back to article My Nest smoke alarm was great … right up to the point it went nuts

"I thought it was supposed to talk and tell us when the battery was low," my wife said. In retrospect, that was the first sign that all was not well with the Nest Protect smoke and CO detector. One of the main reasons, in fact probably the reason that the $99 device is on the wall as opposed to one of the many smoke detectors …

  1. LDS Silver badge

    Just thank that...

    ... it is not yet connected to an automatic fire suppression system...

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    What is 'Smart'?

    Frankly, I am dubious that anything mass produced that is claimed to be Smart, actually is.

    Unless the the item is approaching laptop prices I doubt there is much in the way of either hardware or programming that could be honestly described as smart or intelligent, these things are designed and produced to a price that sounds as though it is offering good value for money. Function may be a bit more than your average smoke detector but for under a hundred quid nothing is going to be that smart .

    1. Steven Roper

      Re: What is 'Smart'?

      For me at least "Smart" has become a euphemism for "constantly monitors your behaviour and phones home about it for profiling and monetisation." Perhaps "Connected" or the even more descriptive "Telemetrised" devices might be a more approrpiate term.

      1. LaeMing Silver badge
        Alert

        I read that as...

        ...profiling and molestation.

        Still fits.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Profiling & monetization

        Given that Google owns Nest now, I think this is inevitable.

        Since it has motion sensors, it probably knows if you get up to go the bathroom in the middle of the night on a regular basis. You'll probably start seeing ads for whatever they give old men to stop them from doing that!

        1. Roq D. Kasba

          Re: Profiling & monetization

          Well, in IoT world, that smoke detector is smart enough to advise your fridge to not automatically order milk seeing as the house burnt down, but you might need some new pans ordering from Amazon.

    2. itzman
      Facepalm

      Re: What is 'Smart'?

      I am dubious that anything mass produced that is claimed to be Smart, actually is.

      Like Babies,you mean

      1. Chairo
        Angel

        Re: What is 'Smart'?

        @Hzman

        You are mass producing Babies? Must be a very exhausting job. Can I apply for it?

        Btw: Babies can be surprisingly smart. They understand very well, what is forbidden and to stay very silent while doing it.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Unicornpiss Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: What is 'Smart'?

          Babies can be surprisingly smart. It's only after they learn to communicate with adults, go through our educational systems, and have some angst-y failures in life that they become the idiots that don't use turn signals, 'downsize' companies, work in Apple stores, do telemarketing, and possibly end up on the nightly news. (either as the main attraction or the newscasters)

          1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: What is 'Smart'?

            I fear that if I am ever forced to live in a smart house I will end up with a load of self-satisfied and chatty doors, an elevator sulking in the basement, and a nutrimatic machine insisting I want a cup filled with a liquid, which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

            Doffs hat (black fedora today) to the late, great Douglas Adams

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: What is 'Smart'?

              > I fear that if I am ever forced to live in a smart house

              ..my next visit will be to the ironmongers for some device disabling tools. A 4lb lump hammer usually suffices.

              Sometimes a large screwdriver might be needed. But mostly a 4lb lump hammer.

          2. DropBear Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: What is 'Smart'?

            "Babies can be surprisingly smart."

            They must be indeed considering they somehow managed to figure out that bawling at 150 decibels 24/7 is no longer likely to get them splatted on the cave wall...

    3. MrDamage

      Re: What is 'Smart'?

      "Smart" devices exist for the people who are too stupid to understand how to use the "dumb" versions.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: What is 'Smart'?

        My experience is that the smarter the device the smarter the user needs to be to get the most out of it. I suspect here will be many smart devices that end up being as effective as their dumb equivalents because they are used by dumb (or at least the ignorant in things IT) people.

    4. LDS Silver badge

      Re: What is 'Smart'?

      They would be "smart" if they used a network of different sensors to rule out false alarms. For example comparing smoke read outs with IR and temperature sensors readouts (of course you'd need more sensors scattered around than a single one....). They could also set up a light path for the safest evacuation route, while calling for help.

      That would be being "smart". A device just designed to gather more and more data about you pretending to be somewhat useful is not "smart" - is "cunning" or "wily"...

      1. NightFox

        Re: What is 'Smart'?

        Well, I'll grant you that it's not quite 'smart' in that it doesn't involve any conditional decision making, but there is IoT integration beyond just the smoke detectors - if one of my Nest smoke detectors triggers, it will automatically turn off my central heating boiler (controlled by Tado) and turn on all my Philips Hue lights in red, which apparently provides better lighting in a smoke-filled environment.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What is 'Smart'? @NightFox

          it will automatically turn off my central heating boiler (controlled by Tado) and turn on all my Philips Hue lights in red, which apparently provides better lighting in a smoke-filled environment.

          Cool. Can you choose the alarm sound? Klaxon would be good. Then, don't wash or shave for weeks, and you can act out scenes from Das Boot. Bark orders at the kids, pretend the toilet flush lever actually launches torpedoes, and then lurch around drunkenly pretending that you're being depth charged. You could pretend that your laptop is an Enigma machine, and smash it up to stop it falling into enemy hands, as well.

          And Google are offering you that starring role in your own drama, with free repeats for what, $200 ?

    5. jake Silver badge

      Re: What is 'Smart'?

      "smart" is a marketing term, used as a lure to separate people who are not smart from their money.

    6. JDX Gold badge

      Re: What is 'Smart'?

      Unless the the item is approaching laptop prices I doubt there is much in the way of either hardware or programming that could be honestly described as smart or intelligent

      You mean like a Raspberry Pi? Or a £50 smart-phone? The whole driving force behind IoT is that fairly powerful computers are now dirt cheap to the extent you can put them in stuff at little extra cost.

      These things could work great - your smoke alarm raises your house lights (maybe leaving the kids' rooms out for you to alert them).

      1. DougS Silver badge

        @JDX - whole driving force behind IoT

        You say the driving force is "fairly powerful computers are dirt cheap to the extent you can put them in stuff at little extra cost". I think the driving force is adding features no one needs so you can charge more for a product that should be simple like a thermostat, refrigerator or light bulb.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: @JDX - whole driving force behind IoT

          > I think the driving force is adding features no one needs so you can charge more

          And don't forget all that lovely data[2] you can accumulate on the poor saps that use your 'service' for free[1]..

          [1] Which actually isn't.

          [2] Lots of data == loadsamoney from/for unscrupulous vendors.

  3. BoldMan

    Dump it and get some reliable old fashioned devices. Leave the bleeding edge technology to idiots with more money than sense...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      idiots with more money than sense...

      I live in a rental. Owners over here are obliged to put those screaming, battery consuming bastards -the cheapest they can find of course- on the ceiling of every room and/or hallway.

      First thing was removing the batteries from each and every one of them.

      But otoh I do prohibit open fire in the house. (eg. candles)

      Household appliances not in use are not connected to any power outlet, especially the ones without a physical on/off switch.

      You are allowed to smoke, but ashtrays stay on the sink until the next morning instead of emptying them into the bin before going to sleep. Checking if the stove is turned off has become a habit.

      Works fine.

      1. Alfred

        Re: idiots with more money than sense...

        "Works fine".

        Up until the point that a building catches fire, it has a perfect record of not catching fire. As you say, works fine.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: idiots with more money than sense...

          As a current landlord in the UK, we pay to install a mains powered (with battery backup) interconnected alarm system, with CO detector, along with annual gas safety checks and regular electrical safety checks as required.

          I am happy to confirm that seeing everything disconnected at inspection means that your tenancy agreement is not going to be renewed as:

          - I don't want problems with my insurance when you burn the place down, and

          - I don't want you suing me when all the other members of your household die in a fire because "the alarms didn't go off".

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: idiots with more money than sense...

            "seeing everything disconnected at inspection means that your tenancy agreement is not going to be renewed"

            It's actually grounds for tenancy termination. You're being remarkably lenient.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: idiots with more money than sense...

              Yup.

              However, we normally start people with a 6 month trial agreement before going for longer, with the first inspection 3 months in. Realistically speaking it is going to be quite expensive and take damn near 3 months to actually go through full eviction proceedings, so it's often easier to just wait.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: idiots with more money than sense...

