And, I'm really impressed with the filmmaking skill exhibited in this short video. The transition between walking with the camera and setting it down to rip the smoke alarm off the ceiling is perfect, and the framing there is great. As the film proceeds, Brad's breathing becomes more apparent and faster, as the tension builds to a climax of automatons screaming "emergency" and "can't be hushed here, can't be hushed here hushed here". I also appreciate the exposure as Brad walks into the garage to find an improvised grave for his machine overlords; completely black, and out of the blackness comes an insulated water cooler, perfectly sized for the smoke alarms. Finally, I like how the anger, tension, and action escalates progressively through the film. It starts off with some walking around, and gradually becomes more violent. The timing is just perfect.
Perhaps not intentional, but it's just so wonderful. This should be submitted to a film festival. It's the most fascinating "home video" I've seen in ages.
(Edit to add one more thing: I think the real genius is the computerized voice, not quite speaking with casual American English rhythm, telling the user that they can't do the exact action they requested by physically pressing a button. Obviously, Stanley Kubrick beat Brad to the punch by a few years, but it still works. And this is real life, not fiction.)
I realize the Nest announcer might be a better GlaDOS than GlaDOS. (But not a better HAL than HAL.)
I looked at how to hush it, and couldn't figure out how. My alarm was too high up to safely climb up and press the button -- I had paid for somebody to install it safely before.
So I called their support, and they told me they couldn't legally add a feature to turn it off. Which is a bit bewildering, considering that wave-to-hush had been a launch feature (albeit removed for apparent reliability issues). So I had to dangerously climb up high and remove the alarm and take out the battery.
But the worst thing? It never alerted my phone.
I have my own theories about why this happened. I had recovered my iPhone and not logged back into the Nest app, which I think is required for notifications to start flowing again.
But the support guy thought Nest engineering would be back in touch with me to discuss this crucial flaw within two weeks. Months later, I've not heard back.
Nest had a ton of options after the thermostat. It feels like they put a smaller B team on the smoke detector, despite it being a critically important safety device. It's really bewildering how the Protect turned out this way.
More generally, the lesson is that the Internet of Things is going to be fraught with complications.
CloudFlare's CEO was ranting about his ~daily false alarms about 6 months ago: "dirty power common on PG&E SF causes small blips in light emitter. Nest interprets as smoke."
More detail here: https://twitter.com/search?q=%40eastdakota%20nest&src=typd
Is there a patent in this space or something that forced them to reinvent the sensor or should this be a poster child for NIH syndrome?
In practice it's often been a nightmare. Some places that I've lived, the fire alarm went off multiple times a day, almost every day. Presumably a lot of this is from people cooking or something, but given the frequency I don't think that could explain all of it.
I think in non-networked smoke alarm situations, people are just less aware of the false positives they generate.
Which seems to suggest some bad things about the ability of the designers of these things to build a robust product and forsee obvious problems.
The NEXT smoke detector has UL approval number UTGT.S25414. That means UL actually tested the thing. But they may not be testing adequately for electrical noise on the power side, because, until now, smoke detectors were simple electrically and insensitive to power problems.
So report problems to UL. They take fire safety device failures very seriously.
I had to rip it from the wall. It was one of the most frustrating technology experiences I've had in years, and I'll have to see something REALLY compelling if I'm ever to try home automation again.
It was a fascinating discussion all around with some interesting lessons:
1) No one seems to consider a thermostat as a device which requires safety controls.
2) The built-in safety controls on a consumer HVAC unit tend to be insufficient & kick in well after temperatures in a home can get dangerously hot, if they kick in at all.
3) Because of the custom nature of every HVAC install, with more air going to certain rooms than others, it's not possible to draw any conclusion about the nature of whether a situation with a rogue thermostat can become deadly.
4) It appears a large majority of digital thermostats are built to a "toy grade" standard.
This is likely a topic space that doesn't get enough attention and I hope I opened a few eyes over at Spark. The fact is, such incidents don't happen often so they simply don't get the attention. This is unfortunate, because with the state of modern safety systems and designs an out of control thermostat is something that should never happen.
