: Nest

Why You Should Bring Home a Nest Cam

Setting up your ‘android eye’ in the house when you’re not around certainly has its advantages. But getting your own personal HAL hooked into your smart-home’s ecosystem can sometimes be a challenge. Unless we’re talking about tech from the Nest family…

Setting up your ‘android eye’ in the house when you’re not around certainly has its advantages. But getting your own personal HAL hooked into your smart-home’s ecosystem can sometimes be a challenge. Unless we’re talking about tech from the Nest family…

My Foscam wireless IP babycam pooped out the other day. I think it was actually the power supply that blew. The Foscam had been working great for almost four years, and (disclaimer) I think the culprit was an AC surge caused by an electrician trying to replace a ceiling fan in my son’s bedroom.

Okay, he wasn’t officially an electrician…

Cutting Corners
This guy was a general handyman who was doing few other jobs around the house, and said he could handle the fan.

By the time it was clear he couldn’t, we no longer had power in half of the electrical outlets in the upstairs section of our house.
(And no, it wasn’t a popped circuit breaker.)

A few days later, an actual electrician came by to clean up my mess.
(I should thank him for not smirking even once after I told him my embarrassing story.)

Some of the old wiring in my house had been ‘fried’ due to ‘the incident,’ and he ended up having to replace all of the ruined wiring and then the electrical box in the ceiling to bring it all up to code.
(So yes, this homeowner’s original staffing ‘shortcut’ ultimately created quite the expensive repair.)

Lesson learned.
This cautionary tale has made me a true believer in the idea of not cutting corners to save a few bucks when it comes to home maintenance.
(That said, the original handyman was really nice and super apologetic.)

So there was however, one remaining problem….
Our babycam wouldn’t boot up.
Heck, it wouldn’t even blink at me.
It was now just a hockey puck.
(Coincidence? I think not.)

Time to Upgrade
I no longer had a working babycam, which when you think about wasn’t such a problem… My baby boy is now six years old.

Its only use over the past couple of years had allowed my wife and me to check in on him as he slept while we were out on one of our ‘date nights.’

Beyond that, I had used it more as a security cam when my family and I were on vacation to make sure everything appeared normal while we were away.
(Although a view into my son’s room isn’t exactly the best location for a general security cam)

I had actually been thinking of moving it downstairs to improve its view before the power surge…

And now the tech gods, after their big chuckle had given me the opportunity to start all over again.

Hello, Nest Cam
Should I get another Foscam?


As much as I had enjoyed it over the years,
my Foscam was actually kind of complicated to set up.

Sure, maybe the newer models would be easier to work with. But I was already leaning in a different direction…

Wouldn’t it be great to simply add onto my growing smart home-by-Nest ecosystem?

That’s right… I’m talking about the cute, 4 ½” tall Nest Cam security camera.

I already owned the Nest Learning Thermostat.
Installation was a cinch.
It’s been great for past three years, although
it did glitch out on me one time eighteen months ago.

Then came my Nest Protect in early 2015 to handle smoke and carbon monoxide detection.
(So far, so good.)

So why not add this little Nest security camera to my Nest family?
It seemed like the logical next step.

Plus, Nest happened to be running a Father’s Day promotion deal for its $199 Nest Cam.
(Nest’s marketing folks were kind enough to let me know via a well-timed email.)

(Amazon still has it at the slight discount of $193.)

Welcome Home
Installation was incredibly easy using the Nest app I already had on my iPhone:

  • In Settings, tap ‘Add product’
  • Scan the QR code (The app is already set up to do this.)
  • Name the location where your camera will live
  • Plug in the camera
  • Then connect it to your Wi-Fi network as you would with any device

Full directions are posted online at Nest Support.
But that’s pretty much it.

The camera took about 30 seconds to activate and boom!
There it was… fully functioning. I could both see and hear into my living room.

Plus it was both visible and controllable on my Nest app right next to its two Nest cousins.

The whole install took less than five minutes.

How great is that?

Setting Up Your Nest Cam

Once you’ve got your Nest Cam up and running, you’ve got a few more choices to think about…

One consideration when deciding where to position your new Nest Cam is there’s no pan/tilt functionality like my old Foscam. For me, that’s not really a problem, because the Nest Cam offers a much wider field of view.

Also, you don’t have to worry about limited night vision. The whole room lights up via infrared when it gets dark.

-Motion Alerts
If your Nest Cam senses motion or sound, it can send you a push notification on your smartphone via the Nest app or an email alert… or both.

