back to article Nest's slick IoT burglar alarm catches crooks... while it eyes your wallet

Not that long ago, a thermostat was just a thermostat. It was a beige box that was often installed by someone who came out to your house or office. It did what it did. Turned the heat on, turned the heat off. Had a schedule. Then came Nest, which promised to bring the ugly beige box into the internet era with sexy styling, …

  1. Michael Strorm

    You say you want a Revolv-ution? Well, you know... Nest are gonna shaft you bad!

    Is this the same Nest that- under Google's present ownership- bought out its rival Revolv, then announced little over 18 months later that it would be effectively bricking the devices (by killing off the server they relied on) with just a month's notice, despite them having been sold with a "Lifetime Subscription"? (#)

    I do believe that it is!

    Yeah, you know that's the sort of company you can trust when you're spending hundreds- if not thousands- of pounds fitting out your home with infrastructure it's going to be relying on.

    (#) At the risk of stating the ******* obvious, another example of the dangers of relying on IoT shite tied to a specific company's servers.

  2. steamnut

    Where are the lifetime guarantees?

    Since Nest already have form in suddenly dropping a product (remember Revolv? $300 down the pan) then why would you purchase a whole house full of their stuff at all?

    At least with ADT you always have a system that works; since they supply the kit they are unlikely to suddenly drop their own servers are they?

    And, being cynical, will any break-in data be sold to insurance companies or replacement product suppliers? No system is 100% secure so, if you are hacked, will Nest compensate you if someone breaks into your house because they knew you were out? Nope didn't think so.

    The whole IOT hype is just not stable enough to contemplate anything other than your own designed system (yes I am a control freak). Until there are open standards and inter-operability (very unlikely) then, after the hype dies down, there is always a chance that you will have a house full of landfill electronics.

    Lets face it Apple, Nest, ring.com et al are all really after selling you a product that will tie you into their recurring revenue business model. Adding words like "customer experience" or "immersive" to an advert really disguises the fact that they only want your Direct Debit authority.

    Merry Christmas to one and all. If you have not already done so, it is time to pull the help-desk phones and start drinking....

    1. Michael Strorm

      Re: Where are the lifetime guarantees?

      The joke is that Revolv *did* apparently come with a "lifetime subscription"! This obviously didn't count for much when Nest/Google took them over.

      Though, apparently Google claimed that they "may offer compensation on a case-by-case basis" [my emphasis]. Which was nice of them, wasn't it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Where are the lifetime guarantees?

        Though, apparently Google claimed that they "may offer compensation on a case-by-case basis" [my emphasis]. Which was nice of them, wasn't it?

        A friend of mine (in Ca) got a full refund on a 2 year old system. His sister (a somewhat mean lawyer - she scare me and I am married to her) got onto to their case.

        1. Michael Strorm

          Re: Where are the lifetime guarantees?

          "A friend of mine (in Ca) got a full refund on a 2 year old system. His sister (a somewhat mean lawyer - she scare me and I am married to her) got onto to their case."

          That's good as far as it goes (#), but what would have happened if your brother-in-law hadn't been lucky enough to have a friendly lawyer to sic on Google/Nest?

          (#) A full refund for a two-year-old system is great if you're a "boys toys" type that would have been replacing it with new shite sooner rather than later anyway. It's still a hassle if you bought it as a means to an end, and have to buy, set up and learn to use a new system to replace one that was otherwise (physically) fine and should have run for years anyway.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Where are the lifetime guarantees?

        I always interpret "lifetime guarantees" as meaning for the lifetime of the product.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Where are the lifetime guarantees?

          I always interpret "lifetime guarantees" as meaning for the lifetime of the product.

          Where's your sarc tags?

          I always interpret a lifetime guarantee as an un-meant promise by the marketing department, that the legal department caveated to the point that the circumstances for a successful claim including that the claimant be the seventh son of a seventh son, and his claim to be submitted punctually on 29 February.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Where are the lifetime guarantees?

