When I bought my first house, it had a security system…or at least, an alarm panel by the door and one in the bedroom. It was never an active security system, didn’t really do much for us other than tell us when the doors were opened and closed. We also had a few panic buttons on the wall that I never had the courage to test out, for fear of terrifying my kids. Over the years, we grew to love the “bee-boop” noise when the doors would open, and the “boo-beep” when they closed; and aside from learning that the previous homeowners had a gun closet (because it was so labeled on the alarm panel), it never did much to enhance our lives…especially the night that the power had been out, and when it came back on in the middle of the night, so too did the alarm. (Side note: That night, I learned that my son can sleep through anything.)
We didn’t live in a particularly bad neighborhood, but it wasn’t a particularly great one either. Still, we entertained on multiple occasions getting a new security system, or at least activating our existing one, with monitoring and the works. But, it never happened: we were either driven away by a price tag (installation, monitoring, etc.) or by the mere fact that we didn’t really know what was best and who we could trust.
Compared to what’s on the market now, security systems from 10 or 15 years ago are so incredibly archaic. I recently stumbled across an Indiegogo campaign for a $9 security system based on social operation instead of traditional monitoring companies. And while that is on the more extreme side of the shift, it seems as if the security market (to some extent) is headed in a new direction like Uber did a handful of years ago: the notion that we already have the infrastructure and the resources to complete the job, all we need is a new way of looking at it.
Enter the Nest Secure, a product of “what if’s.” The idea for Nest here is a simple one: create an easy to use product that basically manages itself, is easy to set up, isn’t confusing, and fits into your life in a way that competitive products don’t or can’t.
I’ll be honest: my experience with home security bee-boops and middle-of-the-night alarms jaded me from setting the Nest Secure up when I got it. I assumed I was in for a long installation process—after all, they pay professionals to install security systems! Well, installation (if you can call it that) was not much different from unboxing a new wireless router, except with fewer wires. The Secure is a totally wireless solution that utilizes your existing home wi-fi and an optional cellular backup to make sure that you are notified of any activity that is out of the ordinary. The main panel, the Nest Guard, has only a power cord–and the most difficult part of the setup was finding the QR code to scan from my Nest app to get the device added. From there, the app took care of everything else with a simple wizard.
Also included in the package were two sensors, which can be used three different ways: as a traditional door sensor, as a window sensor (open-close, not break), or as a motion sensor. And, when it is used as a door or window sensor, it also doubles as a motion sensor. These small sensors can be installed virtually anywhere with mounting hardware or the included adhesive strips, and adding them to the system involves scanning the QR code on the back and following the instructions on the app.
The final piece of the Nest Secure starter pack is a pair of key fobs, designed to make arming and disarming the system simple. Again, scan the QR, assign the fob to a user, and you’re done. “BUT I LOVE MY SECURITY CODE,” you might say. Well, you get that too, if you want it—up to 8 digits, and a unique code for each member of your household, which enables you to see who is coming and going, and when.
That’s basically it. Including watching the instructional videos that the app offers, it took me about an hour to set everything up and train my family how to use it. My kids really enjoyed testing it by trying to sneak past the motion sensors, and my wife didn’t [seem to] get totally overwhelmed at having to remember something else when she leaves or comes home.
I admit, there’s nothing mind-blowing here in terms of product, and I think that’s at least in part what Nest was going for. It’s simple, straightforward security…but it’s also got some really cool things that shouldn’t go unmentioned:
The app is a really great experience; it is easy to use and if you already have another Nest product, your setup time will be reduced. The customizations of home/away, the duration between entry/exit and alarm, and notifications are at a Goldilocks level of not too much, not too little.
The whole system is completely modular. This isn’t too much of a shock in 2018, but it’s nice to be able to build your own “package” based on the entry points and size of your home. Two Nest Detect sensors are most likely not going to be enough for most people, but it’s a good starting point. The components aren’t cheap, but safety is always something worth investing in, and you can add more over time very easily.
Speaking of modular, there’s a component that I haven’t mentioned yet—the Nest Connect. The Connect’s job is to extend the range of your existing Nest network using a newer wireless protocol called a thread network, which is designed with the Internet of Things in mind. Right now, it’s just a range extender—but this thread router can have many other uses as Smart Home adoption increases, with only a software update required.
Every component the system comes with is a multi-tasker. The base is the brains of the operation, but has a built-in motion sensor; it also has an onboard battery that protects you if the device is unplugged during a breach. The window and door sensors have built-in motion sensors, as well as lights that can help you see in the dark; they also can be deactivated individually if you need to let the dog out or want to get the mail, without turning off the entire system. The tags can arm AND disarm the panel, and the already mentioned Nest Connect helps future-proof the whole system by allowing a virtually limitless secure platform (with no single point of failure) for adding more devices.
In spite of all the cool, 2018-ness of the system, it has some traditional stuff that you can pay for optionally. Out of the box, there is no “monitoring” component aside from alerts and notifications; however, if you want a more traditional monitoring experience, you can pay $25-$35 per month depending on contract so that someone else can keep an eye on your system and dispatch police if necessary. And, if your wireless network goes down, you can purchase a cellular backup service for $5 per month or $50 per year that ensures you can always receive notifications regardless of your home wi-fi connection.
But security comes at a price. At $499 for the starter kit, $25 for extra fobs and $59 for extra sensors, large homes with many entry points can cost you upwards of $1000 to fully equip. Then again, security is one of those things that is easier to justify spending on, especially if you have kids. And, more traditional (read: archaic) security systems can cost around $1000, most of which is subsidized by the monthly monitoring fee, save for some small installation charge.
So it’s not outlandish, but it’s certainly not cheap. I’ve been satisfied with the system thus far; it’s easy to set up, easy to maintain and has all the flexibility to add or remove components over time when I need to. The price is a hard pill to swallow at first, but for me, the extra sense of comfort is enough to justify the price tag.