So if something happens that’s of interest to the camera, you literally know within seconds.
(As long as you’ve got your smartphone with you!)

-Do You Need Nest Aware?
This is Nest’s cloud-based video recording subscription that captures either the last ten or thirty days of your Nest Cam’s recordings.

You can review a moment that just happened or go back days in time with this little time machine trick.

Nest’s ten-day video history subscription costs $100/year or $10/month.
The thirty-day video history subscription goes for $300/year or $30/month.
(Ten days would be plenty for me.)

A really cool feature is you’re able to select a specific video section, save it, and then download it to your computer.
(You can also share it.)

While I initially thought I wouldn’t want/need Nest Aware, after spending a couple of weeks with the free month-long trial subscription, I was a believer.


I think the extra hundred bucks a year is a real value add. Plus, you’ve got to remember that most (hopefully all) of the moments you’re going to capture will be happy ones that are family or pet-based. Some of them will likely be worth saving.
(I’ve already downloaded a spontaneous family pillow fight.)

So your Nest Cam security camera will likely serve you more often as a family documentary device. Just don’t go overboard.
(I don’t think you want to start producing your very own, life-long TV series like in “The Truman Show.”)

-Video Quality
You can go with either 1080 or 720 HD video. While whopping 1080 HD sounds great, you don’t want to unnecessarily suck away too much bandwidth if you’re using Nest Aware and constantly uploading your video history to Nest’s cloud.
(Apparently 720p is the most commonly used format by subscribers.
It requires about 200 Kbps to upload, averaging about 60 GB of data per month.)

-Home/Away Assist
This is a feature that can identify when you’re around the house or not through your smartphone’s location tracker.
(So many other apps you’re using already know where you are. Is it really that big a leap to let Nest know too?)

Then, you can set up your Nest Cam to automatically stop recording when you and your smartphone come home.
(Unless you’ve got your own Truman Show going on.)

-Family Account
Of course, the Home/Away feature isn’t going to fully work like I’ve described above if you’ve got several family members coming and going all day long. The good news is you can also set up their smartphones on the Nest app using the ‘Family Account’ feature.
(You just have to invite them through your Nest app.)

So now, not only will your Nest Cam be able to know when everyone has headed out for the day, but they’ll also be able to have the same access to all of your cool Nest products as you do.
(Don’t worry… You still remain the ‘owner’ of the account and retain certain ‘admin’ powers.)

-Better Together
Another benefit to Home/Away Assist is it helps your other Nest gear know what’s going on.

The Nest folks really brag about how Nest Cam, Nest Learning Thermostat, and Nest Protect all work better together.

For me, the obvious upgrade is when my Nest Cam nudges my Nest Learning Thermostat to get with it and better recognize when I’ve left for the day.
(And that will save you a bit on home heating and air conditioning dollars.)

Smarter Home
So there you have it!
My Nest Cam security camera has joined the family.

Is it a total solution for home security?
Of course not.
That’s not why I got one.

But does it significantly add to my ability to remotely monitor and control the health of my home?


Okay…Here comes the visual-
Light bulb pops on above my head.
And cue the sound effect-

My house is now smarter.
(My cognitive status remains open for discussion.)

Sure, I needed a little zapping to get me there, but the silver lining was worth it.

Nest Cam… welcome home!

Is Nest Protect Worth It?

Stop being angry with your smoke and CO detector and consider getting a Nest Protect. But it’s a costly upgrade…

Stop being angry with your smoke and CO detector and consider getting a Nest Protect. But it’s a costly upgrade…

I came home from work on Thursday to learn there was a sudden breakdown in my house’s smoke alarm and carbon monoxide-sensing infrastructure. Apparently, the 9-volt battery powering the CO detector in my son’s room decided to suddenly quit, causing the tiny unit to emit a piercing ‘chirp.’

In an attempt to stop the deafening repetition, the smoke detector on the ceiling outside my son’s room was incorrectly identified as the culprit.

And let me simply say… in all the confusion, ‘someone’ broke the smoke detector away from its plastic circular mount.
(Names have been removed to protect the ‘innocent.’)

Broken Smoke Detector Tab







When it became clear that the wounded disc wasn’t the correct target, the CO detector’s horn was properly identified as the disruptor.
(Its dying battery securely jammed inside)

What’s a family to do when good home tech goes bad, threatening your child’s night-time rituals on the way to bed?

The next morning, as soon as my four-year-old son woke up, he ran downstairs to tell me what had happened.
“Mama put it somewhere where we would never hear it.”

It was banished to the garage.