            Yeah, I forgot the sarc tag. My non-sarcastic comment is that I don't put any faith whatsoever in any guarantee or warranty. The times when I've tried to hold companies to them, they've made it so expensive or so much of a hassle that it has eliminated their actual value.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Where are the lifetime guarantees?

          Of course it's the lifetime of the product, not the lifetime of the owner. You would have to be a total retard to think the company is offering a 50+ year warranty.

          Sadly, most of the commentators here seem to really do fall into the retard category it seems.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Where are the lifetime guarantees?

      At least with ADT you always have a system that works; since they supply the kit they are unlikely to suddenly drop their own servers are they?

      ADT provides a service, and their income is dependent on their providing that service (which is dependent on their equipment doing the job it's supposed to). Nest/Google/Alphabet's income doesn't.

  3. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    Way overpriced

    For anyone who can read and follow basic instructions one of the many wireless alarm systems on eBay is much better value.

    (For example "HOMSECUR Pet Friendly Wireless GSM Autodial Burglar Alarm System+720P IP Camera" at £197.49 has 4 PIR sensors, 9 window/door sensors, smoke sensor, video camera, inside and outside sirens and battery backup.)

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Way overpriced

      While I can believe it, internet connected wotsits - say camera - have a very poor reputation for vulnerabilities. Opening the system to BOT usage is bad enough, other issues that will probably follow on :-( Not a great number of security audits appear to be available - possibly these companies should invest in some independent testing?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Way overpriced

        You know that IP camera storm in a teacup "news" affected one particular brand of camera and was basically click bait for iot hating retards...?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What real use are they?

    Here's my problem with domestic burglar alarms of any colour: what's the point?

    I've lived in London boroughs, small towns, and out in the sticks. In about 50 years I've been burgled precisely twice, losing a few hundred quids worth of stuff each time which was replaced by my insurance company, and having to repair one door lock and one cat flap! If my app had helpfully told me I was being burgled while I was out it wouldn't have made any difference, because by the time I'd called the police then even if they could be bothered to send someone out straight away (unlikely), they wouldn't have been there with the 10 minutes the average burglary takes anyway. The alarm sounding outside wouldn't provoke a neighbourly response, because the damned things go off all the time sounding false alarms and so are ignored (at least until they've been pissing everyone off by repeating for a couple of hours, in which case it's just a fault anyway).

    So stick a dummy alarm box on the wall so you don't stand out from the paranoid neighbours, forget about configuration/codes/convenient going-jogging "features"/pet zones/deafening midnight false alarms, save your money, and chill out! Oh, and make sure you shut your doors and windows.

    1. Dave Pickles

      Re: What real use are they?

      Having also been 'done over' twice in 35 years I agree it is better to not make yourself a target rather than try to deal with the consequences.

      It's a shame the security companies don't come up with products to make a house less attractive as a target. For example I would like some kind of motorised letter-box, so that junk mail and free newspapers don't get left hanging out for days on end if no-one is at home.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: What real use are they?

        > For example I would like some kind of motorised letter-box

        It already exists and is called a shredder.

        1. PNGuinn
          Trollface

          Re: What real use are they?

          "> For example I would like some kind of motorised letter-box

          It already exists and is called a shredder."

          You mean a large dog with access to the inside of the letterbox. Bonus points if it can reach the hand that feeds it ...

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: What real use are they?

          It already exists and is called a shredder.

          Back in my youth one of those hidden camera practical joke programs had installed two letterboxes in someone's front door: one for addressed mail, and one for flyers etcetera. That one shredded the stuff you put in, and blew it back out over the paper boy's shoes.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: What real use are they?

        "For example I would like some kind of motorised letter-box, so that junk mail and free newspapers don't get left hanging out for days on end if no-one is at home."

