Use Google Nest to fill your home with holiday music

Once Thanksgiving dinner has been eaten and the dishes are cleared, the holiday season has begun—and for my family, that means you’re officially allowed to start playing Christmas music. A moment too soon, and you’ll have a revolt on your hands, but once the jingle bells start, there’s hardly a silent night…or a silent second, for that matter. 

In the past, I’ve loved going to concerts during the holidays. This year, I don’t want my new baby daughter to miss out on the music, so the show must—and can—go on. Here are a few simple ways that Google can help you host your own in-home holiday concert. You’ll need a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker (like the new Google Nest Audio, or Google Nest Hub Max) and a compatible music streaming service account, like YouTube Music or Spotify). Plus, we’ll include some bonus tips for anyone who has multiple Google-powered smart speakers. 

Step 1. Start by setting up your whole home system so you can fill your whole home with holiday cheer. I have a Nest Hub Max in the kitchen (great for a little background music when I’m cooking), a Google Home Max in the living room (for maximum sound), a Nest Hub in my home office (I like being able to see family photos on the screen), a Nest Audio in the nursery (we try to keep screens out of there, but we love some music for lullabies), a stereo pair of Nest Audios in the master bedroom (great for late night listening) and a Nest Mini in the guest bedroom (which this year, will probably be where we end up wrapping presents). 

Step 2. Set up your music. It’s the holidays and I feel nostalgic, so I’m creating a mix of soundtracks from some classic holiday movies. Of course, I will also be making a pop hits playlist, too, because all I want for Christmas is…you get the idea.

Step 3. Stream away. I’ll start in the kitchen with a simple command: “Play my holiday playlist.” And with multi-room control, I’ll add the living room so my family can enjoy the music while they’re decorating the tree. When it’s time for dinner, I’ll add every room so the whole home is filled with cheer. 

Step 4. For optimal holiday music magic, use Google Assistant on your Nest device to create a routine: In my house, at 5 p.m. every evening, my classic Christmas playlist turns on in my office and the lights on the tree go on (with a compatible smart switch or lights). It’s a cheery way to log off for the evening. 

Whether you dim the lights and light a fire to enjoy your at-home concert in the living room or using multiple speakers to move music around the house while you do the same, the holiday jams will have never sounded better.

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Oakland Care and Nest help residents connect for the holidays

Editor’s note: This story is guest authored by Aaron White, Business Services Manager at Oakland Care, a leading provider of residential care homes in the United Kingdom.

The current pandemic has been devastating in many ways, and as someone who works for a group of care homes, Oakland Care, it’s been particularly heartbreaking to see its effects on our residents. UK Government guidelines required care homes to ensure residents maintain a social distance from their loved ones. Visits from sons, daughters and grandchildren have always brought so much joy to our Homes, but the virus’s high impact on older people has meant that these once-welcome visits brought too much risk to their health and that of the team members. 

Our primary focus has had to be protecting people from the virus, but with that comes a risk of isolation and loneliness. So, we wanted to try and bring our residents some reprieve by offering them a new way to connect with their loved ones. As the person responsible for innovation at Oakland Care, I’ve been keenly focused on how we can use new technologies to improve our residents’ lives. In partnership with Google and Volara, we explored how technology could help  connect families, as well as help our residents explore new ways to stay entertained.

Two weeks ago—just in time for the holidays—we introduced our residents to Google for Senior Living, a solution where we could use Nest Hub Max smart displays in our care homes. We initially thought we would experience challenges setting the devices up, but we were impressed by how hassle-free it was, and the residents found them easy to use and quickly grew accustomed to them.

Image shows an elderly woman in a wheelchair with a nurse who is wearing a mask leaning over her shoulder. Bother women are looking at a Google Nest Hub Max and reading a booklet with instructions. The nurse is pointing at the screen, and the woman in the wheelchair is smiling.

Resident Sylvia Culling learns how to use her Google Nest Hub Max.

