Last night at midnight, a big blue fire truck rolled into the headquarters of Nest in Palo Alto. One side has fire safety information and games for kids, the other side offers a first-look at Nest's latest product, a carbon monoxide and smoke detector that was first announced last month.
Designed and custom built with West Coast Customs, the L.A.-based car remodel company made famous by MTV’s show "Pimp My Ride," the truck is a one-of-a-kind experience. Part product demo, part social media hub, part brand buzz builder, the truck is a physical representation of the ethos of Nest. It debuted today at the GigaOm Roadmap conference in San Francisco.
"We found a fire truck from Ann Arbor Craigslist and had it shipped to West Coast Customs," says Nest VP of Marketing Doug Sweeny. "A fire truck is the ultimate symbol of protection and safety and it has a fun element in it as well. We couldn't think of a better expression of what Nest Protect is."
Like the Warby Parker school bus, which is a touring eyeglass shop, the Nest fire truck will embark on a multi city tour—and a foray into some interesting partnerships. Nest is working with 18 home depots around the Bay Area to tour the bus Mid-November through mid-December. It will also be parking at Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb, and other major tech company campuses.
And just before Thanksgiving, Nest and Uber will be offering free fire truck rides in the Bay Area.
"The vehicle has to flex between something like this event, and a Home Depot event for kids," says Sweeny. It includes fire suits and hats for kids, a movie screen on the back to show fire safety videos, and a custom designed game to help kids identify safety hazards in the home. It also shows off the features of Nest Protect, which is powered by sophisticated algorithms but with an emphasis on human-friendly features.
Best known for its smart thermostat, Nest’s smoke and carbon monoxide alarm connects to a Wi-Fi network and has a simple smartphone app that allows you to see remotely which rooms are in a "heads up" smoke-present situation, which are in an emergency state, or back to normal. The app also allows you to see how many days ago the batteries on each detector were tested and how many minutes ago the detector last made contact.
It has built-in human-friendly features—ways of interacting with the machine that are based on human voice and gestures. You can hush the alarm by coming close to and waving to it as if you were trying to attract its attention. You can turn on a feature called Pathlight that uses a motion sensor to give you six seconds of dim light if you get up for a glass of milk in the middle of the night. Rather than the shrill yell of a smoke alarm that makes you take the batteries out, it replaces that irritating sound with a "human voice to tell you what’s wrong, where the problem is and what to do," says Sweeny.
The app is clearly designed with the assumption that users will put a Protect in every room, something the most every U.S. state requires by law. At a retail price of $129, that adds up. The reason this makes sense: According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), almost two-thirds of U.S. home fire deaths happened in homes with no smoke alarm or no working smoke alarm.
"You’re supposed to test your smoke alarm every week, replace the batteries and clean it every six months, and replace it altogether every 7-10 years. But most people don’t know that," says Sweeny.
Still going through the protracted certification process required for safety products, the Protect is slated to start shipping in mid-November.