Nest Protect review – a much smarter smoke alarm solution

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When you think about it, smoke detectors are pretty dumb. When they go off, they make a shrill noise, which is only useful if you happen to be at home. Often case, they fire off, many times in unison between different devices, but they do nothing to help you detect where the problem is. This ambiguity often leads to dismissal, and we simply waft a towel, open the door and deactivate the little devil, unaware of what the issue really was. What’s more, many homes are fitted with out of date detectors, and to compound the issue, checking the detectors is rarely front of mind in many homes – yet smell-less gasses like carbon monoxide are known as the silent killer, and this is a prevalent problem in homes, especially those older buildings which have original gas appliances. The Google owned company Nest, is working to fix these issues and more. So whilst a smart smoke detector may not be on the more glamorous end of the spectrum when it comes to this new generation of connected devices, today we argue that products like this ‘Protect’ offering could and should be seen as fairly imperative investment to keep your family safe.

The Nest Protect wired smoke alarm is the next generation of smoke alarms, connecting up with your connected devices in order to alert you to any problems, wherever you are in the world. Much like the Nest smart thermostat which has made the Google owned company famous, the Protect is now into its second generation, and is totally transformed and re-worked. The device will silently do its work and notify you straight to your smartphone when smoke is detected. Lets dive in to a full Nest protect review.

Fires are a bigger issue today than in the 1970s – here is why

The compositions and materials used to make our homes have changed markedly over the last 40-50 years. Where once our home furniture was made out of hard wood, today we live in a more disposable society where our furniture is treated like faster fashion rather than an investment for a decade or more. The Ikea furniture that adorns so many homes these days is made out of cheaper materials, such as chip board.

Research now shows that a fire with the intensity to burn a room to a crust in the 1970’s would take just five minutes to do the same damage today. Read that again, it’s a staggering fact and an often ill-considered ramification of the changes home fashions that we have seen over the intervening years. Its clearly a wake up call, and in our opinion amply showcases the need to upgrade our defenses quite markedly.

Sadly, it does stop with the speed taken for a fire to destroy a room. Many of us living in urban conurbations find ourselves living in skyscrapers, where the time to escape is much greater. Collapse times of such buildings are also much greater than found on say older British Victorian homes, houses which were build to last generations. Modern buildings which appear as quick as planning permission is granted are more transient, designed to be pulled down and replaced in a generation. I implore you to put in your email address and to read this report on New Science  

The Nest protect alerts you at any place, anywhere at anytime

The Nest Protect will alert you even if you are not home if something’s amiss. The device isn’t just smart in the sense that it connects via the Internet of Things (IoTs) to other connected devices, but is also smart in the more literal sense in terms of its detection capabilities. The super sensitive sensors are next-generation in their ability to detect carbon monoxide and smoke, meaning it is a more than capable standalone smoke detector. The real upside however lies in its ability to inform you of any issues when you are not at home, something which conventional smoke detectors are clearly unable to do.

It also is regenerative in its ability to self-test, and understand any issues that it may have. This takes its longevity from the typical 3-5 year mark for your average detector and doubles the lifespan, meaning its good for up to a decade of detection.


Detection of the danger, personalized by a speech alert

If the Nest protect detects smoke, it will inform you with an audible alert given off by the device. As the Protect’s are connected via your WiFi, the different detectors are able to ‘talk with one another’, meaning that if for example smoke is detected in the kitchen, you are informed if you’re in the bedroom by another detector. Unlike your traditional smoke detector, which would start beeping and screaming, the Nest solution will audibly inform you that there is smoke detected in the kitchen. This lets you take meaningful action, and get to the source of a problem faster.


Take the example of carbon monoxide, the silent killer, which can leak out of old gas appliances and gas fires. In this example, Nest would inform you that Carbon Monoxide has been detected in the living room, and you can then call an engineer and much faster pinpoint the solution. This eradicates the ambiguity that is often caused by more traditional alarm systems, giving much more actionable feedback.
Nest protect brings the smoke alarm to your smartphone

Nest protect android alarm is always on the lookout, seeking to detect threatening smoke and gasses which may cause a threat to your family. It does this in unison between your roof mounted smoke alarms and your smartphone.

So much like any other smart home products, Nest protect has an app, and this brings the control of the smoke alarm to your phone. On a simple and very practical level, this lets you mute the alarm if its going off and you know what the problem is, such as the burning toast in the kitchen which you have under-control, but it also does much more.

It allows you to visualize the data, and understand the source of less obvious smoke problems, which is the big step forward with this device. So as we have touched on, if the alarm is wailing but you actually don’t know the problem, then you can consult the app as well as listen to the audible (spoken) warnings coming from your roof alarms. The app explicitly tells you that ‘smoke has been detected in your kitchen’ and tells you the severity of the issue. It also reminds you to get the heck out and find fresh air.

Then there are a raft of practical upkeep style features. So when the batteries eventually run down, which takes much longer with the Nest verses more traditional devices, it will tell you. You avoid those pesky chirp sounds that such devices make to tell you when they’re running out of battery. You know the ones, the sort that kick off at 4am and beep incessantly through the night? Yep, Nest gets rid of that preferring to pester you via the app instead. On balance its much better than being warned of a 15% battery level at 4am, something which could clearly wait until say 8am. The device also monitors its own health and reports back to you via the app too, which helps eradicate a testing chore which we all know we should do more, but realistically find ourselves forgetting to do.

Nest protect wired alarm- Installation 

When we discuss smart technology with folks, the concern we often get hit with is installation. Devices like the Nest thermostat connect in with your heating system yet are electrical. People often ask whether it’s a lumber of an electrician or both that they need to get them up and running. They see cost before benefit, yet naturally Nest have considered this, seen it as a very genuine barrier to adoption and have made the relevant moves in order to ensure that installing it s actually a doddle.

In reality, it just takes a few minutes to get the devices up and running using either an Apple iOS device or an Android. You connect the device up with your Wi-Fii, which once done, means that you simply have to download and install the Android or iOS app onto your phone in order to be able to sync with the Protect alarms.

The only pre-requisites for Installation are;

  1. A free nest account
  2. A Wi-Fi connection
  3. An android or Apple smartphone (or tablet, such as an iPad)


Of course, this is all part of Nest’s play to control your smart home

We have talked extensively on HomeTechStar about the battles between the likes of Google, with Nest, and Samsung (SmartThings), Apple (HomeThings) and Amazon with their Echo, who are all aiming to control your smart home. So clearly Nest want to be at the center of this for you, and this leaves you with a fairly fundamental choice to make. The Smart home central hub is a fairly big choice, because it acts as the brains of your home set-up. So we do recommend that you do your research, and we have a lot of content to help you on here, before you plunge for your first smart home buy.

Nest protect – our concluding thoughts

We are totally sold on the need to add more intelligence to the humble smoke detector. When you consider the role they play in home safety, we really do see a need for smarter solutions like the Nest Protect.

This is a really good solution to the problem without being overly flashy in our opinion. It does nothing that you do not need, but adds some features that you may not have recognized – we didn’t – that we do need. On the go monitoring of the home is reassuring and being able to detect issues and locations of issues faster makes good sense.

The basic Protect costs £89, and at this price, we consider it a bargain. You can buy it directly from the Nest website as well as other online vendors.