The smart home market continues to heat up, and Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is determined to stay in the race. After releasing the Google Home AI-powered smart speaker and Google WiFi mesh router system, the company is now turning its attention to Nest.
In an effort to reboot its pioneering smart home products division, Alphabet has hired back Yoky Matsuoka, an AI and robotics expert who had been working for rival Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL).
The former Nest vice president will return as the new Nest CTO.
Rebooting the Nest Mess
Nest has had a pioneering role in the smart home. Before being acquired by Google in 2014 for $3.2 billion, the company had helped kick off an entire industry with the Nest Learning Thermostat.
The smart thermostat delivered on a promise to automate home temperatures, learn homeowners’ preferences for different times of the day and to save money on heating and cooling. It did this while being user-friendly; you didn’t need to be an engineer or an electrician to install and set it up. It also introduced a chic new look to the lowly thermostat. Nest went on to branch out into smart smoke and CO detectors before being acquired by Google.
Things at Nest began to go sideways under Google’s ownership. The Dropcam purchase involved drama around canceled products and employees quitting over cultural clashes.
Nest failed to deliver the home security system Google was anxiously awaiting — in fact, the division has failed to release any new products since being acquired (just revisions of existing gear plus those Dropcam cameras). It got mired in a PR disaster after buying the Revolv smart hub, then shutting it down, effectively bricking devices that had already been bought. The division fell short of Alphabet’s revenue targets.
The situation culminated with the departure of Nest founder and CEO Tony Fadell.
New Nest CTO Is a Familiar Face
Nest has been operating under a new CEO since last summer, but Alphabet is clearly trying to kick-start the division. The threat posed by Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Alexa-powered Echo smart speaker is very real. Despite being late to the game and lacking a smartphone platform, Amazon has vaulted into a smart home leadership position with Alexa able to interact with thousands of products and services.
That smart home market is projected to be worth over $121 billion by 2022, so being top dog is a very big deal.
Bloomberg is reporting that Alphabet has hired a key executive to take on the crucial CTO role at Nest. An AI and robotics expert, Yoky Matsuoka was a co-founder of Google’s X research division. She left Google to become a VP with Nest and is credited for the Nest Learning Thermostat’s adoptive technology.
She jumped ship from Nest after the Google acquisition and last year landed at Apple, where she led teams working on the HealthKit, CareKit and ResearchKit medical health initiatives. She left Apple for unknown reasons in December, but now, the new gig at Google looks like the most probable culprit.
According to Bloomberg, Matsuoka becomes Nest’s new CTO. Her responsibilities include:
- Defining a long-term technology roadmap for Nest products.
- Identifying advanced technology such as new sensors that could be incorporated into Nest products.
- Identifying opportunities for collaboration within Alphabet.
- Pursuing partnerships with third-party companies.
In other words, Matsuoka will find out where Nest is going, how it can leapfrog the competition, ensuring Nest products integrate with the goals and capabilities of other Alphabet products, and extending Nest’s reach as a smart home platform.
Will the new CTO be able to help whip Nest back into shape and get new products out the door? Will she be able to take the spotlight away from Amazon’s Echo and Alexa, returning Nest to a position of smart home leadership?
She has the credentials, and Alphabet certainly seems to think so.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.