updated 12:01 am EDT, Sat June 21, 2014
Nest co-founder says it is about products 'that keep us connected to our homes'
Nest, now owned by Google, has revealed that it is buying Dropcam, a smart home-monitoring camera. The deal for the company cost Nest $555 million in cash, and will see the Dropcam team moving to Nest's Palo Alto headquarters. Despite the fact that it is now owned by Google, Nest co-founder Matt Rogers says that the team behind Dropcam will be "indoctrinated" to Nest privacy policies, which -- currently -- are far more strict than those of Google. Critics, however, are skeptical.
As with the subtle silence from Nest co-founder (and former Apple executive) Tony Fadell on the future of the Nest following some backtracking on privacy concerns, opponents of the Dropcam deal point to the fact that Google has been rumored to be planning a push into home surveillance products -- exactly the sort of area the Dropcam camera has found an audience with. Rogers moved to pre-empt skeptics, saying in a post on the official Nest blog that "Once the deal closes, we'll incorporate Dropcam into how we do business at Nest. That includes how we handle everything from customer support to customer privacy."
Numerous customers said publicly that they removed, returned or bought competing smart thermostat products after Google acquired Nest, and later advised the Federal Trade Commission that it would seek to redefine "mobile advertising" to include numerous smart devices in the home -- specifically including "thermostats" as an example. Polls have indicated that the public are uncomfortable with the idea of Google (or other companies) gathering home-centric data about them.
Google and Nest have both since strongly denied that ads would begin appearing on products like the Nest Thermostat, but have been notably mum on clarifying that no collection of data from the thermostat or other Nest products would be gathered for reasons beyond quality control. Rogers wrote that existing Dropcam customers will still be able to access their accounts, and Dropcam products will continue to be available in stores for the time being. The wording suggests that at some point users may be forcibly switched over to Nest services, which like the company are owned by Google.
Dropcam has become a popular option for home-monitoring cameras and software that let owners check in or be alerted to changes within the home through smartphone apps and other notifications. Video feeds from the home are hosted on cloud servers for the owners to securely check from any Internet-connected device.
Somewhat ironically, the Dropcam purchase will reunite two former Apple employees under the Google banner. Andy Hodge, who was a lead engineer at Apple, worked on Apple's iPod product line under Fadell. Rogers spoke about how Nest viewed the Dropcam team as compatible with Nest's vision, saying the teams were "very well-aligned and we love the product ... we both think about the entire user experience from the unboxing on. We both care deeply about helping people stay connected with their homes when they're not there."