Face to Face with Nest's smartest home security camera

Face to Face with Nest's smartest home security camera
This July 25, 2017, frame grab from video shows the Nest Cam IQ camera. Nest's newest home security camera is supposed to be so smart that it can recognize anyone entering its sight line after it has been introduced to someone. That skill comes from facial recognition technology made by sister company Google. As The Associated Press discovered, the Nest Cam IQ has an uncanny knack for recognizing people, even when they're disguised. (AP Photo/Ryan Nakashima)

Nest's new home security camera is supposed to be so smart that it can identify people it's been introduced to.

That skill comes from facial-recognition technology made by Nest's sibling company, Google. The Nest Cam IQ camera is so slick that it carries a premium price—$300—plus a $10 monthly subscription to run the facial-recognition program and other features, such as 10-day video storage. That compares with Nest's $200 standard camera. Google's facial-recognition technology also is being added to a camera-equipped doorbell from Nest; a price hasn't been disclosed yet.

Apple is also embracing facial recognition, though with a different type of technology and goal—to unlock the just-released iPhone X .

The Nest Cam IQ offers a glimpse at how deeply intelligent computers will be able to peer into our lives, especially as more home appliances become connected to the internet.

We set a camera in The Associated Press' San Francisco bureau and identified everyone who regularly works in the office. We tested whether the camera would remember them and send notifications when it spotted them. On the flip side, the camera also sends alerts when it sees someone it doesn't recognize, raising the possibility of an intruder on the premises.

That made us want to find out just how smart—and potentially creepy—this camera really is. As part of the test, a couple of us donned disguises.

It wasn't easy to pull the wool over this camera's prying eyes. It still recognized me wearing psychedelic garb, wolf-like head gear, an Egyptian pharaoh's headdress and a fake mustache. Understandably, the camera couldn't recognize me under a Frankenstein mask. For some reason, it was just as baffled when an editor it usually had no trouble recognizing donned his cycling helmet and sunglasses in the office. The camera occasionally got baffled when it saw someone from a side angle, even it had previously identified that person.

It also added images of paper print-outs of people's faces to their profiles and questioned the identity of an Albert Einstein image on my T-shirt. That's not something that would the iPhone X would have recognized, as it adds depth to its recognition algorithm to understand what's a real face and what's not.

Overall, it's an impressive camera, although it's probably not worth the higher price and monthly subscription unless you have a burning desire to own the latest technology and really need to know everything everyone is doing in your home all the time.

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User comments

Nov 07, 2017
Hhhmmm .......... So if I go into someone's house who has this device, Google records my facial features for later identification without even asking permission. Does anyone else see a serious privacy issue here? Is it Google's responsibility to warn any walking into a home that uses this device that they're being recorded, the home owner, or both?

Nov 07, 2017
In some states it is the property owner's responsibility to notify visitors that they're being recorded, in others there are no rules, some places in the EU limit retention of video recording to 24 hours for business usage, I don't know of anywhere that the **camera manufacturer** is responsible.

My wife was surprised to see herself tagged on a photo on Facebook in the profile of someone she had never met. She was just walking through the background when the photo was taken, but because her friends had earlier tagged her on their photos Facebook was able to identify her somewhere else.

In 1999 the CEO of Sun Microsystems famously declared, "Privacy is dead. Get over it." He's since been proven right many times over.

Nov 08, 2017
I wonder if it can recognize people from pictures? (There's an article elsewhere about sheep being able to do so.) Yeah, huge privacy ramifications for tracking people. (I'll bet a lot of government security cameras in public places are doing this already.) I'd only be interested in such a device if it did its recognition on a local processor that I control, not some cloud service. The fact that the iPhoneX can do face recognition, presumably without the aid of the cloud, suggests that this is feasible.

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