This has enabled our residents—many of whom do not use a smartphone, let alone a smart display—to learn how to easily video call someone special with voice commands, which is especially helpful for those who struggle with buttons or remembering how to use technology. It’s sparked once again that warm feeling and those bright smiles that come from being face-to-face with their children, sharing a memory with an old friend or seeing their grandchildren laugh and play. Residents have also enjoyed using voice commands to listen to favorite songs on YouTube Music, the latest football scores or news and weather forecasts. 

Take Winnie, a resident at Lambwood Heights, one of our care facilities. She was used to seeing her two daughters, Carole and Margaret, almost every day before the pandemic. With a new Nest Hub Max in her room, she can dial them up for a phone or video call whenever she wants to. It gives her control over when and how she speaks to her loved ones and has really helped her feel more content over this period. 

An elderly woman with brown hair wearing a sweater looks at Nest Hub Max screen that's playing a video of people tap dancing on it. The device is sitting on a table where she also has family photos in frames.

Winnie enjoys watching old tap dancing films in her room.

Winnie used to be a dancer, performing at London’s famous Windmill Theatre when she was just a teenager. Music is really important to her, and her Nest Hub Max allows her to call up favorite tunes whenever she feels the rhythm in her feet. She keeps her tap shoes nearby, and sometimes she pops them on when the music is playing, especially when she wants some time to herself. Having the Nest device means she can close the door and watch her favorite TV show, “Strictly Come Dancing.”

Nest Hub Max has become a much-adored companion for our residents, brightening days during what has been a tragic year for many. It’s been extremely fulfilling to see the impact this technology has already had, and I can’t wait to introduce the device to new residents, and hopefully bring more of this type of technology to the Oakland Care community.

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Behind the scenes with the new Nest Thermostat

Available today, the new Nest Thermostat is smarter and more affordable than ever. By using AI, it keeps homes comfortable while helping people save energy and even find out if something might be wrong with their eligible HVAC system.

To learn a little more about what powers the Nest Thermostat, we took some time to talk to Marco Bonvini and Ramya Bhagavatula, software engineers on the Nest team.

The Nest Thermostat has used AI since the beginning. What’s different about this latest launch? 

Ramya: We really focused on what the experience would be like for people. Nest thermostats have always been really sophisticated, and with the new Nest Thermostat we really wanted to put more control in peoples’ hands. They’re able to label their temperature settings: “This is my comfort zone, this is the temperature I like it to be when I’m sleeping.” We’re using people’s preferences and adding machine learning to find you ways to help save energy. If you enable Savings Finder, it will recommend minor changes to your set temperatures or schedule to help you save; if it looks good to you, you press “yes.” It takes away all the mystery.

Also, from the very start, we knew that with a smart thermostat we should have the ability to figure out when something might be going wrong with your HVAC system. Now, we’re taking steps to make that possible for most systems in Canada and the U.S. with HVAC monitoring, which is rolling out today to all Nest thermostats in those regions.

Where did the idea for the HVAC monitoring feature come from?

Marco: It started two years ago, as a side project. The first question was “is this going to be valuable for people?” and the answer was “yes.” When our customers had an HVAC issue, they would call us assuming there was something wrong. We were trying to help them troubleshoot and connect them to a Nest Pro, but we wanted to do it more proactively. That led us to the second question, “can we do this?” and the answer was also, “yes, we can do this.” Moving forward, we should be able to provide even more context, so it will help people, and pros, even more. We already saw improvements since we launched the beta earlier this year, so we’re really encouraged to provide more proactive help to customers. 

What made this possible? 

Ramya: Cloud computing advancements, definitely. We used to run a lot of algorithms on the device, that’s what got Nest started. Now, with cloud computing, we can aggregate data anonymously from Nest thermostats to inform what sort of actions we take and what we can suggest to owners. This helps inform features like Savings Finder and HVAC monitoring. 

Originally, each thermostat operated on its own, but now we have the power to make intelligent decisions based on anonymized data, which might not have been possible if we were just looking at each individual device. 

How does a smart thermostat find possible HVAC issues? 

Marco: We monitor the estimated ambient and target temperature and predict time to temperature. We have predicted the expected behavior and then look for anomalies which may be potential performance issues with the HVAC system.

Image of an HVAC monitoring alert

What do you most enjoy about working on Nest thermostats?

