Google

Randomly broken Google location services limit Nest security usefulness

Hi there. My name is Paul and I’m stuck in the Nest ecosystem (unless I want to ditch several hundred dollars of product). Nest is a brand that Google acquired, decided to stamp the brand name on everything, started to integrate the app into Google’s one giant Home app, got stuck halfway through on the security side, and pretty much abandoned as far as any long term users can tell. The Google Home migration for Nest camera products has left users who migrated or were forced to migrate a list of cameras you can view from the web and that’s about it.

See, if I were able I would be on the Nest app, but unfortunately Google’s newer Nest cameras don’t work with the Nest app… they only work with the Home App.

The Home app features a lack of event history on the web for older devices (you have to go to the Nest app for those,) no ability to save clips, can’t create timelapse videos, was bad enough when Nest fell, but what was worse is Nest’s home/away generally worked and Google Home’s tends to be almost completely broken for me.

Now, my setup should be if either me or my wife is home the away mode should kick on, but if either of us is at home it should not. This is done with the Home app / Google Location Services.

What happens is if I leave the house is Away mode kicks on, and if my wife is still at home (happens in the mornings a lot,) I get notification after notification that someone is in the house. These are notifications I actually do want, but only after she’s left. If I’m driving to work it’s nonstop dings while I’m trying to listen to music or a podcast. This has resulted in me setting home mode multiple times just so I can listen to whatever I was listening to.

When I get home, I’m generally in the house and picked up by the living room cameras before Locations Services have had a chance to figure out I’m home, but if my wife gets home before me it may be a good 10 minutes before it recognizes her device and we both get notifications there’s movement until such time as it figured out we’re home, connected to the network, been in the geofence for minutes, offered the door handle gods a firm handshake, or whatever it is that triggers Google Location services to trigger.

I’ve had to set “home” mode many times when I’m not there and Kim is, and when she eventually is out the door and off to work I can guarantee you I’ve never thought to set it back to Away mode once I made it to work.

This combined with the numerous false alarms I get daily because I have a shadow on a wall that looks enough like a human face to trigger a person seen in my living room, or I have a tree that triggers my back yard camera’s person identification, and a chair in my backyard that quite often triggers and says it’s me recognized in the back yard, render any notifications I get pretty useless.

The problem here is I straight up do not pay any attention to Nest Alerts any more because I’ve been conditioned not to. This limits what usefulness this has, but the Location services really limit the use, or my trust, as I have found that I am listed as home sometimes when I am not.

While I could complain about where Nest stands in its obscenely slow transition to Google’s attempt at a One app in the form of Home, the main issue is location services and it is evident that is where the fault lies because in Google Maps we have a geofence that tells one another when we arrive at the kid’s schools. This is absurdly useful if you’re not on a regular schedule / can leave to work from home / or in the case of working in Nashville: stuck in traffic. There’s no wondering of “did they make it in time or do I need to call the school?.” Wouldn’t be an issue if our kids could be trusted with a device, or Nashville would adopt a sensible traffic light solution, but that’s evidently out the window at this point.

What happens more often than not is this produces a false worry that the other parent did not make it to school because the notification does not trigger. The geofence fails to establish that one of us went there, were there long enough to pick up a kid, and left.

And I think the reason for that is the location services and reporting just straight up don’t work. My daughter and some friends went out walking one day with another parent and I happened to be driving through the area and stopped at the location it said she was at. She wasn’t there. Really, sounds stalkeresque but her phone was reporting she was at one location next to where I was going, and she was actually 1200 feet away. Called and asked her where she was and yup, it was not there. Updated Google Maps / her location, was told that “just now” she was right where I was standing and the accuracy circle was pretty small on Google Maps.

What 1200 feet might look like. One point is where Google Maps claimed my kid's phone was Just Now to within 15 meters, the other where she actually was.

These are three phones, two Samsungs and one Pixel, all using Google’s location services and all just off. The fact that my kid’s was reporting off by 1200 feet makes me think that is why me or my wife don’t enter the geofence of the schools to trigger notifications.

My wife’s phone, at home (work from home day,) showing at home on Google Maps (or in the neighbor’s back yard,) not at home for Google Location Services because I am getting alerts when she pops into range of a door camera and the heating/cooling has switched to away mode.

It’s a shame because this could probably be easily fixed and it’s been literally years of issues.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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