Smart Smoke Alarms: The New Nest Protect Smoke Detector & Other Modern Options

Smart Smoke Alarms: The New Nest Protect Smoke Detector & Other Modern Options

Jason Yang
Oct 9, 2013

What the Nest Thermostat did for normally ho-hum HVAC thermostat controls, the newly announced Nest Protect smoke alarm hopes to do for home fire safety. Ideal timing, considering it's Fire Prevention Week. The Nest Protect is heading up a new generation of smarter and easier to control fire alarms...

Nest Protect
The Nest Protect is a forward thinking thermostat that puts additional thought into what is often an afterthought. Its stylish exterior reminds us of a new age Apple TV, while its features extends and connects Nest's with their Thermostat product.

So what's new about the Protect versus a typical smoke alarm? How often does a home's smoke detector go off when cooking on the stove or burning toast? Heads-Up and Nest Wave are two features designed for the Nest Protect that solve this common problem that inevitably happens while living with smoke alarms. With the Heads-Up system, the Nest Protect lights up yellow, sends a mobile notification, and announces in a human voice that smoke and/or carbon monoxide levels are rising. This gives homeowners "time to identify and address the problem without a screeching alarm going off."

With Nest Wave, when the alarm is going off, users can silence an alarm with just a wave of a hand 2 to 8 feet away. This allows for a safe and calm manner of silencing the alarm without having to scramble for a chair or step ladder and a magazine to wave wildly, like we've all done with smoke alarms.

The Nest Protect also includes a carbon monoxide detector, which is now becoming required by law in many states. The NFPA calls carbon monoxide a silent killer, as it is invisible, odorless, and colorless. Heating and cooking equipment are common sources of carbon monoxide throughout the home, as are vehicles and generators running in the garage without proper ventilation and air flow.

  • The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.
  • A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
  • In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 80,100 non-fire CO incidents in which carbon monoxide was found, or an average of nine such calls per hour. The number of incidents increased 96 percent from 40,900 incidents reported in 2003. This increase is most likely due to the increased use of CO detectors, which alert people to the presence of CO.
  • - See more at the NFPA website

    Now for the connected smart features: With its built-in Wi-Fi connection, the Nest Protect can communicate with additional units throughout the home, announcing which room an alarm might be sounding from. Wi-Fi connectivity also allows the Nest Protect to send notifications, check battery and sensor status, adjust settings, turn on/off the Pathlight built-in night light, as well as information on what to do in case of an emergency, all from compatible smartphones and tablets.

    All this functionality beyond a typical smoke detector is not cheap. The Nest Protect can be pre-ordered in black or white for $129. A generic battery operated smoke detector can be had for under $10, while an interconnected model with carbon monoxide detector and battery backup goes for around $50.

    Formerly known as the Canary, the rebadged Birdi smoke detector is a smart smoke detector designed as part of the Big Apps NYC that's not quite yet hatched but up and coming. It not only monitors for fire and carbon monoxide but also tracks the air quality inside a home.

    Like the Nest Protect, the Birdi is always connected and has the ability to call/send an SMS in case of emergency. A smartphone can also monitor the device. There is a social component of the Birdi also - once devices start spreading around, air quality can be monitored on a broader scale.

    Kidde SmartOne
    Not all "smart" detectors are about apps, notifications, and other 2.0 features. The SmartOne line of Intelligent Detectors are all about extended interior monitoring features. Ionization, photoelectric, and thermal models all detect smoke and allow for continuous monitoring. The device has an interface that allows connection to "fire alarm devices, such as water flow and tamper switches" for full integration with a larger fire suppression system.

    Jalo Helsinki Kupu
    Fans of the Jalo Helsinki Kupu smoke detector will need to look abroad to Amazon UK or eBay (green, grey, white, brown) to get their hands on this modern minimalist model. The Kupu uses an optical smoke detector powered by a lithium battery, and was designed designed by Harri Hoskinen of international fame. The entire casing acts as a switch for silencing alarms and the 3M double-sided tape on the back doesn't require screws to install, ideal for renters.

    Jacob Jensen Smoke Alarm
    The Jacob Jensen designed Smoke Alarm looks like something out of a science fiction film, but the $107 optical smoke detector is otherwise typical of a normal model.

    Foregoing any semblance to any other smoke detector, the cute Chick-a-Dee sings "chick-a-dee-dee" when detecting any bit of smoke indoors, and calls a louder "dee-dee-dee" in more serious circumstances. Think of it as a cute home "canary in a coal mine" safety device.


    (Images: as linked above)

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