Marco: Something that’s unique is that we’re providing these new features to legacy, older devices. In a lot of ways, Nest thermostats started the IoT category; the original is 10-years-old and it’s still running. While the thermostat has changed over the years, we’re committed to supporting everyone and all devices with compatible systems. An IoT device that’s 10-years-old that still gets new feature releases is pretty special.

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Signal boost: Google Wifi and Nest Wifi just got better

Lately, our homes have become busier than ever–we work, attend classes, enjoy entertainment from movies to video games and even exercise right in our living rooms. This means our Wi-Fi needs to be dependable and strong, and keep us covered in any room of the home. To make sure more people can have the Wi-Fi coverage that they need, we’re reducing the price of Google Wifi. You can now get a 3-pack for $199, which covers homes up to 4,500 square feet. A 1-pack is $99 and covers homes up to 1,500 square feet. 

Broadband consumption during traditional work hours went up more than 41 percent in March of this year. This means that internet service provider networks are increasingly congested, leading to general internet slowdowns and buffering on your video calls. In my house, just like many of us, my whole family puts our home network through its paces; it’s not uncommon for me to be on a video call with work while my daughter is also one one for class and my wife is doing the same with family and friends. With so many people online at once, getting the best performance out of your internet is critical.

To help address some of these challenges, we’re also making some updates to all Google Wifi and Nest Wifi systems. With new device notifications, you’ll get an alert in the Google Home app whenever a new device joins your network. And, we’re reducing network delays and improving network performance to help you avoid congestion when multiple devices are online. We’re also continuing to improve your connection even if your Internet service provider’s network is slow. 

We’re rolling out these updates starting today. With so many of us spending more time at home, we hope that these improvements help make things a little easier

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A partnership with ADT for smarter home security

Today, we’re announcing a long-term, strategic partnership between Google and ADT, a leading U.S. security and home automation provider. Together, we aim to create the next generation of the helpful home—based on new security solutions that will better protect and connect people to their homes and families.

Devices and services

Google will combine its Nest devices, services and technology with ADT’s leadership position providing security solutions for millions of homes and small businesses in the U.S. The partnership pairs more than 20,000 ADT professionals together with Nest’s portfolio of helpful home devices. The company’s network of thousands of professional technicians will be able to sell and install devices like Nest Cameras and Nest Hub Max, all powered by Google Assistant.

Over time, Nest’s devices, powered by Google’s machine learning capabilities will enhance ADT’s security monitoring and become the cornerstone of ADT’s smart home offering. The goal is to give customers fewer false alarms, more ways to receive alarm events, and better detection of potential incidents inside and around the home. It will also provide people with more helpful notifications that make everyday life more convenient, like package detection. ADT customers will also have access to Nest Aware, a service that keeps people informed about important events at home, including intelligent alerts and event history recording for up to 30 days.

An equity investment in ADT

As part of this multi-year partnership, Google will make a $450 million investment in ADT in exchange for shares of a newly created Class B common stock having all the rights and preferences of ADT’s common stock except for the right to vote on the election, appointment or removal of directors. Upon the closing of Google’s equity investment in ADT, Google will own approximately 6.6 percent of ADT’s outstanding aggregate common equity. Google’s equity investment, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close in the third quarter of 2020. 

These investments show our collective commitment to evolve security through better technology and innovation. Together with ADT, we look forward to delivering a smarter, more secure and helpful home.

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A new way to save this summer with Nest thermostats

Warm evenings, backyard barbeques and sticky watermelon fingers mean two things for my family: Summer is finally here and the air conditioning is running. As the days get longer and temperatures rise, so does my energy bill. 

Thankfully, Nest thermostats can help me save energy automatically. As of today, we’re announcing our Seasonal Savings feature will be available for free. Seasonal Savings isn’t the only Nest thermostat tool that works in the background to save energy, and sometimes money. Here are a few ways you can benefit from using the device without having to lift a finger. 

1. Seasonal savings for all 

For the first time, this summer we’re making Seasonal Savings available to all Nest thermostat owners for free. Previously, this feature was only available to customers of utilities with Seasonal Savings programs. It acts like a personal energy monitor, making small schedule tweaks to help you save energy and lower your bill, without you even noticing. 