It worked just fine for heat -- although I later found out that every time it turned on my heat pump it was activating the emergency heat. I tried finding a way to get the unit to be okay with ramping up the temperature over a longer period of time, but that setting was not exposed in their UI. All I wanted was to say "I don't really care what temperature the house is while I'm gone so long as it never goes below 55F or above 80F, but I want you to make sure that when I arrive home at 6PM the temperature has reached the point I set". But...alas, the unit never figured that out. The "learning mode" never actually did anything, no matter what I tried.
Fortunately I was able to get a full refund on the devices from Amazon.
It just said "heat" when the furnace was on.
EDIT: corrected that whole last sentence. It made no sense.
I don't know anything about nest, maybe it displays that in other situations.
Instead of A/C, the unit activated heating. So the temperature kept rising even further beyond the setpoint. So, more heat.
Positive feedback -- exactly what I didn't want.
(I'm presuming enough QC in the manufacturing that improper wiring is the most common trigger of positive feedback)
Have you gone far enough into it to compare how the wires are hooked up on the heat pump side to the nest diagram? Not trying to heckle you about it, it's a puzzle, it must be solved.
I agree with you. I love solving puzzles, that's why I'm an engineer. But I had to balance solving this puzzle with the ongoing puzzle of maintaining domestic harmony. My then-pregnant-wife insisted I get the system working properly ASAP. The best way to do that was to reinstall the Honeywell -- the system worked properly within 15 minutes. As life circumstances dictated that I was away from home for most of the time -- and we moved a couple of months later, the best solution was to get a refund.
Did I have some wiring wrong? Most likely.
Not to beat my credentials against my chest, or to imply that they mean that I could not have possibly made an error... I have engineering degrees and have done a lot of instrumentation system design work. Figuring out how to wire up strange sensors to an existing system is something I do all the time. If I had this kind of difficulty, what kinds of problems are ordinary people having? Or maybe it just reinforces the aircraft industry joke that "you shouldn't let engineers touch tools, they'll break something".
I appreciate the company's consumer electronics mindset, but they need to take the business of running HVAC systems more seriously.
My "dumb" thermostat is back on the wall and successfully running my heating system (to the schedule I've programmed it) as it's done for years.
In the UK, the control circuit is on the mains; close the circuit, the furnace is on.
When I first got them, they worked great in the sumemrtime. No complaints. But they were bloody awful for me in the winter:
* Nest would, randomly, refuse to turn on AUX heat. I woke up one morning and my house was in the upper 50s (the set temperature was 68) and Nest was just sitting there trying to run the heat pump instead of turning on AUX when it wasn't keeping up. At first I thought there was something wrong with my HVAC system, but I've had two different people look my system over, on three different occasions, and found everything working properly. Nest was just refusing to turn on AUX.
The first time it happened it was in the single digits outside and Nest let my house get into the upper 50s (temperature was set at 68, and it was still trying to run the heat pump even though it was in the single freaking digits outside). I finally took Nest off the wall and manually shorted the aux heat on - I didn't want the house to get any colder while we "troubleshooted" it, and Nest was just refusing, no matter how I adjusted it, to turn the aux heat on and warm the house back up.
* Other times, it would use AUX when it doesn't need it. It was 37 outside once, and nest was burning AUX like crazy when the heat pump was having no problems keeping up. I had a nearly $400 power bill last January. Now, in fairness, it was very cold that month, but Nest using AUX when it shouldn't was a big contributor.
* For instance, you can't directly set the AUX lockout any lower than 35 degrees (more on this in a minute) when, for my house, it probably needs to be around 26. You can also only set certain things from the thermostat itself.
* They are very difficult to troubleshoot. How do you manually turn on AUX heat to test if it's even working at all? As far as I can tell, you can't! The only way we were able to test it is to take the thing off the wall and manually short the wires together (and, of course, it worked fine).
This is not some weird setup either. It's a standard heat pump with electric heat strips for aux heat, that's only about 4 years old. Where I live, this is the absolute most common form of heating. Because I can take the thermostat off the wall and short the wires together to turn aux on (and because I've had two different HVAC contractors check my system), I'm fairly certain the problem is not my HVAC system.
The biggest problem was, after three times of waking up to a cold house, I had a very difficult time trust them. I had an infant in the house, and for something that I'm not supposed to have to think about, I was spending an inordinate amount of time worrying about.
