May 24, 2014

Perhaps They Should Have Tested More - Nest Labs

Nest Protect - Don't Make Waves!

In April, Nest Labs determined that their Nest Protect smoke alarm system's "Wave" feature could cause problems if people were "waving" when a fire occurs. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is now calling this a "recall", even though the devices could be updated over the internet to disable this feature.
  • About 440,000 units will be recalled
  • Nest can fix the problem with a software update.
  • Not a physical recall so much as a software update alert
  • Glitch that can stop the alarm from sounding.
  • The Nest Protect could misinterpret people waving their hands and turn off if there was a real fire
  • Activity near the product during a fire can prevent the alarm from immediately sounding when the Nest Wave feature is enabled
  • If your device is not connected to a Nest account, or you’ve taken it offline, you should “immediately” reconnect it so the company can remotely disable the feature.
  • If you can’t connect to Wi-Fi, you should stop using the device altogether

On April 3rd, Tony Fadell, the CEO of Nest Labs wrote:
At Nest, we conduct regular, rigorous tests to ensure that our products are the highest quality. 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. 
We identified this problem ourselves and are not aware of any customers who have experienced this, but the fact that it could even potentially happen is extremely important to me and I want to address it immediately. 
We feel that the best and safest thing to do is to immediately disable the Nest Wave feature to resolve the issue and remove any safety concerns. While we fix Nest Wave, we have also halted sales of all new Nest Protect alarms to ensure no one buys an alarm that needs an immediate update.
Once we have a solution that ensures Nest Wave works as intended, we will update our software to turn this feature back on. This will only happen after extensive testing and once we have received approval from safety agencies in the US, Canada and UK. We expect this to take at least two or three months and we’ll continue to update you as we have more information.

So if you own a Nest Protect, you can nod, wink, or say "Hi". But don't wave at it, whatever you do! (Just kidding. Seriously though, disable the Nest Wave feature immediately!)

Next time Nest Labs releases a product, I assume they'll check the ramifications of waving at it before they begin sales. Perhaps this time, they should have wave tested more?

[Full Disclosure: I own a Nest Learning Thermostat (see: So if you are in Maine, and you see me waving furiously at my thermostat, you'll know that I'm not crazy - I'm just conducting my own testing. So far, no bugs found.]

See Also:

This article originally appeared in my blog: All Things Quality
My name is Joe Strazzere and I'm currently a Director of Quality Assurance.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.
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