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A Google Nest manager predicts that ambient computing is the next big technological transition



"I've been home for a few years now, you know. I felt that there was a huge opportunity and that changes were happening in the house right now.

I speak with Rishi Chandra at Google 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's busy with Google Home, Chromecast, Google Wifi, the Nest Thermostat, Nest Cam, Nest Hello, and more. much more. He has been working for Google for over 12 years and looks forward to the future.


"Even within Google, we felt we did not use all our assets to solve all the problems of users. Therefore, by combining Nest and Google Home, we were able to think about where our home would evolve. over the next five to ten years. "

It refers to the fact that earlier this year, Google announced the union of Nest products and Google Home. This means that Nest products, such as home security cameras, the smart thermostat, and the Nest Protect smoke alarm, are now available in the Google Store. And the latest Google Home Hub product, Nest, is Nest Hub Max. A previous, smaller product has changed its name from Google Home Hub to Nest Hub.

Chandra thinks it's a transition period. "I think we're going through a period of tremendous technological transition from a mobile computer to ambient computing. And these transitions do not happen very often, they happen once a decade.

"Twenty years ago, you migrated from web-based computing to web-based computing, and it was kind of the foundation of Google and many amazing startups." about 10 years ago, when you made the transition from web-based computing to mobile computing, with the resurgence of Apple and all those incredible mobile apps that were launched over the last decade .

"My belief is that this last transition is about ambient computing, this idea of ​​having a computer always accessible at your fingertips, who understands you, who can do things on your behalf to help you in different ways . "

Smart gadgets for the home, such as lights that you can order in another room or in another country, cameras that can tell you if the dog is on the couch again, or thermostats that allow you turn on the heating in the cold living room downstairs while snuggling up in bed, are common today. But Chandra sees a more integrated future.

"When you think of computers, you know, the history of the computer over the past 20 years has been an integrated device that keeps getting better. The problem you face in an ambient computer model is that there is not a single device that I put at home, and that just makes my home smart. Instead, you must take this imaginary computer device and separate it. You need different sensors, inputs and outputs in every room of your home. And for the consumer, it must be one. But from an IT standpoint, it's something we've never really done before, this idea of ​​moving from an integrated computer system to a distributed computer system, and it's a big challenge. "

And this is only the first challenge. When you look at your mobile phone, it's a personal device with all your data, music, calendar appointments, apps, and more. Chandra says that the future is different.

"When you think about ambient computing, it's about people interfering with a technology installed at home. It is therefore as much common experiences 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 come to my house. We must rethink the experience so that it is both community and personal. Now that does not change the requirement that when I interfere with this device, I want that device to know who I am, so that it will work for me. He must be able to adjust between a personal experience and a common experience in a fairly transparent way. But this also requires that the services also include the context of the different people inside the house. If I listen to music, for example, and my kids enter the room, the music should not be explicit, is not it? This context must be understood. And it's a big change that does not exist fundamentally today. "

However, the more we install smart gadgets for the home, the more we can worry about our privacy. Microphones and cameras are useful for allowing us to see and hear what's going on here, but we need to make sure that we are the only ones with access. How do you offer openness and confidentiality at the same time?

"You know, the truth is that privacy is a spectrum, depending on which home you are talking to, there is no single answer that will work for everyone. If, for example, you are not comfortable with a camera, we will build a product for you. We understand that some people only want a camera turned on at certain times. All right, we will build these controls for you. Because our belief is ours, we need to build where consumers are, as opposed to consumers coming where we are. "

Rishi Chandra from Google Nest (Google)

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

"We're intentionally moving away from the word smart home, because we actually think it's not the right word. We actually think it's a very technology-driven way of thinking at home. Nobody asked for intelligence. This is not an attribute that necessarily interests people: what they want is help. We want to go from what a technology does to a real benefit. And so, our mantra for the next five to ten years will be the notion of how we can help deliver the helpful home. When you think about the future of Google's mission, it helps everyone, that's why we think that the house is obviously a place where we can really offer that. "

The change of Google Nest brand may be the way to emphasize this intention, a way to federate two brands that operate at home to show how they work together.

"We wanted to present a product that was the first to really showcase everything we're talking about. When we designed the Nest Hub Max, we wanted to think about how it combines different technologies in the home to provide an incredible experience, for example in the kitchen. And it is this idea that has led us to say: instead of asking a user to buy a separate security camera and a smart 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 to videoconferencing, to TV features in the kitchen. "

So can we expect greater levels of integration, where the Nest Thermostat will get a screen to see who's at the door, for example?

"No, I really think that this level of integration allows us to not do exactly that. Putting a microphone on a thermostat does not seem to make sense. What makes more sense is to place a Nest Hub or Google Home Mini in another room, where you can interact with the products and where devices need to connect together. If you think about it, the portfolio of products we have is great.

"We have seven different categories in about twenty products, and I think the next evolution of the house will be to put together a logical combination of these devices for the consumer." At the moment, the industry looks like, oh, let's put a microphone in every product, like a washing machine, for example, why it does not really make sense, so in my mind, I want us to take a step back, "he says.

Chandra says that he conceived of the "ultimate home from scratch", it would not be by installing 60 microphones in people's homes, nor by placing screens on an available object. What he would focus on are the issues that users are concerned about, such as how to save energy with a thermostat. The collaboration of several products can help to solve these problems.

"From the computer point of view, we have invested so much in every product that we build that we have introduced more and more features, as opposed to a distributed system, a system that makes sense," he says.

"My hope is that I can really build something for you, it makes sense over time, as you progress and develop and add more features to your home."


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