So at one point I replaced one of them with a Honeywell (not the Lyric, one of the touchscreen models). And it worked fine for the rest of winter and was much less crazy to deal with, but once summer rolled around the Honeywell wouldn't turn my air conditioning on! In troubleshooting it, we found that the Honeywell was defective and wasn't putting enough voltage to activate the reversing valve. So the heat pump was still running.
So I ended up putting the Nest back on for the summer, but spent a lot of time reading the Nest forums. Apparently problems with AUX heat are SUPER common with Nests (just Google "nest aux heat" to see tons of complaints).
There's a hack that that you can go through (detailed here: https://community.nest.com/ideas/1144#comment-7150) that allows you to set the lockout to a lower temperature. Which I did eventually set to 26. And, sidenote, I really hope they don't close this hole, because a lot of people are relying on it.
So far this winter, no problems. The hack seems to be holding. I haven't woken up to a cold house yet, and Nest is only using AUX when it should. And my power bills are running 25% less than the year before thanks to Nest not constantly using AUX heat.
I'm still very wary of them. If I wake up to a cold house again, they are going right in the trash can.
I don't own a Nest thermostat myself, but was browsing their blog out of curiosity after reading this story, and it sounds like the latest software update includes a System Test mode:
Don't you usually want lifesaving devices to have simple designs? For example, scuba breathing regulators are famously reliable in part because there's very little to them. Same goes for the AK-47, though I suppose I'm getting off the "lifesaving" track now...
False activations of things like alarms are dangerous because it conditions people to ignore the alarm or react slowly.
Look at that circuit board for gods sake, that's probably 6+ layers and apparently required custom gaskets around crucial components. If you consider the device as a whole, it is not simple at all.
That's kind of the crucial point, too. A smoke alarm can only be considered simple when everything on the path from smoke detector to alarm is simple, and that's not the case here. Which makes this seem like a case of not getting the basics right.
This leads to another concern of mine -- are places like fb, apple, Google, etc. capable of creating stable v1 products for the home.
With Nest, the initial thermostat seemed to work well. Original Dropcam works well. There have been questions since the acquisition of both companies.
It is always hard after spending time in larger systems going back to and doing some code archaeology to see if something that seems off is the right thing or just what it seems like -- needs cleaning up.
(Yes, I know the smoke detection was a malfunction, but occasional malfunctions like that are a fact of life. My ire is directed at regulators forbidding users from silencing their own smoke detectors without physically incapacitating them -- what were they thinking!?)
Nest had marketed the device as a smoke alarm that you could silence -- because it would have a period where it would warn you that something was wrong before it triggered the alarm, and it would be possible to manually silence it -- but in my direct experience this period never happened. The Protects always went straight from "normal" to "ALARM" without any warning period. Of course the Protect unit in my kitchen never actually detected kitchen smoke, even when I once burned some food quite severely.
I also had a negative experience with the Nest thermostat. I'm still not sure if I had it wired wrong -- I don't believe so, because I had previously installed cheap-o Honeywell thermostats that worked flawlessly -- but one late spring night I turned on the air conditioner to lower the temperature a few degrees, and then went to bed.
I woke up a few hours later, drenched in sweat. Somehow the unit had commanded "EMER HEAT" on my heat pump instead of air conditioning. My bedroom was 91 degrees Fahrenheit! The target temp was 70F, which the unit was never reaching. But it wasn't smart enough to realize "Hey, my actions are just making the temperature INCREASE, I should stop and flag an error." Nest's response: "that's funny, it shouldn't have done that". I took the things off the wall the next day.
I am now very wary of "smart home" technology. I can't imagine the experience that a non-technically inclined user has...
The issue I have with the Nest smoke detector is that it is sold as a luxury consumer product. That puts it in the class of "the customer is always right" sales. The Venn diagram of that and things that are designed to save people's lives regardless of their tendency to statistically evaluate the risks and rewards of rare but deadly events inaccurately is disjoint.
If Nest did not comply with the regulations, they could not market their product as a smoke alarm.
Citation: http://www.nfpa.org/research/reports-and-statistics/fire-saf... which says that 60% of people who died in a housefire were in a building that had no operating smoke alarms. A few more quotes:
"Surprisingly, the death rate was much higher in fires in which a smoke alarm was present but did not operate than it was in home fires with no smoke alarms at all."
