It’s a feature I almost expected from the get-go with the clever Nest thermostat but just hasn’t been there. Instead, the device uses a range of sensors to detect whether your home and either clicks the heating on or off depending on what those sensors say.
But your phone, which runs the Nest application and lets you remotely control your heating, doesn’t natively send your GPS location to the Nest thermostat. I honestly couldn’t quite understand it. Sure, there was ways around it with IFTTT but it should have been there as default.
Now, finally, Google have done it. You can also have multiple accounts too, so that your family can each have an account into your home heating and view, control and receive notifications. No more sharing passwords around. Nest call this their “Family Accounts” system.
The location on your phone can drain battery, especially if it’s using GPS all the time. Nest / Google say that they define a “virtual barrier, or geofencing” which tracks your phone and determines when you get within a certain proximity of your house. This, they admit, isn’t perfect..
(It) can lead to mistakes. Geofencing isn’t very precise, so a product might think you’re home when you’re really a couple blocks away. Plus, we forget our phones. They break or get stolen. Their batteries die. And what if a roommate, guest or babysitter is still at home? Geofencing alone can get it wrong – turn the lights off when someone’s home. Or run the heat when no one is.
Very good point. If me and my wife both enable this new “Home/Away Assist” system on our phones, but a friend is looking after our son, the system could shut down the heating if it purely relies on phone GPS position.
So Nest takes a more thoughtful approach, using more information to get it right. Home/Away Assist uses learning algorithms and activity sensors built into Nest products – the same things the Nest Learning Thermostat has been using for four years to help save energy. And Home/Away Assist also uses your phone’s location to do an even better job of telling if anyone’s home.
So sensor data is combined – the information fed from phones and the data from the Nest thermostat itself. Nest doesn’t track where you go. Home/Away Assist only needs to know if you’re at home.