The Nest Smoke Detector's "Wave to Hush" Feature May Work a Little Too Well

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 4 2014 1:25 PM

The Nest Smoke Detector's "Wave to Hush" Feature May Work a Little Too Well

Don't "wave to dismiss" a Nest Protect alarm unless you really mean it.

Image by Nest.

Nest, the Google-owned creator of smart-home products like thermostats, is halting sales on its Protect smoke detector while it investigates a potential problem with one of the product’s beloved features. With “Nest Wave” or “wave to dismiss,” users turn off the smoke detector alarm by simply waving their arms at it. This is very useful if, say, you are prone to burning bacon. Except that in recent lab tests, Nest found that the feature may cause the smoke detector to stop issuing alarms during actual emergencies.

Nest says in an FAQ about the situation that it is not recalling Protects. Instead, the company is discontinuing sales, sending out an automatic update to deactivate Nest Wave on all Protects with Internet access, and asking people who don't connect their Protects to Internet full time to disable Nest Wave themselves using the Nest app. Once Nest Wave is disabled, the Protect still functions as a smoke and CO2 detector/alarm—but users will need to press the large button on their Protects if they want to indicate a false alarm and stop the device from going off.


Nest says it hasn't had any reports of the Nest Wave problem affecting real-life situations, but the company clearly thinks there is a legitimate concern. The beauty of the Internet of Things, though, is that Nest should be able to devise a firmware (the code that coordinates hardware and software in a device) or software solution so Protect users can do a software update on their device to fix the problem. No need to buy new hardware! That update, though, will have to be cleared with regulators in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. This may be a setback for Nest, but the Protect is still far more pleasant to use, and if an ambitious cooking project goes awry, at least the alarm is a calm female voice instead of an infuriating shrill beep.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.


The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?


“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.