"Smoke alarm failures usually result from missing, disconnected, or dead batteries. People are most likely to remove or disconnect batteries because of nuisance activations."
Not sure nest would win if it was easier to disable. Have you ever had a smoke alarm that goes off every couple hours? You can't sleep. Doesn't matter if you can turn it off with a wave.
And let's say you reach the point where you instinctively wave so it doesn't bother your sleep, now what happens when there's a fire?
False alarms are the problem. From the video and reports, it appears the Nest Protect has real problems with this.
With the nest, the alarm turned by itself for no reason, you don't cook in bedroom, he even said that he got notification when he was at work.
Two different reasons, your situation was that smoke alarm was too sensitive, perhaps you placed it close to the oven, here the alarm fires for no reason, and it is not the kitchen one, but bedroom one where normally you don't have smoke.
That is, in fact, a false alarm.
The behavior described by cowsandmilk is highly predictable: provide false alarms, and people will almost always disable or bypass the alarm.
Be aware that battery powered smoke detectors are a retrofit, and do not meet building code requirements. They are better than nothing, but failure due to disconnected or missing batteries is already in the realm of worse than the worst thing that can legally be built today.
They're two separate concepts. We should make it really easy to temporarily silence a smoke alarm (for, say, 15m or 4h), so that people almost never have to fall back on incapacitation.
And mandating wired ones does not address the problem. People still incapacitate them, by unplugging them. More generally, people will always find a way to silence a smoke alarm, and the regulators' goal should be to ensure that they do it in a temporary way.
I can show you the table of contents, though:
According to a quick google, all smoke detectors in Maryland are required to have a hush function by 2018. So... pretty sure that isn't prohibited by regulation there. FEMA says the best smoke detectors have a temporary silence button. I guess maybe there are some states that prohibit it? Seems awfully foolish though: temporary hush buttons save lives.
Since both Nest and other smoke alarm companies say this, I conclude there is some regulation to this effect.
The Nest device in the video did not appear to be experiencing high levels of smoke.
But Nest's website says UL's rules forbid the silencing, and I see no reason to think Nest would lie about it.
Smoke detector user manuals might vaguely allude to such a law to justify crappy engineering, but that's not the same as a citation to specific Federal, state, or municipal codes, or even an insurance underwriting code.
"The U.S. model codes and installation standards require smoke alarms and
smoke detectors to be listed in accordance with the Standard for Single- and
Multiple-Station Smoke Alarms, UL 217, and the Standard for Smoke Detectors for Fire Alarm Signaling Systems, UL 268."
Why are people carrying water for this idiocy? Nothing in the document you linked has anything to do with the subject at hand. Fine, whatever, you're not supposed to be able to mute the detector in the presence of heavy smoke. But there is absolutely no prohibition against a mute feature in general.
Poor engineering on Nest's part led to a situation where a poorly-thought-out regulation came into play. Neither condition is defensible... yet look at all of the people in this thread trying to defend one or both.
(Yes, I'm moving the goalposts to a certain extent, as I was mistaken about there being no law against silencing a smoke detector in the general case.)
A smoke detector company sells a safety product, if that safety product fails they could easily be sued for the lifetime earnings of a dead individual (or even family in some cases).
So that requires that these companies have insurance, and in order for insurance to cover them they must meet certain insurance dictated requirements, which can be anything, but UL specifications are an easy thing to point at (to both protect the company from liability and insurance from payouts).
So while in some locations there might be no government regs, insurance is making regulations all on their own, and these companies can either play along OR risk paying out up to millions of they get sued.
That's what happens when you can't easily silence a smoke detector. Needless to say, after this treatment they didn't work so well - the only good thing about such a design is that it sells more smoke detectors. For a long time we simply didn't have any that worked though. We do now, but none of our replacement ones are linked together anymore - too much of a nuisance to replace the wiring she ripped out while silencing them.
I prefer KISS when it comes to my life and smoke alarms are not something I am going to fool with. With regards to their thermostats, I rarely am in the rooms my house has thermostats but programmables were cheap and easy to setup.
It says no such thing. You're just putting your own biases on it. Luxury means:
"the state of great comfort and extravagant living."
Nest products are premium products. They cost more and you're meant to get a better quality of product out the other end.
