In the first major update to its smoke alarm software since the system was introduced last October, Google-acquired Nest Labs has developed a spate of new features designed to keep homes safe from fires and carbon monoxide, and to keep annoying alarms from going off when they shouldn't be.
Here are the most important upgrades: Using data gathered from hundreds of thousands of units placed in homes, Nest Protect now does a much better job of differentiating smoke from plain old steam. "In 15% of homes, smoke alarms think steam is smoke and it sounds the alarm," Maxime Veron, director of product marketing at Nest, told Fast Company. Any light-obscuring particulates that get in—whether it's steam or smoke—"will actually look the same."
But since the Protect has a built-in humidity sensor, its algorithms can figure out the difference. Half of the incorrect alarms should go away.
Safety History is another new smart feature. Nest can now show you the history of warnings in a timeline designed to help you figure out what in your home or apartment may have been setting off alarms.
Also built in is a new section called "What To Do 2.0." In the event of a fire or carbon monoxide emergency, the Nest app will help guide you and your family out or your house to safety. Although "What To Do" was a key feature in the old app, "the content wasn’t as deep and rich as we wanted it to be," said Veron. So the team consulted with professionals in the fire industry to design a better step-by-step guide.
There are other upgrades, too, like new Pathlight controls built into the iOS and Android apps, which do a better job of lighting your way in the dark, and more accurate carbon monoxide readings.
Notably, though, Nest hasn't fixed the one feature that forced the company to recall the Protect in April: The problematic motion-detecting feature that can inadvertently turn off the silent alarm in the event of an emergency.