Time to Make Some Lemonade
Of course, my wife had already relayed the ‘incident’ to me the night before.

And how did I feel about all of this?
(I’m not particularly known for my flexible attitude on home-tech malfunctions.)

I should have been sad.
The essential order of my little kingdom compromised by a bad battery.
But I wasn’t.

I was thrilled.

I had been waiting for this particular moment for life to throw a few lemons at me.  Looking for a reason to replace this smoke detector that had actually been taunting me for years.
(Whenever I’d cook a steak in the kitchen below, the slightest whiff would set it off.)

But a typical battery-driven smoke detector rarely stops working. Sometimes, it just annoys you… till you find a reason to throw it away.
(Usually because one of the delicate plastic latches breaks away when you’re pulling it down)

Now I had my excuse.
An excuse to buy a Nest Protect.

Thank you, family!

Hello, Nest Protect!
Nest Protect is a relatively expensive smoke and CO detector and alarm created by the makers of the Nest Learning Thermostat.
(now owned by Google)

But this $119 smart device is exceptionally cool!

  • You can purchase either a long-life, battery-powered unit or the wired 120V version, which also uses batteries for back up.
  • The six included L91 batteries are supposed to power the device for ‘years.’
  • It’s Wi-Fi enabled.
  • That means it can communicate with the Nest Thermostat in your home.
    If there’s a CO problem, the Nest Thermostat will automatically turn off your furnace.
    And Nest Protect senses your presence, which improves the Auto-Away feature of the Nest Thermostat. Sometimes mine forgets I’m home when I’m typing away in my office.
    (The wired Nest Protect is a better for this, because it gives the thermostat immediate feedback.)
  • Nest Protect talks to you in lieu of those vague chirps and explains if there’s smoke or carbon monoxide present and which room the problem exists in.
    (If you own multiple units)
  • It also uses circular color cues on its face to communicate.
    (green, white, orange and red)
  • It momentarily glows green when you turn your lights out at night, indicating all is well.
    (How civilized)
  • It can evaluate the ‘situation’ and give you a friendly ‘heads up’ notification or a full-on ‘Emergency!’
    (complete with loud horn)
  • Nest Protect lights your way at night by glowing white as you walk by it.
    (This feature can also be turned off if you like.)
  • You can keep track of it from anywhere with the Nest Mobile app, and it will send your smartphone a message if there’s a problem.

Welcome Home
Did I mention that $99 is rather expensive, regardless how cutting-edge Nest Protect is?

By comparison, Kidde makes a $33 device that senses both smoke and CO.
But Nest Protect does buy you a whole new level of connection.
(Plus, I had a Best Buy gift card I needed to use…)

A year and a half ago, you may recall I purchased my Nest Learning Thermostat.
Overall, I’ve been satisfied.
(That said, there have been a couple of glitches recently, but I’m sticking with my Nest. In fact, I’m doubling down…)

It was time to add onto my Nest ecosystem…
I hurried over to Best Buy and eagerly brought my new Nest Protect home.

My Installed Nest Protect









Installing it was a snap!
A few pointers:

  • You can only set up your Nest Protect with an iPhone, iPad or Android device.
  • You’ll first need to download the free Nest Mobile app.
  • You’ll be scanning the QR code on the back of the Nest with your phone.
  • And then temporarily connecting the two together via Wi-Fi.
    (Yes, the Nest emits its own tiny Wi-Fi bubble for this particular occasion.)
  • Finally, you’ll be connecting the Nest Connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network.

Setting Up Nest Protect







I was done with the activation process in five minutes. The installation on my upstairs ceiling simply involved unscrewing my old smoke detector’s mounting plate and screwing in the Nest’s mount.

As nifty as the Nest Protect is, its plastic mount works on the same principal as any smoke detector. It has plastic tabs to grip the unit. If you twist the Nest Protect on with too much force, you can break the tabs off. Just be careful…

Nothing Lasts Forever
One other cautionary note:
In the small print at the end of the manual, which you don’t need to read, you’ll discover that Nest Protect only lasts for seven years.
(I don’t think any smoke/CO detector is designed to work forever.)

Much like a “Blade Runner” replicant, this particular tech will self terminate.
(It’s supposed to give you two-week’s notice.)

I’m sure I’ll prefer a little more warning…
Maybe, I’ll set myself a calendar reminder for 2022.

Impulse Purchase?
So to summarize:
A 9-volt battery goes south. And the next day, I buy a Nest Protect.
I know… it doesn’t make complete sense.
But I was looking for an excuse to try out a Nest Protect, and I found it.

