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Nest Secure has an unlisted, disabled microphone (Update: Google statement)
Update, February 4, 2019 (04:02 PM ET): We received a statement from Google regarding the implication that the Nest Secure alarm system has had an unlisted microphone this whole time. It turns out that yes, the Nest Guard base system (the circular device with a keypad above) does have a built-in microphone that is not listed on the official spec sheet at Nest’s site. The microphone has been in an inactive state since the release of the Nest Secure, according to Google.
This unlisted mic is how the Nest Guard will be able to operate as a pseudo-Google Home with just a software update, as detailed below.
Here is Google’s official statement on the matter:
The Google Assistant on Nest Guard is an opt-in feature, and as the feature becomes available to our users, they’ll receive an email with instructions on how to enable the feature and turn on the microphone in the Nest app. Nest Guard does have one on-device microphone that is not enabled by default.All devices that come with the Google Assistant built in are designed with privacy in mind. Once the Google Assistant is enabled, the mic is always on but only listening for the hotwords “Ok Google” or “Hey Google”. Google only stores voice-based queries after it recognizes those hotwords. Voice data and query contents are sent to Google servers for analysis and storage in My Activity. Through My Activity, users are in control of their information. They can view or delete voice queries in My Activity.
Original Article, February 4, 2019 (02:20 PM ET): Owners of the Nest Secure alarm system have been able to use voice commands to control their home security through Google Assistant for a while now. However, to issue those commands, they needed a separate Google Assistant-powered device, like a smartphone or a Google Home smart speaker.
The reason for this limitation has always seemed straightforward: according to the official tech specs, there’s no onboard microphone in the Nest Secure system.
However, Google just informed us that it is right now rolling out Assistant functionality to all Nest Secure devices via a software update. That’s right: if you currently own a Nest Secure, you will be able to use it as a Google Home very soon.
That means somewhere in the Nest Guard — the keypad base station of the Nest Secure — there might be a microphone we didn’t know existed. Either that or your voice commands are going to be heard by another product (like your phone, maybe) but Assistant’s output will now come from the Nest Guard, if you happen to be in the range of that device.
If the Nest Secure had a hidden mic this whole time, that’s likely going to cause some problems for Google, as security and privacy advocates will probably be pretty upset. We’ve reached out to Google and Nest for a statement on this matter.
Having the Nest Secure act as a pseudo-Google Home does make a lot of sense though, and the feature will likely be a welcome upgrade in the eyes of most people who already own the system. The ability to not only control the alarm system with your voice through the Guard but also control the rest of your smart home, get weather updates, turn on music, or perform any other smart speaker function is definitely helpful.
The rollout of the new feature begins today and will likely take a few days to complete.