Nest Exposes ‘Weave’ Home Automation Protocol, Opens Camera API, Plans World Domination
For the first time, Nest is sharing its proprietary RF home automation protocol Weave for local integration without the cloud; also opening API for Nest Cam, but with many limitations. Where do Thread and Google fit in?
Google-owned Nest has made two important announcements that will further its mission to owning the smart home. First, Nest is sharing its proprietary, mesh-enabled Weave home automation protocol that allows devices to intercommunicate locally without the Internet. Second, Nest is finally opening up the API for its IP camera.
Both “open” APIs come with rather unfortunate limitations, as CE Pro has learned from Nest (below).
Let’s start with Weave. CE Pro exposed the existence of this proprietary Nest protocol last year. Weave utilizes 6LoWPAN (IP over 802.15.4), with some proprietary sauce from Nest, for local device communications. No Internet necessary.
Weave and the 802.15.4 radio – the same radio used for ZigBee – was built into the earliest Nest thermostats, but there was nothing else for it to talk to back then. When Nest launched its Protect Smoke/CO detectors with Weave, then there was a friend for the thermostat.
They could chat with each other. For example, when smoke was detected, the Protect device could tell the thermostat directly to turn off the HVAC fans.
Then came Nest Cam this year, which also incorporated the 802.15.4 radio and Weave protocol.
So we now have an ecosystem in which a camera, a smoke detector, a thermostat and motion sensors (embedded in each device) can communicate with each other without requiring the home network or cloud service.
That really doesn’t do a whole lot of good: When motion is detected through a camera, set back the thermostat? I don’t think so.
To make Weave matter, it needs to be embedded in more devices, and Nest intends to make that happen by opening up the protocol to third parties. It would be useful to implement Weave in low-power devices that don’t need or can’t support a full IP stack – sensors, smart lights, locks and perhaps competitive smoke detectors and thermostats (right).
In the Linus Weave promo video, it has the lock doing everything that any connected lock does today. See for yourself: VIDEO: For now, Yale's Linus lock with Weave is just a smart lock that communicates only with Nest devices
In fact, Linus works just like a ZigBee or Z-Wave lock, only it doesn’t communicate with anything today except for Nest products.
It’s as if Nest created its own door lock ... which should in fact carry a lot of weight.
Overall, the more Weave-enabled devices on the network, the more powerful the network, thanks to Weave’s mesh capabilities, and there is certain to be lots of Weave devices on the network.
As a matter of fact, we should expect Big Ass Fans to make an announcement any day now that its Haiku with SenseME technology is now Thread-enabled. Yale and Big Ass Fans were the only two product companies that joined Nest in forming the Thread Group last year.
I have always maintained that eventually Thread would become Weave and vice versa -- just two different names for two different layers of a home automation stack. And, by the way, Nest Weave would become Google Weave and vice versa.
When asked about the entanglement, a Nest spokesperson explained:
Weave is Google’s program to support connected devices broadly across the IoT space. Nest Weave is Nest’s proprietary application protocol that is currently used in Nest products around the world.
Nest and Google are collaborating on the schemas and data models for connected products. This ensures that products built on either platform will be able to work with the other. The schemas are the foundation of the platform and something that Nest and Google can build upon to create a more integrated technical stack in the future.
In the end, it's pretty clear that Nest and Google want Weave to replace ZigBee and Z-Wave. Coming soon: home automation hubs that employ Weave and none of the other protocols.
Hold on to that thought. I will shortly be posting a story on Google and Nest’s secret plot to rule the smart home (email firstname.lastname@example.org to be alerted when the story posts).
Weave Integrations & Limitations
Weave is a Nest application layer that runs over a once-proprietary Nest network layer, that is now known as the Thread home automation "standard."
For now, though, we asked Nest about the implementation of Weave for third-party manufacturers. What are the burdens?
“Nest Weave runs on IPv6 over Thread and Wi-Fi so all developers need are standard 802.15.4 or 802.11 radios,” the spokesperson tells me. “If a developer already has an 802.15.4-based product, chances are they can upgrade their product to Thread and Weave without any new hardware changes or additions.”
The spokesperson also tells us that the the Weave software stack is “compact and runs on single-MCU devices with as little as 64KB of RAM, so developers can build inexpensive, small form-factor devices like light bulbs and sensors.”
As we know from 6LoWPAN in general and Thread in particular, Weave consumes little power, akin to ZigBee and Z-Wave on that front.
Now, here’s the rub. True, Nest is handing out is Weave protocol, but it is not granting access to all features of its own Weave-enabled products (camera, thermostat, smoke/CO).
“Nest Weave gives developers access to the same Nest intelligence that they would get from the cloud APIs -- but directly, rather than through the cloud,” the spokesperson says.
The thing is, Nest doesn’t expose much of that intelligence to third-party devices.
The Nest intelligence that developers can access today is limited to: HOME and AWAY states, smoke and CO alerts, motion and sound alerts, and peak energy rush hour events.
One of the greatest limitations of Nest Protect today is that it cannot integrate with security systems for professional monitoring (and emergency response). It seems the opening up of Weave will enable alarm manufacturers to add the joy (or burden) of Weave to their products if they wish to enable this functionality.
What is still not accessible via Weave or the cloud are certain locked-down features of Nest products – most importantly, fan controls via the thermostat. You want a third-party smoke/CO detector to be able shut off the fans in case of emergency. No can do. Not via Weave. Not via the cloud.
’Open’ API for Nest Cam
Nest Cam (formerly Dropcam) previously operated in a vacuum. Now Nest is “opening” the API for third-party integration. At least it's a start.
There is a rather significant caveat, however: "Live streaming to another device is currently not supported," our spokesperson says.
So, no, you can’t incorporate Nest Cam video into your home automation dashboard. Unless your dashboard is Nest.
You can’t let your control system pop up some Nest Cam shots in PIP on the TV either.
Instead, you can do things like turning on the Philips Hue lights when the camera senses motion in the Nest AWAY mode. That would be accomplished through the usual cloud-to-cloud method since Philips Hue does not support Weave (yet).
Here are the initial partners for Nest Cam integration, as well as sample applications, per the company’s blog:
SkyBell video doorbell: You can turn Nest Cam on or off from the SkyBell app. And if Nest Cam senses motion when you’re away, it will tell your SkyBell video doorbell to start recording.
Philips Hue: If Nest Cam senses motion when you’re away, your Philips hue lights can turn on to make it look as if you’re home.
August: See who’s at your door from wherever you are. When someone unlocks your door, Nest Cam will show a short animation you can watch from your August app.
Mimo Baby Monitor: Mimo sends you insights into how your little one is sleeping. And when your baby stirs, Mimo works with Nest Cam to show you what’s happening in the nursery.
Petnet: Know your pet’s ok when you’re away. Petnet can work with Nest Cam to send a snapshot to your Petnet app when your pet is eating.
Like I said, it's a start. This will all be a huge thing in the IoT and home automation realms, and all of these moves were carefully calculated by Nest and Google.
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at email@example.com
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