Nobody thinks they're "smarter" because they buy luxury, although they might try to justify their purchase on the grounds of its USP.
Of course, Nest is selling to a national market, so I don't doubt that it's required somewhere in the US, but it sure doesn't seem to be that common.
Well for most it just involves pulling the power cord or yanking the battery.
For example, people with cheapskate landlords who would be happy to leave a nonfunctional smoke detector that was muted installed rather than spend $20.
Also, cheapskate landlords would just take the battery out.
No, wait, that was someone else.
Kenton, agreed but close enough. Implementation in code has more value than the specification.
I think in recent years manufacturers have become paranoid about missing an alarm and being sued so they probably default to fire the alarm if there's absolutely any potential reason, real or imagined, that a fire might be occuring.
Note these were all purchased before Nest turned off the waving, but have been updated with e firmware that ignores the wave.
I also run nine of the original batch of thermostats with no issues, and any minor complaints (e.g. turning off heat when in direct sunlight) have all been addressed over the years of updates.
My brother bought one, while I was still in the honeymoon period of mine. His false alarmed constantly, and has since been removed.
I installed Insteon motion detectors and webcams after a robbery, but the included software was such undependable and inflexible garbage that I replaced it all with a simple Misterhouse-based Perl script that sends texts via email.
If I see another tech product ad aimed at millenials featuring bright easter colors and indiepop music pitched by Steve Jobs wannabes who are unable to get any angry nerds to make their products actually work, I might snap.
By the way, the other HN article about dumb smart homes is a good accompaniment to this. ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9043524 )
Mine is a first-gen, bought the instant they were available to the public, and it's been rock-solid for the past 3+ years. However, I only have a standard central air and central heat (gas furnace) setup here in Texas. Nothing complicated.
I've been debating the Protects myself, the battery operated ones.
I've never used Nest Protect so I was curious about this. Why is it location-dependent? The Nest site has some info:
Hushing works differently during an emergency. If Nest Protect detects emergency levels of smoke, it will sound an alarm that can’t be hushed, by regulation. However, you can hush the other Nest Protects in the house by pressing the button on the Nest Protect that detected the problem. So, when you press the Nest button on the Nest Protect in the bedroom, it will continue to alarm, but the Nest Protect in the living room will quiet down. We designed Nest Protect to hush this way so you can more easily communicate with other people in the house during an emergency while still being able to locate and address the source of the problem.
So networked smoke alarms require you to visit the one that's detecting the fire and disable it locally.
Now, why they would ever make the regulations such that you can't temporarily silence the alarm, even when you're in direct physical contact with it, is beyond me.
Of course, why on earth would you disable the alarm if indeed there is a ton of smoke is beyond me. But maybe there was a real-life case of somebody confused that did just that, and in the emotional aftermath regulation was passed to make sure this never happens again, common sense be damned.
You're probably thinking of Apple.
You're not wrong, but I think you overstate the case. I wouldn't say employees are encouraged to publicly trash the company's products. Not at all. But the company does respect employees' right to speak their mind in public, and it does encourage thoughtful internal dissent.
I often tread pretty close to the line on what I say in public, and have even been reined in by Google legal counsel in a couple of cases. I found the experience of being told to cool it to be surprisingly affirming and liberating, and a powerful confirmation of the true commitment to openness in Google culture, because of the reasons for which it was done and the way in which it was done. Specifically, in both cases I really had crossed a line which could be potentially troublesome for Google in court, and in both cases the attorney who contacted me was respectful of my opinions and my rights to speak them to the point of being very apologetic about telling me to shut up. It was very clear to me that Google really didn't want to silence me, and did it only because they truly had to. I think that's awesome.
Based on my experience, I have zero concern for Brad's job, and wouldn't be surprised if he gets some mild and unofficial kudos.
I have friends at Apple (and formerly at Apple) who can attest that not all companies are that way.
- Own 3 thermostats: 1 at home and 2 at my wife Business
- 6 Nest Protect spread in different part of our home (aka master bedroom, hallway, kitchen,...)
The thermostats work fine and usually the only issues I have encountered were with Comcast or AT&T (wife Business) going down and the thermostat not every time able to reconnect automatically... Not a huge deal and overall happy with those. And checking our bills, over time I see some savings in electricity cost... And the big big plus is really being able to trigger the A/C during the summer hot days when our dogs are staying home, and we are not with them.
