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Google's Nest halts sales of its fire alarm – because waving your hand switches it off

Updates push over the air to fix safety concern

Nest Labs' The Nest

Google's Internet-of-Things wunderkind Nest is disabling a software feature called Nest Wave, citing safety concerns.

In this letter to customers, Nest Labs CEO Tony Fadell writes: “During recent laboratory testing of the Nest Protect smoke alarm, we observed a unique combination of circumstances that caused us to question whether the Nest Wave (a feature that enables you to turn off your alarm with a wave of the hand) could be unintentionally activated. This could delay an alarm going off if there was a real fire.”

As a result, Fadell says, the feature is being disabled immediately and automatically in all Nest devices in the field, and “we have also halted sales of all new Nest Protect alarms to ensure no one buys an alarm that needs an immediate update.”

Let's just look at the salient point again: the disabling is happening automatically, without any intervention required on the part of the user. As noted in the letter: “Within 24 hours, Nest Wave will be automatically disabled. You don’t need to do anything and even with this feature disabled, our smoke alarm will continue to work very effectively”.

If hackers of all hat shades between white and black weren't already looking at the functionality that gives Nest Labs the ability to push device updates without user interaction, they probably are now.

In the rare case that the Nest Labs alarm device has found its way into an installation with no WiFi access and no Nest user account, the company is offering refunds.

Last January, Fadell promised that for the time being, Google's ownership of the company wouldn't see its data swallowed up into the Chocolate Factory's advertising data sets. So El Reg has to accept that so far, it's only using its unfettered access to connected devices for good, not evil. Right? ®

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