        It's a good idea to be on friendly terms with a neighbor to two that can keep an eye on your place when you plan to be out for a few days and collect anything left on the drive or porch. There is a retired couple across the street from me and we let each other know when we are going to be out of town. A break in is a pain in the butt, but having a broken window left uncovered when a rain storm passes through can be an even bigger problem. A broken backdoor left open could mean a having some foxes, rats or hedgehogs having a rummage through the house. City foxes can be pretty brave and cheeky.

    2. fishman

      Re: What real use are they?

      I've seen neighbors with fake security company stickers in their windows.

    3. Tikimon Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: What real use are they?

      Deterrence: not total, but pretty strong. Most crooks would prefer to break into a house or car that will not scream and give them away. If your place is alarmed (hah) then your neighbors without one look much more attractive.

      Damage-control: If your alarm is yelling for help and may have called the cops, the intruder will make it quick and get out. Otherwise a burglar has lots of time and privacy to ransack the place.

      Unfortunately I can vouch for this. I lived in a terrible part of Atlanta for nine years and we were burgled about five times. Each time they grabbed the TV and computer but totally missed the good stashes of jewelry and other slightly-hidden Good Stuff. Given time to root around, they would have found all that.

      So not perfect, not total deterrence, but they do have value.

      1. Duffy Moon

        Re: What real use are they?

        So really, you might as well just buy one or two fake alarm boxes and stick them on the outside of your property.

        My dad did that fourty years ago. The box is still there and the house has never been burgled.

  5. John Lilburne Silver badge

    WTF with monthly charges. They only need to do something when the alarm triggers otherwise its money for doing fuck all. I installed our system 10+ years ago. It sounds an alarm and it rings me and 5 other numbers. I can arm, disarm and monitor it from my mobile. If the base unit is tampered with the outside siren is triggered, and the base unit has a battery backup.

    IoT what a load of hype around bollocks.

    1. Michael Strorm

      "IoT what a load of hype around bollocks."

      ...and as a wise man once said, "never mind the bollocks".

      "WTF with monthly charges."

      For their benefit, not yours. The vast majority of "features" "requiring" such monthly charges are just contrived rationalisations of their desire to get a nice stream of revenue from you in exchange for being tied to a service that costs them thruppence ha'penny a year per person to run.

      I hate the use of the word "plan" in this context, the marketing weasels' jumped up attempt to normalise the concept of a "subscription", i.e. giving them money on a recurring basis for old rope.

      I've trained my dog to attack sales types whenever they utter the word "plan". (Yes, stolen from Paul Calf, sue me...)

  6. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
    Trollface

    Fat Puck

    For some reason that sticks in my mind, presumably my late mother was frightened by the Reverend Spooner.

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Fat Puck

      Who is this Pat Fuck and why would anyone want to put buttons on her???

      Oh, wait...

  7. VinceH Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "Will we all start to covet this new security system?

    Well, having tested the system now for two months, we can answer authoritatively: yes and no. And which side you will end up on will depend on two things: the size and shape of your home; and how much money you have and are willing to spend on a security system."

    You appear to have missed a reason for someone falling into the 'no' category - which is because they aren't stupid enough to buy things with teh 'smarts'.

  8. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    Coat

    Rasberry Pi to the rescue?

    We've already seen cool apps and projects built around the Pi.

    This could be used in terms of motion sensors and some of the components.

    Of course this could be tied in to a small Linux box hidden away on a UPS...

    All FOSS driven.

    It may not save you on your insurance... but it will add to your piece of mind.

    1. An nonymous Cowerd

      Re: Rasberry Pi to the rescue?

      yep, got one of these, RPi/Arduino based, BUT have to watch out for the different fake (near wifi) mesh comms modules, buy as genuine as you can find, or just use wires. 6.7Ah 'RavPower' iSmart powerbank makes a great micro-UPS.

    2. Andy629

      Re: Rasberry Pi to the rescue?