That said, I’ve got several other old-school smoke detectors around the house, and now, I’ll need to consider whether I should continue with my Nest Protect upgrade program.

It is all worth it?

I’d like to think my home is a bit safer.
It sure feels a little more fun to live in…

And isn’t that what living at home with tech should be all about?


Can You Afford to Give Your Smart Thermostat a Second Chance?

It’s impossible to completely hedge against all technical meltdowns that might afflict your home and by association… you. By the way, have you double-checked your Nest Thermostat lately?

It’s impossible to completely hedge against all technical meltdowns that might afflict your home and by association… you. By the way, have you double-checked your Nest Thermostat lately?

I woke up in a panic at 6:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
My body sensed something was not right. (No, not a hangover)
I pulled off the comforter and quickly sat up in bed. It felt cold. Very cold…

I ran downstairs to check out the temperature and approached my
fabulous Nest Learning Thermostat. But my ‘smart’ thermostat failed to recognize my presence with its motion sensor, and it remained dark.

I then pushed in its circular face to manually activate it. Instead of happily popping on with a bright reading of the temperature, it simply displayed the cold message that I had to take it off its base and reattach it.

I think that’s code for there’s a problem somewhere…

Emergency Nest Surgery?
I thought about how to actually take my Nest off its base on the wall, never having done that. (You’re just supposed to pull.)

Then, fifteen seconds later… I heard the heat rumble on. I turned my gaze back to my ‘intelligent’ circle, which now looked completely normal. It glowed a chilly 62 degrees and its immediate plan to get the temperature back up to 72.

I never had the chance to yank my Nest off the wall to reboot it.
It just started working again.

I ran over to my iMac, which had recently had its own trip into the ‘Tech Netherworld.’ I furiously started Googling, looking for an explanation for this disturbing Nest anomaly. It quickly became apparent that there’s a small army of folks out there with their own Nest issues.
(But I found no smoking guns for my Nest’s troubles…)

I was able to confirm that my Nest’s message suggested some connection problem, though my experience pointed to its self-repair without human intervention.
(other than the touch of my finger)

I wondered if there had been some automatic software update that night, which was the culprit. In fact, this all going down in the early hours on the first calendar day of 2015 didn’t feel like a coincidence.
(Anyone else out there wake up cold on New Year’s Day?)

I walked back to my Nest and looked at my former champ.
I was a little heartbroken.
It stared back at me.

It had been intuitively managing my home’s temperature for almost eighteen months.
I trusted it.
Now, it was just another piece of glitchy tech for me to worry about.

I started thinking about what would happen if this kind of meltdown happened again when the family was away for a few days.
My house would become an Ice Station Zebra!

The only sure way to prevent this disaster would be to kill off my circular HAL before it happens.

“Daisy… Daisy…” my Nest would flicker in its final moments as I disconnected the last wire.

Have a Cup of Joe
I pondered this future, and then I walked into the kitchen to make some coffee and cool down.
(I mean warm up.)

At least the coffee maker still worked…
But even an innocent cup of coffee can become dangerous Tech Kryptonite.
(Your tech is never really safe…)

And I went about the rest of my day, which did not include replacing my Nest with a $20 dumb thermostat from 1955.

Smart Human?
Now, it’s almost three weeks later, and my Nest is still solidly in place. It has demonstrated zero defects since the little ‘incident.’
And I have still taken no action against it.

And you know what…?
I’ve decided to give my little Nest a second chance.

Not because I have such a blind commitment to my tech, but because it would be a pain to replace.
And it’s been working just fine…

You’re welcome to point to this moment of human error when I blog in a few months that my house froze up, but that is only one of many possible futures.

Is It Smart to Trust Smart Tech?
No, I don’t know what happened to my ‘mostly-smart’ Nest. And that’s really frustrating. But an analog thermostat can fail too. Or my heating system can go on the fritz all by itself…

I thought about whether I should blog about my Nest blip and initially considered running silent, because I don’t really know what had happened.
And I don’t really have any solutions.
(How embarrassing is that?)

But now with a little distance and an ongoing toasty house, I’ve discovered my conclusion…
Sometimes there are no answers.
And that’s okay.

Yes, there are steps you should take to minimize your home tech problems.
But if you want to completely hedge against all tech failure, then you really can’t risk using any technology.

And what kind of fun is that?!

So take a deep breath.
(I did.)

Help your tech stay healthy.
(where you can)

And go on and live your life…
(Just keep a sweater handy!)

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