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Nest Cam Outdoor: On the Fence Between CI, DIY

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen anything new from Nest. Last week that all changed when the company threw back the curtain to unveil its brand-new Nest Cam Outdoor.

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen anything new from Nest. Last week that all changed when the company threw back the curtain to unveil its brand-new Nest Cam Outdoor. A quick rundown of the features reveals exactly what you’d expect from an outdoor camera. It is IP65 rated for outdoor use, shoots video in full HD, and comes equipped with infrared night vision. Among its more novel features is the ability to do two-way audio. This means users can not only hear what is going on, but also speak through the camera, ostensibly to startle a would-be intruder or chat with the mailman. The Nest Cam Outdoor is compatible with Nest Aware, which enables cloud recording starting at $10 a month. No surprise there. 

But there is one feature that will likely cause a double take from every home tech pro: the power cord. For a company that gained its fame based largely on good design, Nest’s approach here is questionable. The company elected to forgo PoE, opting instead to ship with a power supply connected to a 25-foot lead. 

Surely they did not make this decision blindly. Nest is a company focused solely on selling to the mainstream consumer. PoE was almost certainly discussed at the earliest phases of product development. But in doing the math, the company realized (correctly) that almost no one will have existing ethernet cabling to the exterior of their house, while nearly everyone will have an electrical outlet.

However, Nest’s decision misses a number of key points about outdoor security. In looking around my house for a potential location to install a Nest Cam Outdoor I could not find a single electrical outlet that would not be within easy reach of an intruder, who could simply unplug the unit. Nest’s counter argument to this point would surely be that in the event of such a disconnection, the user would receive a notification. But if a notification was all I wanted, then surely there are cheaper, more reliable ways to provide that. In fact, Dropcam tabs would have done the job quite nicely, that is if Nest hadn’t killed the project immediately after acquiring the company. 

The other key limitation imposed by Nest’s approach to power has to do with optimizing the camera’s location. As a home tech pro, I regularly survey homes and make recommendations for ideal camera placement. These recommendations are driven by two factors: covering points of ingress, and optimizing the field of view. In looking around my own home, the ideal camera locations were either not within 25 feet of an outlet, or they’d use every bit of that cord resulting in a very unsightly installation. So my choices would either be to sacrifice performance by using sub-par placement, or sacrifice the aesthetic by running an ugly power cord on the exterior of my house. 

The problem with Nest’s approach to power is that it results in a product that’s sitting on the fence. The Nest Cam Outdoor is not convenient enough to succeed with the average consumer. If Nest wanted to corner the DIY outdoor camera market they would have been better off using batteries, a la Netgear’s Arlo. Sure, batteries can be a pain. But guess what? Everyone knows how to install them. 

On the other hand, Nest Cam Outdoor falls well short of being a product that home tech professionals are going to get excited about. If Nest was serious about giving pros something to work with, they would have included PoE, or at the very least a power cable that could be field terminated into a phoenix connector. We got neither. Instead all we got was a nod in their FAQ, which tells the reader “you could run the power cord through a wall and plug it into an outlet inside your home. A local Nest Pro installer can help you do this safely and professionally.” 

I’m not sure about you, but to that sounds like a job far better suited for the local electrician.