      I’m using a Pi + zwave sensors to actively monitor an elderly relative, the solution is capable of probably 90% of all that a wired intruder alarm does, but I’d be very reluctant to rely on it as such, it’s wireless (= not always reliable), the Pi has an occasional “moment” (once in 15 months that I’m aware of); basically I’d go for an alarm self installed rather than have the annoying and ironic experience of finding someone has broken in and half-inched the easy to grab shiny tech.

      I’m waiting for a spate of thefts from houses of Nest security systems (there is a small hope that each device has a unique Id so if it gets stolen it can be blocked, but really this should not have to be a feature of a security system)

    3. druck Silver badge
      Go

      Re: Rasberry Pi to the rescue?

      The most important security measure isn't an alarm, it's good physical security - and actually using it. Doors with good locks and windows with security glass are only any good if they are closed and locked.

      I'm making a Raspberry Pi system them will remind me as I'm leaving the house if I've left any doors unlocked or large windows open. It doesn't have to be hack proof, or need backup power, and if everything is locked up and the worst still happens, the house insurance will cover it.

    4. whileI'mhere

      Re: Rasberry Pi to the rescue?

      Which piece of your mind is that, then?

    5. whileI'mhere

      Re: Rasberry Pi to the rescue?

      Which piece of your mind is that, then? The bit that craves some peace?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had alarm keys twenty-five years ago...

    I had electronic "keys", not yet "tags" to enable/disable the alarm system twenty-five years ago already. They don't need power - like a phone app - and don't depend on your phone age, make or OS. Far more comfortable to keep in pocket.

    The alarm main box can be placed in a much securer place, and I had readers in three different positions. It was much simpler for my mum. And far quicker to operate.

    This obsession for "apps" won't end well...

    1. dajames Silver badge

      Re: I had alarm keys twenty-five years ago...

      I had electronic "keys", not yet "tags" to enable/disable the alarm system twenty-five years ago already. They don't need power - like a phone app - and don't depend on your phone age, make or OS. Far more comfortable to keep in pocket.

      The trouble with 'tags' is the way people use them -- they invariably put them on the same key-ring as their house keys. This means that if you lose your keys and they are found near your house the finder can walk down the street trying your keys in all the front doors, and when they find one that opens they know they have the tag for the alarm.

      Two-factor authentication it ain't. A passcode is much more secure.

      Tags do have their uses -- people who can't remember a passcode will nevertheless be able to use a tag, and on systems that are operated by a large and rapidly-changing group (an office with a lot of short-term staff, for instance) management of passcodes can be a challenge -- but for most domestic situations a passcode wins hands-down.

  10. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    But wait, there's more (fees)

    The Nest is pretty much useless when the Internet is down. At least around here in the US, everything has an exposed service box where your private wires meet the utility's wires. At best it has a "Security Torx" screw head, which is so common that most tool combo-packs include drivers. Monitored security systems will call you when the wire is cut. DIY security systems have on-board storage. Nest needs you to purchase a cellular backup subscription.

  11. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Holmes

    Next development - for crooks

    Walking toward the house, the Nest phone app pops up a prompt: "It looks like you’re close to a home to be burgled – turn off alarm?" And with one tap, you can turn off your alarm before you even open the door.

    1. goodjudge

      Re: Next development - for crooks

      Re: "It looks like you’re close to home – turn off alarm?", where is the security when you can steal a phone and get the house included?

  12. Garymrrsn

    Game Cams

    Most people in our area use automatic wildlife cameras for security. Neighbours aren't close enough to hear an alarm and the police are too far. Just recently a neighbour provided the police with photos of two thieves faces, a photo of their vehicle and the vehicle tag number.

    As to price; Game cams retail from $50 to $300

    Security systems do not stop theft. They just report it.

    1. ITS Retired

      Re: Game Cams

      Some common sense there. You are correct.

      I triggered the burglar alarm at a isolated work location one time and spend 10 to 15 minutes finishing the work I went there to do. I was 10 unhurryed miles away, when I was notified by the truck 2-way that the alarm went off. I had to go back and reset it.

