In an age where you literally don’t have to leave your house to buy anything, it’s no wonder why video doorbells and security cameras have grown to be so popular. People want to know when other people are at their doorstep, whether it’s simply to greet friends or to see when your Amazon package has arrived. The thing is, many video doorbells don’t tell you exactly what’s at your door — much of the time you get a generic notification telling you something is there, just not what is there.
Starting today, the Nest Hello video doorbell will be able to notify you when packages arrive at your doorstep. The feature, available for U.S. residents only, will roll out to Nest Hello owners who also subscribe to the Nest Aware video recording service in the coming days.
“We started hearing many people use Nest Hello for welcoming visitors and for security purposes, but people also use [Nest Hello] for package monitoring,” explained Rosie Buchanan, Senior Software Engineer at Google, in an interview with Android Authority.
Nest Hello won’t just tell you when a package arrives, it’ll also notify you when a package has been picked up by a mail service or if it’s been stolen. This, frankly, might be even more useful than getting a package delivery notification. Nearly one third of Americans have experienced package theft of some type, and that ratio goes way up during the holiday season.
Package detection might be a reason in and of itself to buy a Nest video doorbell.
The video doorbell uses computer vision and machine learning to pick up clues that might signify a package is being dropped off or picked up. Nest Hello might notice a uniformed truck driver park outside, walk towards the door with something in-hand, then leave something on the doorstep. It monitors for that exact process only in reverse for packages being picked up from your doorstep.
There are a few limitations, however, though they’re mostly avoidable. The Nest Hello won’t be able to detect packages not in its line of sight. If your local postal worker drops off an Amazon package behind a big potted plant, the Nest Hello may not be able to detect it. This is also the case for partially in-view packages, according to Buchanan.
“The more package that’s in view, the better,” she said.
Since every front doorstep configuration is different, the Nest team also recommends you draw Activity Zones around the space where your packages are usually delivered. This will help ensure your Nest Hello is looking for packages in those areas more frequently. Google is also launching a support page with more information on this feature.
Over time, Nest Hello will be able to better recognize different types of packages, though the Nest team is focusing on standard box-shaped packages for now, approximately 8 x 11 x 1 inches in size and above.
Buchanan has worked at Google for over five years, primarily focused on energy modeling with the Nest Thermostat team and working on ways to make Nest camera devices more intelligent.
“It’s a privilege to design features for real people,” she said.