By adjusting your schedule just a fraction of a degree each day, users save energy while staying comfortable. These little changes can really add up—the average customer sees 3 to 5 percent in energy savings on their home’s heating and cooling systems. Collectively, if everyone participates, that’s millions of dollars saved.

Seasonal Savings is rolling out on all Nest thermostats in the U.S. and Canada (except Quebec) starting this month. If you have a Nest Thermostat, you’ll see a notification on your device and in the Nest app asking if you’d like to opt-in, and from there your thermostat will start helping you save energy.

2. Get rewards for saving

Just like traffic clogs up roads when everyone drives to work at the same time, energy “rush hours” happen when everyone in a certain area turns on their air conditioning at once. When there’s a peak in energy demand, it makes providing energy more expensive, less reliable, and less environmentally friendly for energy companies.  So, many energy companies work with Nest to offer Rush Hour Rewards.  When you sign up, your Nest thermostat will make changes to the temperature in your home on a handful of those peak energy usage afternoons during the summer. This lowers the demand while still keeping you comfortable. The icing on the cake: Energy providers pay users  for signing up.

3. Clearing the air (filter)

Dirty or clogged air filters can affect your heating and cooling system’s efficiency, making your system work harder to move air through your home and using more energy. Personally, air filters aren’t high on my priority list and I often forget to change them. This is why your Nest thermostat can help you remember when it’s time to change the filter with a Filter Reminder, tracking the last time you changed it and showing you reminders on your thermostat when it’s time to switch it out. 

4. Leave it to the Leaf 

The Nest Leaf icon appears on your Nest thermostat display or in the Nest app when you choose an energy-saving temperature. The temperatures that earn a Leaf will depend on your temperature preferences, your home and your schedule. When you follow the Leaf, you know you’re saving energy. 

5. Waste not, want not

The Nest thermostat can use its sensors and, if you opt in, your phone’s location, to check if you’ve left the house. It can then automatically adjust the temperature, so you don’t waste energy cooling an empty home. Then when you come back, your thermostat will readjust to your preferred setting.

So sit back, relax and let your Nest thermostat get to work helping you save this summer.

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Wi-Fi woes got you down? Google Nest is here to help

As the product lead for connectivity at Google Nest, I’m a complete Wi-Fi geek. I love helping people solve their home Wi-Fi problems and get the most out of their routers—and that includes my own family. I have two teenage sons attending high school remotely, while I’m currently working from my dining table. Suffice it to say I’m a fan of anything that gives my home Wi-Fi a boost.

Luckily, we’re rolling out a software update to make both Nest Wifi and Google Wifi work even more smoothly today. This update will improve overall network performance on slow internet connections, which means your Wi-Fi will better support multiple video calls, gaming sessions and more simultaneously. It includes general security and stability improvements and will also improve device connection speeds on wireless networks and optimizations so your devices move to faster Wi-Fi radio channels. Our priority device feature is also getting smarter, so you can rest assured Wi-Fi traffic will be prioritized to the device you choose. This means you can make sure your work laptop is getting the strongest Wi-Fi available, as opposed to the kids’ YouTube sessions. And the best part is these updates will be pushed automatically, no action required on your end. 

Of course, no Wi-Fi is infallible, and I know how frustrating it can be when it isn’t working the way you expect. No matter what router you’re using, here are a few tips to help you troubleshoot: 

If your TV is always buffering:

Remove  barriers: If you’re still using an old black box router, don’t hide it in drawers or behind furniture – this compromises its usefulness and weakens your Wi-Fi signal. Metal (like a filing cabinet) and water (like an aquarium) are the biggest offenders.

Reboot your router: Most people are familiar with this tip, but don’t actually know why they’re doing it. If you’re noticing network congestion, rebooting  cleans up stale software buffers and forces the reconnection of your devices. 

