The Google Nest executive predicts that environmental computing is the next great technological transition



"I've been in the space of the house for a few years, you know, in the field, there's a great opportunity and a change that is happening inside the house right now."

I'm talking to Rishi Chandra at Google's headquarters in London, in the impressive Renzo Piano building in the West End.

Chandra is vice president of products and general manager of Google Nest, which means he deals with Google Home, Chromecast, Google Wifi, Nest Thermostat, Nest Cam, Nest Hello and more. He has worked for Google for more than 12 years and is excited about the future.


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"Even within Google, we feel that we are contributing all our resources to solve all the problems of the users we could, and by joining Nest and Google Home they gave us the opportunity to think about where we see how the home evolves in the next five years. to 10 years ".

It refers to the fact that earlier this year, Google announced that Nest and Google products were joining forces. This means that Nest products, such as home security cameras, smart thermostat and Nest Protect smoke alarms, are now in the Google store. And that the latest product from Google Home Hub, has Nest in its title: Nest Hub Max. A smaller previous product has changed its name to match, from Google Home Hub to Nest Hub.

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Chandra feels that this is a time of transition. "I think we are at a tremendous moment in this moment, a technological transition from mobile to environmental computing, and those transitions do not happen very often, they actually happen once in a decade.

"Twenty years ago, he had the transition from PC computing to web computing, and that was the basis of Google and many of the incredible new companies." About 10 years ago, when he transitioned from web computing to mobile computing With the resurgence of Apple and all these amazing incredible mobile apps that have been available in the last decade.

"I think this last transition is to environmental computing, this notion of having a computer always accessible at your fingertips, that understands it, that you can do things on your behalf in different ways."

Smart appliances for the home, such as lights that you can control from another room or another country, cameras that can show you if the dog is back on the couch, or thermostats that allow you to turn on the heating in the cold living room below while you're snuggling in bed, they are common nowadays. But Chandra sees a more integrated future.

"When you think about computing, you know, the history of the computer in the last 20 years has been an integrated device that continues to improve. The challenge it has in an environmental computing model is that there is not a single device installed in my home, and that makes my home smart. Instead, you should take this imaginary computer device and divide it separately. You need different sensors and inputs and outputs in all the different rooms inside your house. And for the consumer, you need to feel like one. But from a computer point of view, this is something we've never done before, this notion of moving from an integrated computer system to a distributed computer system, and it's a big challenge. "

And that is only the first challenge. When you look at your mobile phone, it is a personal device, one with all your data, music, calendar appointments, applications, etc., in it. The future, says Chandra, is different.

"When you think about environmental computing, in reality there are several people who interact with a technology that is inside the house. So, it is about community experiences as well as personal experiences. When I put a camera in my house, it's not just me who will interact with it. They are my children, my grandparents, my wife, the guests who enter my house. We have to rethink the experience to be both communal and personal. Now, it does not change the requirement that when interacting with this device, I want to know who I am, to do things on my behalf. It must be able to adjust between a personal experience and a common experience quite perfectly. But it does require that services also have to understand the context of different people within the house. If I am listening to music, for example, and my children enter the room, I should not play explicit music, right? You need to understand that context. And that's a big change that does not really exist fundamentally today. "

However, the more smart home appliances we put in the house, the more we worry about our privacy. The microphones and cameras are useful to see us and what is happening in our homes, but we have to make sure that we are the only ones with access. How is openness and privacy provided at the same time?

"You know, the truth is that privacy is a spectrum, depending on the family you talk to, there is no answer that works for everyone, if, for example, you are not comfortable with a camera, we will create a product for you. We understand that some people only want a camera that is at certain times, well, great, we are going to build those controls for you because we believe that we must build where the consumers are, instead of the consumers coming to where we are ".

Rishi Chandra from Google Nest (Google)

But when I talk about the smart house, Chandra corrects me gently.

"We are intentionally deviating from the word smart home, because we really think it's the wrong word, we actually think it's a very technology-oriented way of thinking about the house." No one asked for intelligence, that's not necessarily what People care: what it's for is help We want to move from what a technology does to where it really benefits, and so our mantra for the next five to 10 years will be the notion of how we can help deliver the useful home. When you think about the future of Google's mission, you are helping everyone, so we believe that the home is obviously a place where we can offer it.

The rebranding of Google Nest can be the way to emphasize that intention, a way to unify two brands that operate in the home to show how they work together.

"We wanted to present a product that was the first to really show everything we are talking about. When we designed the Nest Hub Max, we wanted to consider how it combines different technologies within the house to provide an incredible experience, for example, inside the kitchen. And it is that vision that we can say, look, instead of asking for a separate security camera and an intelligent screen, why do not we integrate them into one? We wanted a product in the kitchen that offers everything you need, from security to photo frames, video conferencing and kitchen TV functions.

So, we expect to see higher levels of integration, where the Nest Thermostat will gain a screen to see who is at the door, for example.

"No, actually I think that this level of integration allows us to do just that … Putting a microphone in a thermostat, I do not think it makes any sense, what makes the most sense is to place a nest in the Google home mini in a different room, where you interact with the products and that's where the devices must connect with each other, if you think about it, the portfolio of products we have is tremendous.

"We have seven different categories in 20 or more products, I think the next evolution of the home will be how these devices connect logically to the consumer, at this moment, the industry is like, oh, let's put a microphone in each product, like A washing machine, for example, really does not make sense, so in my mind, I want us to go back, "he says.

Chandra says that if he had to design the "definitive home from scratch", it would not be possible to place 60 microphones in people's homes, or place screens on any available object. What it will focus on is the problems that concern users, such as how to save energy through a thermostat. Multiple products working together can help solve these challenges.

"From the computer point of view, we have invested in all the products we build, we only have more and more functions in it, compared to a distributed system, a system that makes sense," he says.

"In reality, my hope is to be able to build something for you, which makes sense over time as you ascend and build and add more capabilities to your home."


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