          Three years ago, my neighbour's (adjoining) house went up in flames (due to a malfunctioning massage seat). Turns out there were two fire engines and a ladder, with all the bells and whistles full on, underneath my bedroom window for five hours. Didn't hear a thing since I was asleep. Smoke detectors are of no use to me. The only thing I can do is to avoid it from happening by acting careful. All the rest is bad luck. Karma if you like.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: idiots with more money than sense...

            Didn't hear a thing since I was asleep. Smoke detectors are of no use to me.

            You want a NEST bed: one that tips over when the NEST smoke alarm signals it to wake you up.

            The NEST Bed Super Deluxe Plus will move out the bedroom door and tip you down the stairs to save time.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: idiots with more money than sense...

              > You want a NEST bed: one that tips over when the NEST smoke alarm signals it

              Does it come complete with a chute that leads to the breakfast table? And a rack for your clothes?

              And is it connected to the toaster, egg boiler and bacon fryer?

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge
                Boffin

                Re: idiots with more money than sense...

                Does it come complete with a chute that leads to the breakfast table? And a rack for your clothes?

                That's an entirely different line of house automation, made by W&G Devices, Unlimited.

          2. Siberian Hamster

            Re: idiots with more money than sense...

            First term in university I got rudely shaken awake by my room mate. After asking why he would do such un-godly thing (may have used expletives too) he rather calmly told me the fire alarm had been going off outside our room for the last 5 mins and I hadn't even woken up. To be honest, it was pretty loud...

          3. Jon 37

            Re: idiots with more money than sense...

            > Didn't hear a thing since I was asleep. Smoke detectors are of no use to me.

            If you're deaf, you can get vibrating pads that go under your pillow, and vibrate to wake you up if the fire alarm goes off. Alternatively, if your hearing is just bad, you may be OK with having a smoke alarm in the bedroom & linking them all up.

            Both options are going to cost more than a cheap battery-powered smoke alarm, but they might save your life.

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: idiots with more money than sense...

        However, if you DO pay $99 for something, you expect it to:

        1. Do what it claims to do

        and

        2. Not be a piece of cr@p

        Seems like the author's Nest failed on both counts.

        Re: batteries. Our state has mandated that all new construction (since about 1990) have hardwired smoke detectors. No more batteries.

        // Appropriate icon

        1. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: idiots with more money than sense...

          > Re: batteries. Our state has mandated that all new construction (since about 1990) have hardwired smoke detectors. No more batteries.

          Err - don't they have battery backups inside them for when the fire takes out your power supply before they get a chance to deafen you?

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: idiots with more money than sense...

          > have hardwired smoke detectors

          Which is all very well if they fit decent ones. And not the ones our new house (admittedly in 1997) came with - even opening the oven door while baking a cake set off the smoke alarms.

          And forget about doing toast or roast potatoes - guarenteed hysteria from the smoke alarms.

          Now replaced with less paranoid and more efficient ones.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "If your smart thermostat goes wrong, you could end up roasting or freezing."

    That is exactly what happened to many Nest central heating systems last winter. Apparently it took several weeks for a firmware update to be issued to fix everyone.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/14/fashion/nest-thermostat-glitch-battery-dies-software-freeze.html?_r=0

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Happened to my last but one car when a temperature sensor failed and the air conditioning system valiantly tried to maintain an internal temperature of 18C by turning heaters on full due to its belief that the external temperature was -40C!

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        You don't need "smart"...

        for that to happen. Many years ago, and I hate to admit this, I had an Austin Maestro (it was a cheap stop-gap buy) with one of the first ECUs, including an electric choke. Since the box thought the temperature was permanently high it would never activate the choke making starting in winter a pain.

        Plus point in those days though was it could be solved by disassembly and resoldering dodgy joints.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: You don't need "smart"...

          (ECUs)

          I had a Rover with a K-series engine. Electronic ignition still had a distributor and rotor arm, but the timing was all done electronically. Water got in the distributor and it all corroded and fell apart. At a road junction.

          Fixed with the spring from a ball-point pen.

          Drove the next 40 miles or so better than it had done for the previous couple of weeks :-)

          Same car had this really odd problem where if the petrol tank was less than about a third full, the engine would cut out on left-hand bends. Bloke who has looked after my car for years and years couldn't work out what was wrong but I just learned to deal with it. I ended up selling the car at around 200,000 miles and it was still going.

          I have a bog-standard smoke alarm that cost me about ten quid, and the occasional battery. IT JUST WORKS.

          M.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: You don't need "smart"...

            Same car had this really odd problem where if the petrol tank was less than about a third full, the engine would cut out on left-hand bends.

            A while back we had a car that was converted to run on LPG, with the option to switch back to petrol if you ran out. One day we had to run the LPG tank empty because a valve had to be replaced, and so we did. Driving, the engine dies just a few km from home (and the garage), and I flip the selector switch back to petrol. The engine stays dead. Coast to a stop. Check that, yes, there's petrol in the tank. Try to start again. Nope. Nada. Doornail territory. Call roadside assistance and get towed home. Figured out what the problem was: the tube internal to the tank sticking down into the petrol had dropped off its fitting, and the pump was just sucking vapours.

            And the Vauxhall Viva that was my first car had a pinhole leak somewhere in a fuel line so that when you parked it with the tank filled over two-thirds, the excess petrol would find its way out. Filling up fully, then driving until you were down past the 2/3 mark: no problem.

            1. Skoorb

              Re: You don't need "smart"...

              Is converting a car to run LPG actually worth it? Did you save money overall?

              1. Alien8n Silver badge

                Re: You don't need "smart"...

                Depends on the mileage done and your expectation on lifespan of the vehicle. Assuming approx 30mpg and a £1500 install cost for the LPG and given approx 50% cost for LPG compared to petrol it should pay for itself before you hit 20,000 miles.

              2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

                Re: You don't need "smart"...

                If you do a lot of mileage, it's worth it. It costs about £500/head, if I remember correctly. I looked into it once but I didn't do enough mileage ( even at 16mpg ) to be worth it.

              3. Stoneshop Silver badge

                Re: You don't need "smart"...

                Did you save money overall?

                Dunno. It was bought second-hand with the LPG kit already fitted. Tends to bump up the price a bit, but not much, really. And while road tax for LPG is higher for private cars, it isn't for business vehicles ("grijs kenteken").

          2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: You don't need "smart"...

            I had a Rover with a K-series engine. Electronic ignition still had a distributor and rotor arm, but the timing was all done electronically. Water got in the distributor and it all corroded and fell apart. At a road junction.

            Lucas?

            They don't call him the Prince of Darkness for nothing...

            1. Hud Dunlap
              Joke

              Re: You don't need "smart"... @Antron Argalv

              "A Gentleman does not motor about after Dark."

            2. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: You don't need "smart"...

              Lucas? Possibly, dunno. Replaced it (the rotor arm and the cap) with cheap Halfords own-brand which also eventually failed through water ingress, but at a total parts cost under £20 (IIRC) I didn't really mind. The fact that contrary to normal practice, making something electronic and "intelligent" actually made servicing easier (no need to faff with the timing) was a pleasant surprise.

              M.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: You don't need "smart"...

          > Plus point in those days though was it could be solved by disassembly and resoldering dodgy joints.

          You seem to have misspelled "disassembley with a large hammer[1]" :-)

          [1] I'm sensing a theme for me today..

  5. Number6

    I've had the 3am awakening with no prior low-battery chirps. It is not fun to be dragged out of deep sleep to the sound of a frantic smoke alarm.

    Does your house get cold at night? My theory at the time was that the battery was getting old, but not enough to initiate the sporadic chirp at comfortable room temperature, then the temperature dropped overnight because I'd set the thermostat to be really low while I was asleep, and as the temperature went down, so did the battery volts.

    1. Stuart Halliday

      He did put quality Lithium batteries in it right?

      1. Anonymous Cow Herder

        Haha, I got it :-)

    2. Patrick Marino

      Daylight Savings

      In the past 10 years I have had children and resolved to change all the batteries in all the detectors every 'fall back' I haven't had one low battery chirp. Yes it might cost $20 a year in batteries, but the thought of explaining why someone died of smoke inhalation because I forgot to replace the batteries isn't a conversation I would want to have.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Daylight Savings

        In the past 10 years I have had children and resolved to change all the batteries in all the detectors every 'fall back' I haven't had one low battery chirp

        OK, fair enough, but I still want to know what is so difficult in adding a hysteresis circuit that keeps its LED blinking once it has done its low battery chirp? Either you decide that low is low and pretty much removes its ability to yell at you when there is smoke/fire and use the remaining power to help you find which of the buggers needs feeding, or the function is useless.

