Life Tech A ‘smart home’ device for the privacy conscious: Google Nest Hub Max review

A ‘smart home’ device for the privacy conscious: Google Nest Hub Max review

Google Nest Hub Max is designed to take centre stage in a modern home. Photo: Google
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Google’s latest device for the home, the Nest Hub Max, promises to streamline everyday tasks and make life easier for busy modern households.

Ideally placed in kitchens and living rooms, this supersized version of the Google Nest positions itself as the “hub” of a household thanks to a slew of handy features.

Face match, quick gestures and voice control 

The Nest Hub Max uses “Voice Match” and opt-in “Face Match” technology to tell different members of the household apart when they appear on camera, or say “Hey Google” from across the room. This means each user gets a personalised experience, control over their own content, and the fun ability to leave “assignable reminders” – messages to other members of the household.

The Nest Hub Max can be controlled with just the wave of a hand. Photo: Google

With a 10-inch screen and booming speaker, the Nest Hub Max is a multi-media all-rounder, facilitating everything from video calls with faraway loved ones to music streaming. Google’s “Quick Gestures” are a futuristic feature, allowing users to pause and play songs, videos, or podcasts simply by looking at the device and raising a hand.

From cook’s companion to  security camera

The Nest Hub Max offers itself up as everything from a cooking companion to smart speaker, security camera, and digital photo frame.

It’s a funny paradox that, in the era of smartphones with our devices are full of thousands of photographs, we can forget to display and appreciate these visual souvenirs in our homes. The Nest Hub Max offers a 21st century alternative to the family photo album, displaying a slideshow of your favourite photographs when not in use.

It’s also a cooking companion (the screen is designed to be easy to wipe down in case things gets messy in the kitchen) and virtual recipe book. Google has partnered with brands ranging from Woolworths to Gourmet Traveller and the Food Network to deliver free step-by step recipes and how-to videos.

Parents wanting to check in remotely to make sure the kids aren’t running amok, or families heading off on holiday will appreciate the Nest Hub Max for its security features. You can use the device’s optional built-in “nest cam” to view a livestream of your home via the Google Home or Nest app on your smartphone. Purchasing a “Nest Aware” subscription unlocks extra security features including motion and voice detection.

For those really serious about turning their house into a smart home, the Nest Hub Max can also control 200 other smart devices from more than 50 brands, allowing users to lock the door or turn off lights with only their voice.

Privacy becomes a priority 

In 2010, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg famously declared his belief that the age of privacy was over. Now, nearly 10 years and countless data breach controversies later, privacy has become a buzzword for tech companies, as consumers make their displeasure about privacy overreaches clear.

Privacy and security is especially relevant when it comes to “smart home” technology. It’s something that continues to deter some people from installing such technology in their homes, despite the convenience.

Last year, an Amazon Echo user in the United States had snippets of her conversation recorded and shared to a random contact in her phone, despite Amazon initially denying that such privacy breaches were possible. Prior to that, a number of Alexa users reported hearing the device ‘laugh’ unprompted in their homes.

Security and safety is an “obvious technical drawback” of having smart technology in homes, Professor Hussein Abbass, an expert in artificial intelligence at the UNSW-Canberra School of Engineering and Information Technology said.

However, Australians should be “cautious and aware, not alarmed”.

“The better educated we are in these risks, the better we can enjoy the technology while mitigating the risks.”

The Nest Hub Max does well in addressing such concerns by providing a reassuringly old-school option for the privacy conscious: an easy, manual on-off switch.

This allows users to physically disable the device’s camera and microphone, a feature that cannot be overriden by anyone using the Home app remotely. Another big plus is the fact that your data is stored on the device, not in the cloud.

The Google Nest Max is priced at $349 and available at Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, Officeworks, and the Google Store

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