The smoke alarm, reinvented
Published Oct. 19, 2013

The loud, sensitive smoke alarm is probably the least-loved electronic device in your home, but it is also an appliance that could get you killed if it's not working properly. That is why Nest Labs, a startup led by former Apple engineers, saw an opportunity to reinvent it.

The company, well known for its smart thermostat that helps reduce energy consumption, has introduced an Internet-connected smoke alarm called Protect. It connects to a Wi-Fi network and is equipped with motion- and smoke-detection sensors so that when it starts beeping, it can be silenced with a hand wave instead of requiring someone to climb a ladder and push a button. It arrives in stores in early November.

Instead of incessant, rapid beeping, the Protect beeps intermittently, and a robot voice alerts the homeowner about what is happening, with messages such as "Heads up — there's smoke in the bedroom" or "Emergency — there's smoke." The notifications also can be sent to the homeowner's smartphone through the Nest app.

One early hurdle may be the price: At $130, the Protect is positioned as a high-end smoke alarm, compared with traditional ones, which cost as little as $30. And adding to costs, customers will probably need to buy more than one if they live in households with multiple bedrooms and common living spaces.