        The "I will bleep VERY briefly every half hour" signal that they collectively exhibit is extremely unhelpful and I'm betting I'm not the only one that has ripped the lot out to get some sleep, with the plan to sort it all out when my brain actually stands a chance of making an intelligent stab at finding the culprit. From a safety perspective, that is not the most ergonomic approach to design.

        1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

          Re: Daylight Savings

          There could be another reason for every-half-hour-chirp, as I have learned with a dumb smoke detector - dust inside. You have to occasionally take the vacuum cleaner to certain types of smoke detectors, and I did not know that until I got really annoyed by these chirps (and after having replaced the battery)

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: Daylight Savings

            And the unmentioned fact that detectors based on the ionisation of Americum have a lifespan of about 10 years or so. I've had a couple that have done a chirp just like the low-battery chirp but meaning that they are beyond this period.

            For avoiding low-battery chirps, mains-powered and interconnected alarms are available and not expensive.

            The first link is to alarms which take Alkaline batteries as backup - fit a Lithium instead and it'll probably last ten years. The second link has a rechargeable battery as a backup, so again, ten years at least.

            Wireless versions are also available if running the interconnection wires is too hard, though also somewhat more expensive.

            M.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Daylight Savings

              pretty sure that with modern building reg's mains alarms must be installed. We had them fitted about 6 years ago when we renovated (totally gutted) our house. We have 5 around the house and when one goes off they all go off. They also have interchangeable detector heads so can detect, smoke, heat or "flicker flame". They do also take a 9v battery for backup in the case of a main failure. They are pretty easy to install in an existing property and they just get wired in to your lighting ring. Seems to me NEST is a solution for a problem that doesn't really exist, well not to the tune of paying £99 for one! So it doesn't make a high pitched alarm noise, and, it lights up when you walk past, so, you won't (but actually will) be woken up if the battery runs out (once every few years), and.......

            2. This post has been deleted by its author

              1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: Daylight Savings

                (Americium / ionisation)

                Point taken - I'm no chemist :-)

                Mains alarms - fitted these when I rewired a previous house. Rate-of-heat-rise in the kitchen, smoke (optical) elsewhere. Never a false alarm, tested as well as I could (difficult for the RoH) and changed the batteries every two or three years. Cheap (see my previous links) and simple.

                M.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Daylight Savings

                  we're the same we have 5 mains alarms which work pretty well apart from the one in the kitchen as guess where the clown sparky put the detection head, yep that'll be above the ovens! TWAT Its a long (11m) open plan room kitchen at one end and a wood burner at the other, guess where he put the other detector, yep that'll be above the wood burner, DOUBLE TWAT. We've swapped the detection heads but the kitchen one still goes off occasionally.

                  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: Daylight Savings

                    "guess where the clown sparky put the detection head,"

                    The good thing about the internet is you can put this stuff on youtube with the sparky's name and employer prominently featured in the video title.

                    Let's just say such postings generally result in things being fixed, quickly.

                    1. DanceMan

                      Re: guess where the clown sparky put the detection head

                      Placed right outside the main bathroom, where warm steam sets it off. Disconnected and replaced with a battery alarm down the hallway outside the three bedroom doors.

        2. Lamont Cranston

          Re: "ripped the lot out to get some sleep"

          Very much this. Our smoke alarms run off the mains. with battery backup but, if one battery fails, they all start beeping. As they're on the mains, pulling the battery doesn't stop the beep, so they've all been turned off at the fuse.

          Super safe! Not helped by the fact that there's supposed to be a key to open the battery compartments, but the previous owner lost that, so we had to force them open with a screwdriver, breaking the battery caddy in some cases. Total crap.

    3. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

      Low batteries when cold

      "as the temperature went down, so did the battery volts."

      I once had low battery pings from a smoke detector waking me up in the early hours of a Sunday morning.

      Unfortunately the smoke detector concerned was attached to a 12 foot high ceiling and I didn't have a ladder long enough to reach it.

      Solution: switch the central heating on.

    4. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      "My theory at the time was that the battery was getting old, but not enough to initiate the sporadic chirp at comfortable room temperature"

      I'm glad to see this confirmed by someone else. I have tried measuring battery voltage when this happens, but it tends to happen around 5 a.m. in winter when getting the multimeter and playing with the smoke alarm is less attractive than simply removing the battery and going back to bed.

  6. cd

    I hope you're still planning to get their self-driving car when it comes out. Don't be fazed, there are always little glitches.

    1. Richard Jones 1
      WTF?

      Oh glitches, early in the morning I read it as little ditches, i.e. things you fall into or drive into by accident when avoiding something that was not there; just like a want to be smart(er) device would.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sod's Law says that a rare event will occur when the system to detect or inhibit it - has just been manually inhibited due to a false alarm malfunction.

    Tied down safety valves were responsible for boiler explosions on Victorian railways.

    Owing to a faulty indicator - an operator manually overriding the automatic emergency cooling system was a contributory factor in the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor disaster.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mile_Island_accident

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hang on, are you saying that I risk a Three Mile Island nuclear disaster if I don't pay attention to the brief "power low" chirps of my smoke alarm? Is there so much radioactive material in the detector?

      :)

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Is there so much radioactive material in the detector?

        Didn't a kid manage to collect so many old smoke alarms that he managed to get criticality in a table top reactor? Or is that an urban myth?

        (It's a myth - you need 60kg of the stuff. His "reactor" was...exaggerated by the media somewhat.)

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Is there so much radioactive material in the detector?

          Well it wasn't criticallity it was certainly highly increased neutron activity.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Wilseus

              Re: Is there so much radioactive material in the detector?

              "Nuclear boy scout. He got most of the way to making a breeder reactor in his garden shed. Used thorium from lamp mantles as a starting material and the smoke alarms as a neutron source to breed.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hahn"

              Hmm, according to the Wikipedia article, Hahn very recently died (presumably from radiation poisoning) but I can find nothing on any news sites about it. On the other hand there does seem to be an obituary for someone of the correct name and age.

  8. AndrueC Silver badge
    Joke

    It raises doubts about whether this smart home tech is such a good idea.

    Another case of a solution looking for a problem. I already have plenty of doubts about IoT. There's no market for giving me more.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I do believe that many of us have been branded as Luddites for saying the same thing. There are those who really think all this stuff is a good thing (usually "oh shiny" types or marketing types). Then there's the security issues as recent articles have pointed out about these devices being used for DDoS attacks.

  9. tr1ck5t3r

    It woke you up at 4am, the sales blurb promised you wouldnt be woken up at 2am, why are you complaining? What is it they say? Buyer beware? I think this story is an example of typical over hyped Us tech malware.

  10. Blake St. Claire

    I had a first gen go wacko

    In between the late night false alarms my wife cooked something and managed to set off the other, non-Nest smoke detector in the house, which is upstairs. The Nest remained silent throughout.

    I called Nest support and mentioned that fact, at which point the support person on the other end went silent for a moment, then said "oh", then offered to send me a second gen detector free of charge.

    Since then it's all good – no more 3am false alarms. Just a monthly email from Nest saying no alarms – false or otherwise – this month. Which I already knew, but hey, that email is extra reassuring, since it came from Google/Nest's finest oompa loompas.

    1. NightFox

      Re: I had a first gen go wacko

      I also had 2 first gen Nests, which were fine until they got to almost 2 years old, and one started false alarming in the middle of the night, which then set the other off in sympathy like howling dogs. Unfortunately they were the mains operated ones with a non-accessible back-up battery so after two nights of false alarms I ended up putting them in the garage wrapped in several blankets so as to hopefully not wake up the whole neighbourhood when they went off again.

      I was all set to kill them in a bucket of water the next day if the batteries hadn't run down, but by chance I noticed that because I'd bought them from John Lewis, they were still covered by a two year guarantee. Their CS said I'd need to take them into my local JL, so I ended up having to drive 25 miles with two smoke detectors on the passenger seat next to me, having to hit the silence button when they went off every few minutes. Eventually got to JL half-deaf and exchanged for two v2 versions (which have worked faultlessly since).