      Paranoid management thought we needed the burglar alarm because the building was off by itself. There wasn't much to interest a burglar anyway. A waste of money.

  13. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    DIY Security

    I have some motion detector lights and security cameras as well as an alarm. The motion detectors have been stripped of their typical floodlight heads and wired to switch other lights on the property. Burglars know what a standard motion light is, but this setup throws them off. The cameras are obvious enough to be noticed by potential thieves. But they are somewhat tamper proof in that each camera is within the field of view of at least one more. So sneaking up behind one to disable it will just get your picture taken by several more.

    If they cut the power, the cameras and some lights still work off a UPS. When most thieves see this level of attention, they figure (correctly) that alarm signals go out over a cellular network, so cutting phone lines and WiFi would be useless. At this point, unless they really want into my house specifically, it's usually on to the next one.

    It's a non standard enough system that they can't be certain what they are dealing with.

  14. Mad Hacker

    Hard wired sensors and cellular transmitter all with back up batteries

    Ok, I'm out of contract by now but I'll admit I have an ADT system. My two story house was built 11 years ago and (not a custom house but they give you a few options) I picked the option for an alarm prewire. Every door and window (even on 2nd floor) have hardwired magnetic sensors in the frames. All those wires go to a box in an upstairs closet. The prewired for 3 control pads... One by the front door, one by the door out to the garage and one in the upstairs master bedroom. The painfully loud siren is hidden in an air duct. The monitor system works over cellular (a more recent free upgrade without a new contract) so cutting (or not having) a landline isn't an issue. Separate batteries back up the alarm and cellular modem.

    I don't think I'd consider a system that didn't integrate with my hard wired, no power source required, and non visible door and window sensors.

    1. JaitcH
      Unhappy

      Re: Hard wired sensors and cellular transmitter all with back up batteries

      Never heard of a cell jammer?

      1. Test Man

        Re: Hard wired sensors and cellular transmitter all with back up batteries

        That would only be valid if the opportunistic thief had Superman vision and could accurately determine that his house has hidden sensors that used an alarm system of the type that required a cell jammer to block, compared to a house with nothing.

  15. Timmay

    Horizontal service

    >The Nest Guard base station, part of the Nest Secure kit, has to be on a horizontal service

    I guess prostitution could be classed as a horizontal service?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Tuppenny uprights

      Rather too classy for most of us

  16. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Anything that's closed and proprietary is crap in the long run, and crap in the short run if you are unlucky.

    Brit Gas gave me a kit of Hive stuff because they ruined my AlertMe setup. Even though BG based Hive on AlertMe they removed power monitoring and made the old AlertMe hardware incompatible. WTG!! I only used AlertMe for power monitoring. All talk of saving energy is just talk. BG wants you to use more energy.

    Apparently AlertMe had few customers. But even so BG couldn't let the old server just churn on at almost no cost to them. Most likely some suit made sure of that.

    Sold the Hive stuff off. Someone else can play which these toys.

  17. Cragganmore

    Physical security

    Better locks, secure doors, external lights etc. Better to spend money on stopping miscreants gaining access in the first place rather than watching grainy footage of them ransacking your lovely home on your smartphone.

  18. pleb

    Yes, the cost of these 'solutions'. Reminds me of the old stand-up gag about the husband who did not report his wife's stolen credit card. The thief was spending less than his wife.

  19. JaitcH
    Devil

    Guess Most of the Features are Covered by ...

    HAVEN, recently released by Freedom of the Press Foundation and its president, famed NSA leaker Edward Snowden, might be a low-cost answer.

    Personally, I don't think Google and it's sub-companies, are to be trusted with any data you want to be kept private, including absences from your place of residence.

    Most systems have a large hole in their strategies - communication security. Wires can be cut and cell frequencies jammed. Then there is the Crying Wolf problem - false alarms caused deliberately by prospective robbers.

    Hard to beat a large, ugly, dog with a bad attitude towards humans.

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