Google NEST and the case for Multi-Modal communications

Recently the NEST group in Google, (Google bought NEST in January for over $3 billion) advised customers to disable the devices ability “for user’s to wave their hand to turn off a faulty smoke alarm.” My first reaction is that it’s a great convenience but with all the failsafes in other applications stating “Do you really want to do this, press yes to continue” a simple wave of the hand may be too much non-failsafe power to grant an un-authenticated user. A 5-year-old has no business waving at the smoke alarm and turning it off.

As we build and incorporate devices into the Internet of Things, some devices will have their own intelligence and others will rely on the intelligence in the network. In this case the NEST fire alarm is best served to have both and then some. Having a Multi-Modal communications framework would best serve the user.

At the user friendliest option, it should know if it has been turned off ahead of time or turned off alarm in progress. If turned off, it should make a notification and require an acknowledgement either in-person or automated. There is a NEST application that should pop up a message indicating “Fire Alarm HALLWAY has been deactivated.” It should also pop this up on a regular basis to remind the user. Even when deactivated via a waving of the hand the device should still send an alert to both the user and possibly an alarm center.

There are many ways to deal with this and other issues we encounter with many new networked devices. We are attaching these devices to a network that can make these devices even smarter than they are. A framework for all use cases. All we need to do is have some foresight and thought into their overall use.

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