      Next morning I got a call from the JL store. Did I know any way of stopping these alarms going off every few minutes? They were driving everyone in the store mad and somebody was having to stay near them to mute them all the time so as not to cause staff/customers to think it was a genuine alarm. The back-up battery life in those things must have been incredible.

      1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

        Re: I had a first gen go wacko

        Why was JL ringing you instead of the manufacturer?

      2. Timo

        Re: I had a first gen go wacko

        Hammer, or garden hose, would fix the beeping

  11. Nathan 13

    Call me old fashioned

    But a smoke alarm (tested monthly) on each floor for when your in, and home insurance for when your out is more reliable that nest!

    1. Stuart Halliday

      Re: Call me old fashioned

      You're comparing technology that's decades old versus one that is less than 2 years old?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Call me old fashioned

        Stuart, my dawgs are even older "technology", and I trust them far more than I trust anything the umpa-lumpas build ...

    2. gerdesj Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Call me old fashioned

      But a smoke alarm (tested monthly) on each floor for when your in, and home insurance for when your out is more reliable that nest!

      Precisely. Although (nearly) weekly is my schedule - check the print on your alarm and don't assume. I'm lucky in that I'm over six foot tall and can just reach the test button. Takes less than a minute of my time per week. Two smoke detectors, mains wired and battery backed - one each per floor, centrally.

      Fire safety needn't be a big deal, nor cost a fortune. I have two dry water mist fire extinguishers (*) - one per floor - £88 total, should last about three years or so before needing recharge or renew. Fire blanket for the kitchen - £13. Escape ladder for upstairs out of window - £38.

      Take the possibility seriously for a couple of hours thought (do a little risk assessment) and then a casual inspection every now and then. Perhaps buy a few things that will probably never be used, but will be really handy should the worst happen. Just do it.

      How much is a Nest thingie again? I'm a nerd (and a IT consultant) and love gadgets but I'm also a fire safety bod for my company. At home I keep it low tech, comprehensive and cheap. Please do the same.

      Cheers

      Jon

      (*) Dry water mist - pretty new idea, recommended by our local Fire Safety Officer from the Fire Brigade. Pressurized water in nitrogen - comes out atomized and not "wet". Works for nearly all fire types found in the home. Safe for eleccy fires, basically use where foam and CO2 are indicated.

      1. Schultz

        Gerdesj: Dry water mist fire extinguisher

        Sounds like an interesting idea, but it it not clear how that would improve on the CO2 fire extinguisher concept. If you use liquid water, the evaporation enthalpy will remove a lot of heat - that's why water is so great to fight fires. For atomized water, the heat capacity should be comparable to that of CO2, so it'll remove much less heat. Any further information on the concept?

        1. gerdesj Silver badge

          Re: Gerdesj: Dry water mist fire extinguisher

          "Sounds like an interesting idea, but it it not clear how that would improve on the CO2 fire extinguisher concept"

          The dry water thing is safe with nearly all fire types found in the home. CO2 will blast a paper fire across the room for example. So you need foam and CO2 and know which one to pick. I never specify a water extinguisher - someone will try to use it on an electrical fire - it is the way of things.

          http://www.safelincs.co.uk/e-series-water-mist-fire-extinguishers/ for the sales spiel.

      2. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Call me old fashioned

        I learned a new thing on a fire course. When approaching a blazing chip pan on the stove hold the fire blanket with your palms facing you, fingers up. The blanket should be draped forward protecting your hands from the heat. Hold the blanket up high enough to shield your head and navigate to the stove by looking down at your feet until you see the base of the stove. Then drop the blanket over the pan. All this sounds obvious when you think about it but I bet that most people would panic and get burned.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Call me old fashioned

          "I learned a new thing on a fire course. "

          Reminds me of the office course given by the local fire brigade. They ignited petrol in a large flat metal tray - like a BBQ. We each then tried the "layer" technique using a CO2 gas extinguisher. After a few people had had their go - the tray became hot enough for the petrol to spontaneously re-ignite after each blast. That's why a CO2 powder extinguisher should be used on such materials.

          Still remember the course's mantra: "To stop a fire remove material, oxygen, or heat".

          A couple of weeks later a pipe-smoking colleague dropped a partly extinguished match into his litter bin. Being full of paper and plastic cups it burst into flames. I grabbed the CO2 gas extinguisher from the corridor - remembered to remove the safety pin - and pointed the nozzle at the waste paper basket. Unfortunately I was too close - and the contents of the bin were blasted into the air. Fortunately that killed the flames - but the office flat surfaces were then peppered with a rain of sticky burnt plastic soot particles.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Call me old fashioned

            > Reminds me of the office course given by the local fire brigade.

            Previous employer had the "interesting" issue of having both volatile solvents and radiation sources on-site. We got regular training from the local Fire Brigade[1] and our alarm system was directly connected to the local fire station.

            Which caused a little embarrasment (and nearly a P45) when a member of staff decided to have a crafty smoke near a smoke detector rather than the approved site outside the property boundary.

            [1] We got to play with fire extinguishers of all types - mostly the ones where the rated life had just expired and they had been replaced.

  12. John Gamble

    Not Really an IoT Problem, Though

    ... and the "smartness" problem is more about the connection between the thermostat and the smoke detector.

    Inter-connectedness between smoke detectors is not a new feature -- First Alert had it for one of their models. And Nest's "speak, don't beep" feature is nice but not really revolutionary.

    But the connection with the thermostat is clearly an issue here. As the article states, affecting the air circulation can be a big deal, and this is especially true if you live in places that can get very cold.

    Smoke detectors occasionally fail. This is not surprising, and if the smoke detectors were the only Nest product the author had, it wouldn't even be worth an article -- aside from complaining about the expense.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "You can't just discard it."

    Not even after the hammer's gone through it?

    If I had such a device here (big if) and it did that I'd head off to the garage where I have a choice of heavy implements and take my pick.

    1. tony2heads
      Terminator

      Sounds like

      Talkie Toaster

      We should know by now that these talking devices exist to annoy us. It is the next step in the Rise Of The Machines -see icon.

      Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. You have been warned!

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Big Brother

      after the hammer's gone through it

      With a "last gasp" signal it will report you to the Googleplex as a wanton destroyer of Ultra-Modern Tech (a.k.a. Luddite), resulting in your internet connection being shut off, the utility companies disconnecting you, and your car being disabled so you have to walk* to the shops to get a box of candles and matches (greatly increasing the risk of fire, but that's essentially what society does to witches outliers: burn them).

      * uphill both ways, through the snow, the lot.

  14. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Missed a bit

    What about when (not "if") Google decides to stop supporting it and shuts down the servers, like they did with Revolv?

    We're not talking some hypothetical cheapskate fly-by-night company here. We're talking Google. The very same blokes.

    1. Andrew Jones 2

      Re: Missed a bit

      Well no.... actually you are talking about a small company - because Google and Revolv were different companies - until Google bought them. What do you expect to happen to a company that has been bought by another? It usually only means one thing - we like what you do, we are absorbing you to work on our own exciting new stuff.... we'll keep your servers running until the end of whatever contract you are in and then switch them off (since after all you are making hardware that competes with what we want to do)

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Missed a bit

        Is it so difficult to...

        1) Keep the Revolv API running

        or

        2) Build a backend bridge from the Revolv API to the Nest API

        or

        3) Push out an update which makes Revolv devices talk to the Nest API?

        It's in manufacturers' own interest to sell devices that will be a shiny trinket in a year if they want to sell a lot and grow the market. If Google isn't interested in doing it then just forget about it.

      2. Known Hero
        FAIL

        Re: Missed a bit

        But people purchased contracts with Revolve, when google purchased revolve it did not honour them in any way or from.

        I expect a company that buys another to honour the pledges that the original company offered, if they cannot do that, they should not be allowed to purchase said company.

  15. oldtaku
    FAIL

    'Smart' is only used ironically.

    If your device describes itself as smart, that means it's stupid in ways you've never even thought of. Extra-stupid. Pan-stupid. Omni-stupid.