Run a speed test: Is your problem your Wi-Fi range? Get close to your router and run a speed test, then try again from farther away. If it’s slower the second time, you may have a dead zone. If you can, try moving your router out into the open or closer to the potential dead zone to see if that helps. You can find a free speed test at speedtest.net

If the whole family is online at once:

Know how much speed you need: Most video calls require 5 Mbps of consistent speed, but the reality is a bit more nuanced.  Because you’re receiving video from the internet (download) and sending video as well (upload), you’ll want to make sure that your upload speed is a good, consistent 5 Mbps as well. Conduct a speed test during a busy time of day when you’ve had a bad video call. If you have less than 5 Mbps DL (downlink) or UL (uplink), you might consider placing a…

…Call to your Internet Service Provider: If it feels like your Wi-Fi gets bogged down during the work day, but otherwise works fine, your issue could be your ISP.  If you’ve already run a speed test and spent time rebooting your router and modem, it may be time to work with your ISP to solve the problem. If your ISP modem is really old, it might be time for an upgrade.  Buying one yourself rather than getting it from your ISP might save you up to $10 a month. Check your ISP’s website for compatible modems before you purchase one, then call your ISP to get it added to their network.

If your home has dead zones:

Upgrade your router: Especially if it’s more than five years old There were substantial changes in Wi-Fi standards in the U.S. back in 2015, allowing higher radio power and therefore better coverage from routers made in 2016 or later. 

Consider a mesh network: A mesh network is a group of routers (actually Wi-Fi access points) that wirelessly communicate with each other to create a single, connected Wi-Fi network over a large area. We created Nest Wifi as a mesh system because having multiple points work together to create a seamless, single network. While network strength varies depending on things like the size of your house and your ISP, the idea is that this system provides consistently strong coverage for all connected devices throughout your home. 

We all rely on Wi-Fi, and when it doesn’t work, it’s a source of frustration untold.  Hopefully these tips help keep you connected, whether you’re working, streaming, gaming or binge-watching.

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How the Nest Hub Max helps keep families connected

As a kid, I could navigate from my home to my grandparents’ house blindfolded—that walk remains muscle memory for me. My grandparents’ place was really my second home, nearly as familiar to me as my own. Today, my 92-year-old grandma, Mary-Jane (she prefers Marty), still lives in that house. She lives there alone, and although she has my parents and a few of my aunts and uncles nearby, COVID-19 has been extremely isolating for her. 

Despite protests she wouldn’t be able to figure out how to use it, I sent my grandma a Nest Hub Max. After getting her an old smartphone simply for setup purposes and helping her create a Google Duo account, I now get to actually see my grandma regularly while we’re in quarantine. “Oh, I love it,” she told me recently when I asked her how it was working out. It’s easier than clicking on a link to start a video chat on her laptop, and she likes that the Nest Hub Max stays in one place and that she can answer video calls with a simple tap. She’s even learned to ask Google Assistant to play Frank Sinatra, who’s always been one of her and my grandpa’s favorites. 

It’s important for seniors’ mental and emotional health to stay connected, and social isolation during this quarantine makes doing that especially hard. As I learned with my grandma, Nest Hub Max and Duo video calling can help keep us “together” while we’re apart. My family isn’t the only one that’s unable to be around our grandmother; seniors everywhere haven’t been able to have visitors or join others for social activities in recent months. To help make things a little easier, Google is giving nearly 1,000 Nest Hub Max devices to residents in seven Merrill Gardens retirement communities in Washington State —giving them a way to connect with family and friends. 

Bob Marum, one of the residents of Merrill Gardens, says he’s missed getting together with family and friends. “Talking on the phone is nice, but it’s nothing compared to chatting over coffee or a glass of wine.” He says the Nest Hub Max sounds like it will be “a tremendous addition. It would improve the liveliness of our life.”

In addition to providing Nest Hub Maxes, the Nest and Google Assistant teams wanted to make setup even easier for less tech-savvy users. The teams created a new experience that we’re kicking off with Merrill Gardens residents, where they will have access to a pre-loaded shortlist of contacts, making video calls even easier. There are new “What can you do?” cards, too, that act like shortcuts for showing weather reports, setting alarms or playing relaxing sounds. 

