Google is putting Nest Hub smart displays in some hotel rooms, and that's totally fine
I consider myself to be rather privacy conscious, but I am not overly paranoid. Do I want Google having microphones in my home? Not really, but the convenience of being able to summon the Google Assistant with my voice outweighs my concerns. And so, I have a few Google Nest devices in my home -- including a Nest Hub smart display in my bedroom. Ultimately, consumers need to weigh the pros and cons before putting, say, an Amazon Echo or Nest Mini in their homes.
Now, Google is partnering with some hotels to put Nest Hub smart displays in their rooms. In other words, when guests enter their room, they will be confronted by the smart device. While some privacy pundits will decry this partnership, I welcome it. First of all, the functionality does not require the guest to login -- it will work without that. While the Nest Hub smart display has a microphone, it can be totally disabled via a hardware switch. Best of all, Nest Hub has no camera, so there is no risk of it recording video of your... adult activities. The search giant promises no audio recordings are stored either. Seems all good to me!
"From a Nest Hub smart display set up in each hotel room, hotels can tailor the guest experience with Google to specifically address common service requests from guests through a simple voice command. So you can say things like 'Hey Google, schedule a wake up call,' or 'Hey Google, ask my hotel for extra towels,' or 'Hey Google, what time does the pool close?' and get answers immediately. At some hotels, you can also start a fast check out using Google Assistant when your stay is over so you don’t have to stand in line. For hotels, this ensures fast turnover for the next guest," explains Tom Franklin, Product Manager, Google.
Franklin further says, "The Nest Hub is also a great device for hands-free, in-room entertainment: Guests can access YouTube to find news, music and exercise videos, all through voice command. You can connect your phone via Bluetooth to play your own music, too. Use Google Assistant to turn the volume up or down, or skip a track, hands-free. The new experience can also be configured by the hotel to let you control and manage devices in the room, like blinds, TVs, lights and more."
Google share some of the hotels it is partnering with below.
- Fairmont Princess (Scottsdale)
- Dr. Wilkinson's Resort (Calistoga)
- Gale and Shelborne South Beach (Miami)
- Gansevoort Meatpacking and Synergy Chelsea (New York City)
- Hotel Zena and Viceroy (Washington D.C.)
- Village Hotels (U.K.)
Just like I don't really want microphones in my home, I don't want them in my hotel rooms either. And yet, I am totally excited by the possibilities of having a Nest Hub in my room during my next vacation. Again, the convenience outweighs any concerns I have, and Google seems legitimately focused on privacy for its partnership with hotels. Quite frankly, having a Nest Hub in the room will make me more likely to choose a hotel -- it is that cool.
With all of that said, if you don't like it, just turn off the microphone using the hardware switch and ignore it -- don't make a mountain out of a molehill.