    It's the same rule as used car dealers (or anyone, really) calling themselves Honest, like Honest Bob's Top Quality Used Autos and Payday Loans.

    Or the name of almost any piece of legislature,which will usually do the opposite of what the title says. Like the UK 'Psychoactive Substances Act' which declares anything known to man to be psychoactive unless it's alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or psychoactive prescription drugs. Or any us 'Data Privacy' act which usually takes away your privacy rights.

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: 'Smart' is only used ironically.

      Gimme TAS™* anytime

      *Thick As Shit

  16. Stuart Halliday

    Which is why you use Lithium AA/AAA/PP3 and not alkaline batteries in important devices in Britain....?

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Turns out that's not always a good idea - most alkaline cells have an open circuit (and very low current, such as you'd see in something designed to work for months or years) voltage of around 6.4v in a four-pack; a similar lithium 4-pack will start in excess of 7.8v... bit of an embuggeration if the designer hasn't paid attention to the Vin(max) on the power supply chip. Or indeed if he's just sticking cmos logic across the unregulated cells and hasn't picked the right family...

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Lithium cells

        Li-Ion rechargeables do indeed put out a higher voltage: 3.7V per cell, and while you can get them in AA and AAA sizes they're not labeled that way (14500 for AA size, 13400 for AAA). But there are lithium-based primary cells (not rechargeable) that put out 1.5V, just like a standard alkaline.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: Lithium cells

          The most common Lithium AA primary cells appear to be the Energizer Lithium. Terminal voltage is in excess of 1.8V despite labelling, and at low currents remains so for many weeks.

  17. John Lilburne Silver badge

    Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

    Just think of all the crap we have to put up with with the electronic gizmos in our cars. Electronic handbrake goes tits up £1000 to fix it, and your going nowhere buster until its fixed. Water slashed on a traction control sensor and suddenly the car has as much power as a milk float, sod it if its 0200 in the morning, your 100 miles from home, and you've got to get over the Newbury bypass.

    The list goes on and on. We know these things screw up, we know that they do so at the most inconvenient time, and we know that fixing them is going to require the sacrifice of your first born.

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

      You don't *have* to put up with it, unless your employer gives you a car you have to use I suppose.

      My recently acquired vehicle is six years old and thus now I have a BT connection and traction control but not a fancy electronic handbrake, maybe the next one in five more years will have that.

      That being said, of the electronic car stuff I have had thus far, I have never had a sensor or brake thingy or cruise control or clever rear-view mirror go wrong.

      I think the bleeding edge tends to be the biggest risk; think headlights that steer around corners.

      By the time my car has such fancy gizmos as standard, they will be generally reliable or have served a long time and be likely to remain reliable.

      Reminds me of the new Cadillac my uncle had in 1984 that had a remote controlled rear view mirror, so hard to adjust manually of course. It had the advantage to be fair that it could move based on who was driving I suppose, saving that 3 seconds one has to use up to adjust it. The downside was that it malfunctioned and then could not be moved manually or electronically thereafter - Cadillacs were at a very low ebb at that point I think.

      1. MrDamage

        Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

        > "I think the bleeding edge tends to be the biggest risk; think headlights that steer around corners."

        That idea isn't exactly bleeding edge. The Tucker Talisman had these back in 1952.

        1. Fr. Ted Crilly

          Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

          Yep original Citroen DS likewise, inner pair looked in to the corners, :-) simpleish linkages from the steering (sadly a bit prone to rusting bowden inners) who'd u thunk of that eh.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

            > sadly a bit prone to rusting

            Much like the cars themselves..

        2. Androgynous Cow Herd

          Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

          It's just a "Tucker", properly a "Tucker 48" or informally a "Tucker Torpedo". The Talisman never existed, it is a piece of fiction mentioned in the Stephen King novel Needful Things

          1. MrDamage

            Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

            My mistake.

            As an aussie, my first exposure to the Tucker brand, and story, was from that book. After that I did more research and was impressed with what he was trying to do. Some true parts stuck in memory, but also got mixed up with some of the fictional stuff.

      2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Headlights that steer around corners

        "I think the bleeding edge tends to be the biggest risk; think headlights that steer around corners."

        Those are not new.

        Directional headlamps

        The 1967 French Citroën DS and 1970 Citroën SM were equipped with an elaborate dynamic headlamp positioning system that adjusted the inboard headlamps' horizontal and vertical position in response to inputs from the vehicle's steering and suspension systems.

        1. John Lilburne Silver badge

          Re: Headlights that steer around corners

          "Those are not new."

          Maybe ones that work are?

      3. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

        Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

        >>I think the bleeding edge tends to be the biggest risk; think headlights that steer around corners.

        Yes it's 1967 again!

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citro%C3%ABn_DS#Series_3_-_Nose_redesign_in_1967_with_Directional_headlights

      4. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

        think headlights that steer around corners.

        Most of these seem pretty dumb to me. The ones in my Renault Modus are simply extra bulbs in the headlamp clusters with directional reflectors and they switch on by a simple switch function on the steering wheel - well, it works like a simple switch function, though I have no doubt it is actually mediated by the ECU.

        if(car_in_forward_gear AND dipped_beam_on AND (steeringwheel_deflection > 45 degrees))

        switch(right_corner_light, ON)

        or similar :-)

        M.

      5. Vic

        Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

        I think the bleeding edge tends to be the biggest risk; think headlights that steer around corners.

        That's hardly "bleeding edge"; the Citroën DS had steering headlights in 1967...

        Vic.

      6. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

        > and thus now I have a BT connection

        Cool. I didn't know our beloved former-national-telco did provisioning for cars..

    2. itzman
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

      Why were you slashing on a traction control sensor?

      Just curious...

      1. John Lilburne Silver badge

        Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

        Why? Its an example of the more superfluous electronics there are, there are more things there are that can go wrong. It isn't the traction control that has gone wrong, its the test system checking that it is working that has gone TITSUP. Similarly its not the smoke detector that has gone wrong its the tests that are checking that it is working correctly that has gone TITSUP.

        I put an electronic timer on the immersion heater a couple of years ago, after three months it stopped switching, replaced it with a new one that went gaga too. So no hot water because the electronic switch has failed. Got a manual timer and its been working flawlessly for the last year (the previous mechanical one worked for over 20 years).

    3. Mikey

      Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

      John, my question is less about the non-waterproof sensors on your car, but more about the fact that you'd be anywhere near Newbury in the first place...

      That said, the bypass, with its current reputation as an impromptu Demolition Derby zone is also best avoided by anyone no in a tracked APC too. Stay on the M4, and try not to turn off into Reading either!

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

        > fact that you'd be anywhere near Newbury in the first place...

        There are worse places than NewVodaBury! Like err.. umm.. hang on.. errr.. Slough!

        That's it - Slough. No wonder John Bunyan tied it to the word Despond..

    4. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Why would anyone have thought IoT was a good thing?

      and you've got to get over the Newbury bypass.

      And then there's the very splendid and worthwhile New Beddingford bypass to negotiate.

  18. tekHedd

    When things go wrong...

    "And if your smart smoke detector goes wrong, you could end up in a panic in the early hours of the morning"

    Or dead.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: When things go wrong...

      False negatives?

      This is why I have two smoke detectors made by different manufacturers.

      I figure that greatly reduces the chances of them both going "dark" during a real event.

      And so far no false positives. Some false alarms, but I suppose burning toast with the kitchen door open is one way to test if the sensor actually works.

  19. Warm Braw Silver badge

    I'm confused

    Recently so positive about Google's recent product announcements, here skeptical and elsewhere so negative. Surely you don't expect me to make up my own mind?

  20. TRT Silver badge

    Paired up with a Samsung Note 7...

    Perfect partnership.

  21. Richard Lloyd

    No-one saw this early 2015 YouTube video then?

    I'd have thought this video would have sent people screaming (ha!) for the hills when it was posted by a Google (who own Nest) employee over 18 months ago:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpsMkLaEiOY

    Apparently the 2nd gen version is supposed to have fixed most false alarms by using a better sensor, but the video still gives a really bad impression of the product!

  22. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    The best tech is invisible

    As a general rule, the more complicated devices get, the more often they go wrong.

    Truth.