Merrill Garden.png

And all of this was done in a way that preserves privacy for the residents, as the devices are managed on Nest’s fleet management system and run in a “signed out” mode, meaning no audio is stored and all activity is anonymous. 

For my grandma, I think video calls are going to remain her favorite part of the Nest Hub Max. All she has to do is say, “Hey Google, call my favorite granddaughter on Duo” and just like that, I’ll be there. (I’m sure that’s how she has me listed in her contacts, right grandma?😉)

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5 things to know about the new Nest Aware

We’re all spending more time at home these days, and for many of us, that means investing time in our personal spaces and trying to check in on loved ones as much as possible. For Google Nest users, that’s getting a little easier: Starting this week, the new Nest Aware is rolling out to 19 markets. The subscription service is a helpful, affordable companion to all of your Google Nest devices whether you’re home or away. 

And even though many of us are home far more often right now, we have several features that make life at home a little easier. Here’s what to expect from the new Nest Aware:

  1. More affordable, simplified pricing. Instead of paying per camera, all of your devices per home—including your cameras, speakers and displays—are covered for one low price, even when you add a new device. For just $6 a month (or $60 for an annual subscription), the new Nest Aware comes with 30 days of event video history. Or, for those who want 24/7 video history, you can choose Nest Aware Plus for 60 days of event video history and 10 days of 24/7 video history for $12 per month (or $120 for an annual subscription).
  2. Get alerts that matter. With the new Nest Aware, now your devices will start recording event clips when they detect motion or sound and give you the clips you need to see. When something happens that needs your attention—like a package being delivered—we’ll send you an alert. If you prefer 24/7 continuous recording, for example, on your outdoor camera during the night, that’s also still available with Nest Aware Plus.
  3. Keep an eye on your home and quickly connect to emergency services.Now, your Nest speakers and displays will notify you if a critical sound is detected, like a smoke alarm or glass breaking, by sending an alert to the Home app. From there, you can hear an audio clip or listen live within the Home app to confirm the alarm, and the new Nest Aware gives you the option to call 911 emergency services straight from the Home app (U.S. only). Calling directly from your phone will connect you to the center nearest to you, which isn’t always helpful when you’re away. But calling from the Home app will give you the center closest to home, no matter where you are.
  4. Take care of loved ones. If your elderly parent or relative has a Nest Hub Max, not only can they stay in touch with loved ones through Duo video calling, but you can also look out for them with the new Nest Aware. All they have to do is invite you as a home member and enable their speaker or display, and you’ll get notifications if something needs your attention.
  5. Easily upgrade from old to new. If you already have an existing Nest Aware subscription, you can upgrade to the new version through the Google Store. Keep in mind that upgrading to the new Nest Aware requires that you migrate to a Google accountif you haven’t already. You also have the option to keep your current subscription if you choose.

In addition to rolling out the new Nest Aware, we’ve updated pricing for some of our products to make it even easier to bring more help into your home: Starting today, Nest Hub is available for $89.99 and Nest Cam Indoor is now $129.99. We hope the new Nest Aware helps you save a little more, care for your loved ones and know that all is well in the place you call home.

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50 billion reasons Nest is saying thank you this Earth Day

50 billion is a big number. It’s hard to comprehend something that enormous. But Nest Thermostat owners have saved over 50 billion kilowatt hours of energy since we first introduced the device. In honor of Earth Day on April 22, we at Google Nest want to say thank you for helping our planet. 

But again…we know: 50 billion of anything is a lot. We wanted to help give you some context about what 50 billion kilowatt hours of energy actually means.

nest earth day

Little things can make a big difference

All it takes are a few simple changes at home that we can all make to collectively have an impact. If you need help getting started, you can ask Google Assistant, “Hey Google, give me an Earth Day tip” for simple ways you can help do your part, like switching your monthly bills to paperless or turning off the water while brushing your teeth or doing dishes. You can also change the temperature on your Nest thermostat by just a few degrees until the leaf symbol pops up, so you know you’re saving energy. 

This Earth Day we want to make it easier for even more people to save energy, so we’re offering discounts on the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Thermostat E starting today through April 29. It’s our small way of saying thank you.  

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