Business

Nest opens up: A public API, a developer program, and maybe even an app store

Nest wants to be so much more than just a learning thermostat.

The company announced yesterday the Nest Developer Program, which it hopes will encourage both developers and fellow hardware markers to build on top of the Nest thermostat.

The news is good for both the developer community and owners of Nest’s device, who have been hankering for Nest to offer a public API that would enable its thermostat to plug into the wider connected home. Considering that many thought Nest would never open up, the development has been a pleasant surprise.

But Nest senior product manager Greg Hu stresses that, despite what observers might think, Nest has always intended to offer a developer program — it just hasn’t been a priority.

“To an extent, this was all a part of the plan from the beginning, but Tony and Matt have been focused the thermostat, which they’ve been incredibly focused on getting right,” Hu said, referring to Nest’s founders.

At its core, Nest’s move is an admission, however subtle, that it has to open up its products to the increasing number of connected home devices that have hit the market. A connected device is only as valuable as the all the other gadgets that can connect to it — and vice-versa.

The move is also big because it sets the stage for some particularly interesting applications down the line. Chief among these, perhaps, is a Nest app store, which would enable developers to create and distribute their own apps for Nest owners to download to their smartphones.


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For an idea of what this could program look like down the line, imagine if a developer created an IFTT (if this then that)-like app that was focused just on home automation: Users could program the apps with simple commands like “If the temperature at home is higher than 85 degrees, send me a text message and turn on the air conditioner.” If done right, it could be useful.

Sadly, my interview with Hu didn’t much confirmation on any of this speculation, which is understandable given that Nest doesn’t plan to fully launch the developer program until early next year. One of the biggest questions I had was perhaps the most obvious: Just how much functionality will the Nest API give developers access to?

A hint of what the future of Nest could look like comes via its partnership with Control4,  a home automation company that’s already worked Nest into its system. Through the integration, the Nest thermostat can work with lights, motorized shades, and other devices.

Control4, however, is just the beginning, and you can expect Nest to announce other partnerships in the coming months.


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