The Protect overall have been working as expected with the one in the kitchen kicking in often when we are cooking (previous smoke detectors in the kitchen have been doing the same so no surprise).
At installation time one of the unit couldn't register, and after reaching out to Customer support got a replacement unit quickly which worked fine.
3 weeks ago out of the blue the Nest Protect in our master bed room started to do exactly the same thing as shown in the video but the alarm after a minute will end and the app was reporting the level of smoke going down... Except there was never any smoke at all...
Since it did happen 3 days in a row and on the third day, I was there to witness it, I tried a few things without luck... Ended up removing the battery and again contacted a Nest support (glad that I know a few folks there so I didn't have to go to any phone diagnosis), and 2 days later got a replacement unit. Installed since then and problem didn't happen and the bad unit was returned.
My conclusion: the thermostat is almost rock solid except for flaky internet and doesn't always reconnect. The Protect are definitely more a v1 with still some glitch but still happy customer. I am not a huge fan that Google did acquire Nest and still have preferred Apple but I don't have too many complaints.
I do have too a bunch of Dropcam and again not really happy that they ended under Google control, but their camera are good.
Just what you need in a panic situation with a fire in your house; your smoke alarm playing the smart-ass, at 85 decibels.
I don't put on kid gloves when a product is this bad.
I'm nicer when it's a beta or unreleased. But I paid $500 for these, for a final product. This is unacceptable.
Being alive >>>>> rare inconvenience.
Ideally, the sensors for your home automation system would be configurable to your hearts content, their point is not to alert humans but to alert your home automation systems. The actual smoke detectors are for alerting humans, and are tightly regulated.
I see a future where the home contains many different types of sensors all over the house intended for data collection, and alarms for humans as well. Temperature sensors and heat sensitive cameras combined with smoke detection sensors would let you do some really interesting things with regards to detecting smoke, flame, or even overloaded extension cables.
One of the reasons I'm interested in my home itself being able to detect events such as fire or flood, is so that it could initiate an emergency offsite backup of any sensitive recently-modified files, and as soon as that completed or failed for whatever reason it can shred the encryption key used to boot the full disk encrypted partitions. It could also unlock doors, trigger a gas and or electrical mains cut-off switch, trigger camera feeds to record to offsite servers, call me or anyone else, or even draw attention to the home by turning on and off lights (or changing their color if you have the right bulbs).
They're in the same situation as civil engineers and the like. They build a bridge that falls down, they go to jail or are financially ruined. We make software that falls over and people pay us for updates.
Most likely from the fact that you made that comment in a thread about a smoke detector...
Within the context of the article, I think false positive in smoke detectors are always inevitable, and by law they can't be silenced. But what a smart home system could do is allow you to intercede and prevent the defective one from cascade-infecting every other device.
There used to be a very different crowd around here. I've been looking around for a site like what HN used to be, when "H" stood for "Hacker" and not "Helpless," but so far no good suggestions have come to light.
> And Go's net/http package.
> And LiveJournal.
> And Gearman.
> And OpenID.
Working at Google and having done these things, I don't think he has to worry about it. They weren't comp products either, since he spent his own money on them.
I do not use the nest protect but have had the joys of interlinked fire alarms where one suffered a bad battery but all of them decided to complain about it.
this was a wonderful video, wonder if its hit reddit yet. Silliness abounds there and its not the exposure you want your product to have. Reminds me of the story earlier today about smart homes
And the upthread point about this being a Google employee seem to miss the actual content which is highly critical of Google. And there's absolutely a history of threads highly critical of Google getting flagged down on HN.
With that in mind, and given that HN's ranking algorithm is secret, it seems unfair to accuse a hivemind of intentionally messing with the algorithm to suppress commentary about their employer. Maybe it's a bug. Maybe it's working as intended.
Could one of the HN admins comment? Do you guys notice a lot of Google-related stories getting flagged?
Not particularly. Controversial stories reliably get lots of upvotes and flags. As far as I can tell, one could replace "Google" with "*" and the same statements would hold.
I'm going to detach this subthread as off-topic now.
> "Disclaimer: I am a Google employee. I paid for these myself. So I speak as myself."