Nest (finally) adds Family Accounts and Home/Away Assist

Nest Auto-Away: You either love it, hate it, or disable it. After nearly five years on the market, Nest has at last worked to significantly improve it.

I first brought a Nest Learning Thermostat into my home in the summer of 2013, roughly a year and a half after it had launched. I was very excited at the prospects of the Auto-Away feature, no-programming programming, the remote control functionality and the monthly reporting. Unfortunately, I ultimately disabled Auto-Away and the automatic programming, as they either didn't work, or they got in my way most of the time.

After a while, I realized that I really just wanted a connected, Wi-Fi thermostat, but one that looked cool and had a bit of style to it. The Auto-Away functionality was something that I wanted to keep, but only if it worked reliably. At the time, Nest was basically the only option. Today, there's a few competitors out there including the Lyric from Honeywell and the ecobee3 smart thermostat.

Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation

Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation

Fast-forward to today, my Nest thermostat now responds to commands from my home automation controller (Indigo) based on my smartphone's location, telling the Nest to set Away Mode or vice-versa depending on if I'm home or not. This works much more reliably, as my Nest thermostat is located in a part of my home that I don't pass by regularly.

I've always thought that the Nest thermostat needed some help to understand if someone was truly home or not. For a one-person home, that's pretty easy. But for two or more people, it would need (most) everyone to be connected somehow. There have been some partnerships through the Works with Nest program over the years to assist in this, most recently with Zuli and their Smartplugs, but I've always wondered why Nest didn't just build it into their app. Geofencing is not exactly something that was invented last week, as Philips Hue, the August Smart Lock, and many others use it. But why not Nest?

Today, Nest unveiled Family Accounts and Home/Away Assist. Essentially, these new features enable multiple unique users to be connected to Nest products via their app, along with better "Are you really home?" detection based on data from sensors built into Nest products and geolocation in the Nest app. Perhaps this was their plan all along. But seriously... nearly five years to get it done?

And, of course, to get better data, you must buy more Nest products, such as the Nest Protect smoke alarm and the Nest Cam. Perhaps it makes more sense to have products that have sensors built-in versus also selling inexpensive plug-in sensors that simply help Nest to determine if anyone is home. Nest, of course, is still a luxury brand at this point, with most people being of the belief that $250 is too much for a Wi-Fi smart thermostat.

Here at Lighting Answers, our opinion is that native functionality is usually better than relying on a 3rd-party service, so we'll be testing the new Home/Away Assist feature and will post a video about it once we reach a verdict. For now, if you've turned off Auto-Away, maybe it's time to turn it back on, update your Nest app and give it another spin!