I’m a lucky guy.
While stories abound of Australians left severely disappointed by the performance on the NBN at their homes, my inner city Sydney house is a poster child for the broadband network. I’m blessed with speeds as close to the theoretical 100Mbps speed limit as anyone will receive – 96Mbps download and 38Mbps upload.
Just remember this as you read this review of Nest Cam Indoor, the home security camera recently launched in Australia by a subsidiary of Google and Alphabet. I have it good at my place.
The camera itself is very capable. It is an internet-connected pair of eyes that intelligently alerts you of movements so that you don’t have to spend the whole time on surveillance.
Footage is captured in high definition, with night vision for low light conditions and the camera has a talkback capability so you can scare the robber, the deliveryman or your unsuspecting pet.
The video feed can be viewed on your mobile app so anytime anywhere you can keep an eye on what’s going on back at home.
In an ideal world, this is the sort of hilarity you should see:
While the $319 retail price for the camera is all you’re obliged to pay, the Nest ecosystem only reaches full potential with a subscription service that costs $14 per month.
Nest Aware subscribers gain the ability to record the footage into the cloud for reviewing and zooming at a later time, as well as enhanced movement and human recognition capabilities.
The smart home and the NBN
With a well-loved cat at home, I had a lot of fun having a camera to see what she gets up to while my wife and I are at work.
However, having a smart home device that constantly requires internet access really does test the quality of your broadband connection in ways that you never could back when your home was dumb.
While my MyRepublic NBN connection continued to perform at high speeds in excess of 90Mbps downstream and 30Mbps upstream, the prevalence of dropouts soon became evident through the Nest camera. This was especially noticeable when you look back through the day’s footage and see that minutes or even hours are missing because the internet connection was down.
Smart home devices, more often than not, originate from countries that have traditionally had far better broadband services than Australia. Nest is from the USA, where fast and reliable fibre-to-the-premises connections are more common than with the NBN here.
Still, this wasn’t too much of a concern initially. Then my wife and I flew interstate for a 16-day holiday. This would be the ultimate test of the Nest camera, as we could keep an eye on the house for intruders and see how our fur child was faring.
All good for the first three days. We saw the cat roaming around the house and our friend come and feed her, and were reassured that no one had stolen our television.
When smart devices go dumb
Suddenly, on the fourth day, the video feed went blank.
The camera had lost internet connection. Oh well, it’s the NBN dropping out again, I thought. It will come back online in a few hours.
Then a day passed – still no picture. Two days passed, nothing.
On the third day, I had my father visit the house and reset the NBN modem. Still no video.
On the fifth day of darkness, I had my father-in-law reset both the NBN modem and the MyRepublic router in various sequences. But the broadband connection remained inactive.
Ultimately, for 13 of the 16 days on vacation, the Nest Indoor Camera that was supposed to be my eyes into our home remained blind. It had failed the Australian field test.
When we arrived home, we were relieved to see our cat alive and well, and the house free of looting and graffiti.
It took a half-hour phone call with MyRepublic tech support to get the broadband fixed, with the router eventually undergoing a factory reset. The problem was isolated to the national broadband network, as a computer directly plugged into the NBN box still could not pick up internet access.
So whose fault was it?
This is hard to say. The NBN’s reliability (remember that I have one of the best connections any Australian can currently hope for) certainly contributed to the camera going dark for 13 days.
But the Nest Cam relies entirely on the internet to store its video, unlike some other home surveillance products that have some offline data storage within the device itself. Such a capability would come in handy when the internet drops out or if a thief maliciously killed the broadband.
Maybe US-born Nest cameras are not quite ready for a marriage with the rough-and-tumble of the NBN? The company already chose not to release its latest Nest Cam IQ model in Australia out of concerns that the typical home bandwidth in this country would not be able to support it.
When the next generation of mobile networks, 5G, comes along in a couple of years, one of the major beneficiaries is expected to be “internet of things” connected devices. Each device could connect directly to the 5G network instead of relying on home wi-fi, for potentially a more reliable connection and to be less vulnerable to intruder interference.
The smart home future is exciting, but it all needs to be taken with a grain of salt with the inherent political and geographical difficulties in rolling out broadband infrastructure in Australia.
Nest Cam Indoor was provided by Nest.