    Our home doors are operated by mechanical keys, which work perfectly when the power is out or internet service is down. Our thermostat is connected to nothing but the HVAC system. Our refrigerator is connected only to AC power. Our smoke detectors cost less than $20, and have batteries which will last for their entire 10-year useful life span.

    All of these things work reliably, and were but a fraction the cost of their "smart" counterparts. They don't require complex passwords or firmware updates. They don't monetize me. They don't have touch screens on which to show me relevant ads.

    They are the opposite of sexy; they are invisible.

    All they do is silently, reliably, and cost-effectively solve problems for me, year after year -- just like tech is supposed to.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: The best tech is invisible

      Your fridge is invisible? Is that just the fridge itself, with the contents now being in plain view? Or is all of that invisible too, and if so, how do you get a carton of milk out of it when you want that, and not a cucumber?

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: The best tech is invisible

        the contents now being in plain view?

        Maybe it's one of these?

        M.

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: The best tech is invisible

        Get it out and wave it at the nearest cat. If they show interest, it's a carton of milk/tuna/nice cold meat that you bought specially for yourself not for the greedy footpads inhabiting your house.

        If they flee in terror[1], it's cucumber.

        [1] Not really. I showed the cats cucumber and got a distict 'meh' response in return. But then my cats[2] are all slightly odd..

        [2] According to herself anyway.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: The best tech is invisible

      Have an upvote.

      It's noticable that the people most cynical about IoT are those in the tech business.. and I don't mean the vendors - I mean the people who herd tech for a living.

  23. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Low battery life? Erratic performance?

    Pwned.

  24. Andrew Jones 2

    I know I shouldn't of...... but was I really the only one sat here trying ever so hard not to burst out laughing while reading this article?

    I'm actually giggling so much I had to hide my face in case I progressed into full on laughter mode.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Andrew Jones 2

      "I know I shouldn't of"

      What you shouldn't HAVE done is bother writing anything here until you can use correct grammar.

      You did, I assume, attend school?

      Did they teach you that "have" and "of" are NOT the same, do NOT mean the same and are NOT interchangeable? I was taught that when I was taught to read, write and spell, you know, when I was about 5. As was EVERYBODY who attended school.

      1. BongoJoe

        Re: @ Andrew Jones 2

        I suspect the reason for your down vote collection was that you failed to use the Headmaster icon...

      2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

        Re: @ Andrew Jones 2

        He should've thought of that.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @ Andrew Jones 2

        "You did, I assume, attend school?"

        IIRC the Oxford Dictionary people are predicting that "should of" will enter the English language as a normal construct in the not too distant future.

        The "correct" English language at any time is often determined by common mis-usage. Words have changed to mean the opposite of the original. It is now apparently generally accepted (not by me) that "decimate" equals "annihilate" - rather than the less severe "kill one in ten".

        IIRC the spelling of "could" was introduced by a monk because he incorrectly assumed that "coud" had lost the "l" - and by similarity of usage needed to match the spelling of "should".

  25. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    IT Angle

    I use rechargeable AA batteries

    That helps some, because you are not burning through lots of expensive batteries.

    However, I recommend going fairly cheap, unless you have something that takes utility power with a battery backup and is covered by an alarm company. In those cases, the alarm companies really try to provide some quality, because they have to service/replace it otherwise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I use rechargeable AA batteries

      Rechargeable batteries are not suitable for smoke alarms. They are desinged to deliver high current over a short period.

      Stop being a tight wad, get to world of quid and buy some cheap alkaline batteries.

      They will last a LOT longer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Rechargeable batteries ... are desinged to deliver high current over a short period.

        Only partially true.

        Low self-discharge NiMH batteries are usually OK for these applications. They are also quite able to deliver high currents over short periods of time, unlike the regular alkaline batteries but similar to the lithium non-rechargeable cells.

        I notice that Nest Protect requires Lithium cells rather than regular alkaline batteries. I suspect that at least part of the reason is that it can draw substantial current for short periods to run its electronics. If this is the case, then an alkaline battery would not last very long in this device, while a low self-discharge NiMHs might just work fine (I do not know whether it does or not - I have no use for the "smart home" tat myself).

        Low self-discharge nickel-metal hydride batteries are a little more expensive than the regular NiMHs, but the extra cost is definitely worth it.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Rechargeable batteries ... are desinged to deliver high current over a short period.

          Low self-discharge NiMH batteries are usually OK for these applications.

          There can be a problem with using NiMH of NiCd rechargeables, in that their nominal voltage is lower than an alkaline cell: 1.2V versus 1.5V. Which will cause a lot of gear to yell "low battery" already even when using freshly-charged ones.

          Just use good quality alkalines or lithium batteries (NOT Li-ion rechargeables, but primary cells), and change them once a year. If they're not done, use them in something where it doesn't matter that they konk out.

        2. paulf Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Rechargeable batteries ... are desinged to deliver high current over a short period.

          I have four EI fire alarms in my place (3 smoke alarms and a heat alarm for the kitchen). They network together so that when one detects they all sound, but aren't "smart" or IoT. I found they would start beeping "low battery" after 9-12 months on brand new Duracell PP3s. Once replaced the tester shows the old ones (still in date) have gone down from 100% to 99.9% so hardly low and more likely an overly sensitive aspect in the battery detection circuit than a fault with the battery itself.

          I swapped to NiMH rechargeables. The alarms get tested once a week and the batteries get recharged once every three months regardless so the low-battery never gets a chance to chirrup.

          I have nothing else that uses PP3s so I was faced with ditching ~£15 of PP3 Alkalines each year. It's a waste of money plus the environmental cost of chucking otherwise decent batteries. It's all very well saying "Get cheap PP3s" (elsewhere in this thread) but I'd rather have a decent rechargeable than a crappy alkaline and the environmental cost to make and dispose a cheap PP3 is still there.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Rechargeable batteries ... are desinged to deliver high current over a short period.

            "PP3s"

            Rechargeable PP3s come with several voltage ratings. If the equipment really needs 9 volts then you have to make sure that is what you are buying. Some are only specified as low as 7.2 volts viz 6x1.2v cells. The next is 8.4v (7 cells) then 9.6v (8 cells). The offered capacity ratings also vary considerably in the range 150 to 300mah.

            For a smoke alarm you should get the ones with the low self-discharge rates. In such superior AA/AAA cells the performance is rated as something like 15% loss per 12 months - so presumably the same for PP3 ones. A standard Ni-Mh apparently has that same loss in only 1 month.

            http://www.buyabattery.co.uk/rechargeable-batteries/rechargeable-9v-batteries.html

            Ni-Mh PP3 recharging is also a tricky area. Many multi-type chargers do not sense "full charge" for PP3 - even if they do so for various 1.2v battery sizes. You have to charge for only a prescribed time - like 12 hours. Overcharging seriously affects the life of the battery.

            You can get dedicated PP3 chargers - often for multiple units simultaneously - that are faster and also sense when fully charged. They tend to be relatively expensive.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: I use rechargeable AA batteries

        They are desinged

        Exactly what you want in a smoke alarm.

  26. Outcast !!!

    IoT

    Internet of Trash

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IoT

      It's

      Only

      Tat

  27. scrubber
    Flame

    Judge Wendell Holmes

    "There is a good reason why "shouting fire in a crowded theater" is often held up as an example of the limits on freedom of speech."

    To stop people speaking out against the draft?

    If your theatre/home has Nest devices and can't evacuate safely during a fire, drill or false alarm then the fault is entirely yours, not the annoying person/device shouting "Fire!"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3Hg-Y7MugU - Hitchens

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/11/its-time-to-stop-using-the-fire-in-a-crowded-theater-quote/264449/

    1. Richard Jones 1
      WTF?

      Re: Judge Wendell Holmes

      Basic understanding failure here.

      Asking people to evacuate because of a fire issue is one thing. Some fool shouting fire will have people clambering over seats and other people in their haste to irrationally cause panic, if the fire does not do anything much the panic has and will kill people..

      I was on a bus once, the conductor came half way up the stairs after the bus stopped and the engine died. He asked polity for everyone to please get off the bus, people started to grumble and shuffle, when he added because its on fire, the speed increased but without panic. Just shouting fire from some random place would have produced a different response.

      (We all stood looking through the windows to see what had happened. A small bit of browned floor due to an exhaust blow, we were all disappointed.)

