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Google's Nest halts home alarm system sales over possible defect

A Nest smoke/carbon monoxide detector is installed in a home in Provo, Utah, January 15, 2014. REUTERS/George Frey
A Nest smoke/carbon monoxide detector is installed in a home in Provo, Utah, January 15, 2014. REUTERS/George Frey

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Nest Labs Inc, the maker of smart thermostats that Google Inc acquired for $3.2 billion, called a halt to all sales of its smoke alarms on Thursday after it discovered a possible defect that could cause users to turn it off unintentionally.

Nest co-founder and Chief Executive Tony Faddell said that, under a unique set of circumstances the alarm's "Nest Wave" feature, which allows a user to switch off the device with a wave of the hand, could be inadvertently activated.

Faddell, one of the creators of Apple Inc's iPod, apologized in the blogpost for a problem that was discovered during recent laboratory testing. He added that no customer had complained so far. (https://nest.com/letter-from-the-ceo/)

"We observed a unique combination of circumstances that caused us to question whether the Nest Wave ... could be unintentionally activated. This could delay an alarm going off if there was a real fire," he said. "The fact that it could even potentially happen is extremely important to me and I want to address it immediately."

He did not specify that set of circumstances.

Nest will immediately disable the Wave feature - one of many innovative design elements that has won the company and its devices acclaim - in all smoke alarms that are WiFi-connected while it works on a software update to fix the possible defect. It said the fix, plus regulatory approvals, could take two to three months to complete.

Customers without WiFi-connected devices should either disable it or return it for a full refund, the company added.

Nest halted all sales of its smoke alarms to prevent customers from buying a device that would need an immediate software patch.

Google announced plans in January to acquire Nest via its second largest deal, to expand into a broader array of devices and bring valuable hardware design expertise in-house.

Nest gained a large following with its first thermostat - a round, brushed-metal device with a convex screen that displays temperature and changes hue to match the color of the wall it attaches to. It also tracks usage and uses that data to automatically set heating and cooling temperatures.

Google referred requests for comment to Nest.

(Reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Richard Chang)

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