      1. scrubber

        Re: Judge Wendell Holmes

        I think you'll find shouting fire will cause a rush of people whipping out their camera phones...

        Or a bunch of smart arses to go over and see what all the fuss is about and whether they can sort it out.

  28. Winkypop Silver badge
    Trollface

    My rule of tech

    The more complex the machine, and the more critical the operation (or outcome) = the greater risk of something going tits up.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: My rule of tech

      AKA Murphy's KISS

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My rule of tech

        It is the Murphy's Law corollary: "Anything which can go wrong - will go wrong - at the worst possible moment"

        1. Vic

          Re: My rule of tech

          It is the Murphy's Law corollary: "Anything which can go wrong - will go wrong - at the worst possible moment"

          I think that corollary is actually "Anything which can go wrong - will work perfectly when you're trying to demonstrate the fault to a service engineer"...

          Vic.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fire and smoke alarms and safety

    While fire and smoke alarms do save lives, building codes are at least as much of a factor in preventing fire deaths. At least to a casual observer, it appears that the very good fire safety record in the US is in a large part due to the very agressive promotion and enforcement of the fire and CO detector installation. At this point, an average American or Canadian home is pretty much saturated with fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors; in many jurisdictions, there is also a legal requirement of having at least one working smoke dtector per floor. This has so far offset the increasing prevalence of highly-flammable materials, which the home-building industry keeps pushing for. The end result is the fire death rate of 0.75 per 100000 population.

    On the other hand, the fire death rate in Germany is considerably lower (0.35 per 100000), but you rarely see fire or smoke detectors in a private residence, and as far as I can tell there is no legal requirement to install them in most situatuations. Most of the reason is due to the much stricter building codes: a new multi-residential building with a flammable main structure would be basically impossible; most single-family houses I see being built use reinforced concrete for the main structure as well. Another factor is the prevalence of district heating and hot water systems in large cities; this eliminates one of the major sources of fire and carbon monoxide.

    You can see the fire death rates per country at:

    http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/fires/by-country/

    It is a quite fascinating table.

    1. Richard Jones 1
      Stop

      Re: Fire and smoke alarms and safety

      A very interesting table, happily I have only lived in countries at the lower end of the tables. I suspect that clothing style along with open cooking fires and lighting sources plays a part in a few countries.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Fire and smoke alarms and safety

        Its now law in Germany to install Smoke Detectors in new build houses, but there's still no requirement for them to be in existing or renovated houses.

        I had a hell of a fight with my fiancée (who is German) over installing one in our flat. She didn't see the point of having one. I won in the end, but it really isn't common here. However like you say building codes are definitely excellent, so fires don't tend to spread very hard or fast.

        Still I sleep much better having a smoke detector installed in our flat!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fire and smoke alarms and safety

      When reading the upmarket "new designs" features in British newspapers - there is often an open stairwell for more than two storeys. Very pretty - but unsafe in case of a fire.

      My house was built in the 1970s when the building regs in England apparently dictated that a stairway for three storeys had to be enclosed and protected against fire in any adjoining room at any level.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Fire and smoke alarms and safety

      It's not only the building code, but the materials traditionally used. Look for example at Italy, even lower than Germany. Italian houses are usually built with stones, bricks, and more recently, concrete. Some of them may not stand well earthquakes (they may be too rigid and brittle), but they rarely catch fire, and even when a fire starts, usually it can't expand much.

      That's despite of many old buildings, and the large use of gas kitchen stoves (the high price of electricity doesn't make electric ones much used), and gas heaters. The main issue could be a gas leak, and a gas detector would be much more useful than a smoke one. CO became less an issue when heaters were moved outside living spaces, but still claims its victims among the poorest, or people who still live in houses with very old installations.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fire and smoke alarms and safety

      I lived for several years in Germany and found it interesting that the Germans have a low rate of fire deaths, considering that many families light their Christmas tree with real candles. The value of using reinforced concrete and/or cinder blocks in their residential construction became clear to me when a neighbor's Christmas tree caught fire -- the only damage was to the interior of the living room and its contents -- including the Christmas gifts under the tree.

  30. brotherelf
    Coat

    What, forty-odd comments and no "Emergency. There is an emergency going on. It's still going on." yet?

    1. Woza

      If there was a firmware update so the Nest would say that, in Holly's voice, I'd consider buying one.

      1. Mikey

        "Purple Alert! Purple Alert!"

        "What's a purple alert?"

        "Well, it's worse than a Blue Alert, but not quite as bad as a Red Alert..."

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          But who's going to change the bulb?

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Megaphone

      One of the outputs

      of the smoke/fire alarm controller will be used to trigger a sound module.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Warning of the inevitable?

    Did they put Samsung batteries in the device, perhaps it was just warning of the inevitable?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I actually NEED a fire alarm

    It's the only comment I get on my cooking..

  33. Chris G Silver badge

    Nest

    It may be a fault in my own programming but the word 'nest' immediately makes me think of wasps or other unpleasant things such as alien hive minds trying to controll the population.

    In a normal house I can't see much reason to have a connected smart smoke detector, the two old fashioned ones I have, have never given me any kind of problem. A 2am chirp to tell me the battery is flat is hardly an earth shaking event, I usually have a drawer full of spare batteries and I prefer a late night chirp to a late night fire. Having to get up to change a battery is maybe a little annoying but nothing more, it amazes me the trite and piffling things that sales droids are able to use as successful sales ploys.

    In a public building or commercial environment with large numbers of people a truly smart system that can control air flow, fire doors etc is a useful thing and in connection with trained staff very useful but as I said before £99 is not going to get you anything that is usefully smart in your house.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nest

      "It may be a fault in my own programming but the word 'nest' immediately makes me think of wasps or other unpleasant things such as alien hive minds trying to controll the population."

      Caution: Mind bleach time.

      I have the same problem with the range of cured meats with the brand name "Unearthed". Always triggers a mental image of something crawling with maggots after being buried in the ground for it to mature.

  34. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Nah, just give me dumb devices, very little that can go wrong.

    Granted, I still have to manually switch my lights on/off etc, but what the hey, it is far better than having some electronic device go bonkers in the middle of the night...

  35. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Holmes

    This

    "If your smart thermostat goes wrong, you could end up roasting or freezing. If your smart lock goes wrong, anyone could enter your home. If your smart lighting goes wrong, you could up in the dark, or with rooms suddenly lighting up. And if your smart smoke detector goes wrong, you could end up in a panic in the early hours of the morning."

    Things that pretend to be smart but are incapable of detecting themselves going wrong for the most common failure modes*, just aren't.

    * I can accept them being unable to cope with weird edge cases, but low batteries?

  36. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Pucker up?

    Why does it always seem like the acronyms IoT and KISS are mutually exclusive?

    Or is it just another differentiator between something driven by engineering principles and marketing ones?

  37. VinceH Silver badge

    "It raises doubts about whether this smart home tech is such a good idea."

    Not for me it doesn't. Those doubts were already there - this just helps affirm them.

  38. ultrastarx1

    i think the main problem is you guys think your options are limited to a smart or not so smart little white box

    a canary or similar, can be used for O detection, you can even recycle the battery detection spring from your old sensor housing, weight detection plate..

    for about 25p a day, a cat is a great fire detector, i would sugest one for each room..

    this also solves several other problems of xmas/birthday presents for kids, who will push their test buttons daily, be much happier and more interested in fire prevention etc

    1. A K Stiles
      Joke

      re: Canary

      "Arrrgghh - look at the canary! We're being poisoned by CO !!"

      "Nah, look - it's just resting!"

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: re: Canary

        The advantage with a canary is no chirps in the wee hours other than it's last gasp/ chirp when the presence of CO drops it off it's perch ( a pressure sensor in the floor of the cage, designed to react to a canaryweight dropping on it could be used to set off a more intrusive alarm than a last chirp).

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: re: Canary

        > "Arrrgghh - look at the canary! We're being poisoned by CO !!"

        >"Nah, look - it's just resting!"

        Or (when combined with the cat suggestion):

        "Canary? What canary?"

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      > for about 25p a day, a cat is a great fire detector, i would sugest one for each room..

      So I need 3 more cats.

      And you have remarkably low-rent cats if they only cost you 25p/day! Our vary, but even the cheapest is roughly 50p/day (based on food consumption, cat litter costs, annual MOT etc etc).

  39. Russ Tarbox

    I agree ...

    I have some "Smart light bulbs", very expensive WiFi jobbies at £99 a pop.

    When they work, they are great.

    I must've lost more than an hour in the past year performing software updates (on a lightbulb!!!) and having to re-set/reconnect them to WiFi, swearing at them when they are on but I'm unable to turn them on / off without a diagnostic process.

    All so that I can set them to any colour or level I want.

    Is it worth it? I'm not so sure anymore...

  40. jb99

    Even my basic smoke alrams are annoying

    We have 4. They came with the house.

    They are mains powered but have backup batteries.

    I imagine the batteries last a couple of years but with 4 we end up with one of them chirping at us about every 3 months. Always at night... The old battery powered one I had used to last longer than these mains powered ones...

    Also the power seems to occasionally flicker where I am about once a month. The lights imperceptably, occasionally enough to reboot a PC. But without fail it causes all of the smoke alarms to go off for a few seconds. Again, always at night.

    These are modern, new alarms and they seem worse in every way than the one I had 10 years ago

  41. Laura Kerr
    Flame

    "And if your smart smoke detector goes wrong..."

    " ...you could end up in a panic in the early hours of the morning."

    You could also end up very, very dead if it fails in a different way ------------------>

  42. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    RAID

    Get the defective Nest alarm replaced under warranty and put it on fleabay.

    Buy a set of detectors from an established manufacture so that each of the bedrooms, living areas and as much of the house where there is a possible risk of a fire starting (e.g. utility room, garage, attics, basements) is covered.

    As for CO detectors, again sited according to risk and need to alert occupants.

    Don't forget to test them regularly, Once you know the battery life, replace the batteries pre-emptively - then no more waking up in the middle of the night due to low battery warnings.

    The total outlay may well be over the cost of a single Nest detector - but you are not reliant on a single point of failure of a complex device. About the only sophistication that would be good to have is the ability to link them. Redundant Array of Inexpensive Detectors

  43. Flywheel Silver badge

    I'm coming to the conclusion..

    ..that the reason they give these Things the "Smart" tag is that the marketing has to be smart to get normally savvy people to buy products that are really still in development.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Don't worry

    It'll all be fixed in the next version.

  45. jake Silver badge

    One of the reasons that the UNIX user-space model has ...

    ... worked as long as it has is because it is, at it's heart, made up of many small tools[0], each of which does one thing as near to perfectly as possible.

    People intent on producing and/or making use of all-singing, all-dancing IoT things would do well to ponder this. Not that they will, of course.

    [0] Don't ask me to explain EMACS ... or systemd for, that matter ;-)

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: One of the reasons that the UNIX user-space model has ...

      > [0] Don't ask me to explain EMACS ... or systemd for, that matter ;-)

      Neither has an explanation that rational people can accept..

      (Mines the one with the link to the vi handbook stitched into it)

      1. Vic

        Re: One of the reasons that the UNIX user-space model has ...

        Mines the one with the link to the vi handbook stitched into it

        I think I'm going to have to learn emacs.

        The Esc key on this laptop has failed...

        Vic.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: One of the reasons that the UNIX user-space model has ...

          "The Esc key on this laptop has failed..."

          So remap a key or several ... Most folks with a clue have been swapping CapsLock and <ctrl> on PC keybr0ads since time immemorial ... In your case, maybe swap the other <ctrl> key with <esc>?

          1. Vic

            Re: One of the reasons that the UNIX user-space model has ...

            So remap a key or several

            Do I really need the "Joke Alert" icon for every single quip?

            Vic.

  46. Amos1

    Bulk battery buy?

    I'm pretty sure my Nest Protects take special AA-sized batteries, not regular ones. Lithium ion's or something. That's why they have years of life.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    True to their promises

    From the Nest website:

    "No one should be woken up by a low-battery chirp at 2:00am."

    From the Nest code:

    (if (= lowBatt true) (progn (if (= hour "02:00") (sleep 1 "min")) (blare)))

  48. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    Aah, technology...

    The most aggravating was when I lived in an apartment and the two other apartments on my floor were empty. On night I began to hear the low-battery chirp of the alarm in one of the empty apartments. While the apartments were well insulated for sound, the chirp carries surprisingly far and well. I contacted the landlord the next day... nothing was done.. Apparently quality control on batteries is pretty tight, as the following night the other apartment's alarm started doing the same thing. Like a chorus of of electronic crickets or locusts. After about 4 days of this I got into the empty apartments (don't ask) and replaced the batteries myself.

    The one in my kitchen, which has both photoelectric and ionization detectors in it, has the endearing quality of when the battery gets low, but not quite low enough to warn you, when you stumble downstairs in the groggy hours of the early morning and flip on the light, it will instantly start screaming from the light change. Not fun at 6AM.

    A friend with a modern home has all the detectors linked wirelessly---if one starts screaming, they all scream. Unfortunately there's nothing to indicate which one cried wolf. In the wee hours of the morning, they all started screaming, causing pandemonium. After it was determined that no crisis occurred and batteries were replaced, everyone went back to bed... and awoke hours later to a repeat. Eventually the suspect device was found and replaced after several nights of this and the process of elimination.

  49. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge
    Meh

    Up To?

    'Nest promises that it will "last up to a decade,"'

    Well, they didn't lie, it did last somewhere under a decade. They clearly use the same measurements that ISPs do for bandwidth....

    1. I am the liquor

      Re: Up To?

      Indeed, classic marketing weaselery. "Up to" = "almost certainly less than". As in "this product is up to 100% effective."

  50. peter 45

    Not so smart

    So in this context the smart device is more expensive, less reliable, and more annoying than the non-smart device,....and does the same job.

    Why?

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Not so smart

      > the smart device is more expensive, less reliable, and more annoying

      > Why?

      To extract money from you of course. Those CEO mega-salaries don't pay themselves y'know!

  51. Seajay#

    Failure modes

    and if your smart smoke detector goes wrong, you could end up in a panic in the early hours of the morning.

    That's the best case. Worst case you sleep serenely until you die of smoke inhalation.

    To me that's an excellent argument for keeping smoke detectors simple, self-contained and pure hardware. If you also want a motion sensitive light then fine, get one of those too. They are 3 for a tenner on amazon. There's no reason to combine it with your fire alarm.

  52. lukewarmdog

    "No one should be woken up by a low-battery chirp at 2:00am."

    See Nest themselves admit nobody should buy one.

    It's not SMART if it just pisses you off. It's not dumb if it doesn't. These are just things. All you can say is my £4 detector does its job admirably whilst your $99 has not. So let's think about this, should you buy another unnecessary $99 product? No, no you should not. As you've demonstrated it doesn't add anything except annoyance. The mains version would have alleviated the battery issue but would have made it harder to remove/replace so no easy win there.

    And you know what, screw the app. If my house is on fire, I'd rather find out when I get home than have it ruin my holiday. Now if my house burned down and the smart fire alarm booked me a hotel before it melted.. that might be a helpful feature.

    An interactive house needs to be created holistically, you can't just buy some stuff off the shelf, screw them to your walls and hope the app that ties them together isn't buggy.

  53. Planty Bronze badge
    FAIL

    Idiot

    didn't buy the identically priced mains powered version.

  54. SomeoneInDelaware
    Mushroom

    Smart? Right....

    1. Retrieve two-pound maul from toolbox.

    2. Strike fire alarm until in unidentifiable pieces on the bench.

    3. Go to Home Depot and buy a $15 smoke alarm.

    Sleep well. And do try not to be fooled into buying something "Smart" in the future, dummy. Replace the batteries twice a year and you probably won't be awakened at night unless something bad happens.

    I wonder how many of those Nest devices are sitting in landfills now?

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fire?

    I want a smart teapot that makes a drink almost, but not quite, completely unlike tea. Believe me folks, it's coming.

    1. A K Stiles
      Mushroom

      Re: Fire?

      possibly version 1.5 of this?

  56. V 2

    Pimp your smoke detector...

    http://www.getroost.com/product-battery

    Helps sort out which alarm has a low battery...

  57. TheDillinquent

    reach out to Nest Support 24/7?

    In the old days you could phone support

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