World and Nation

Nest labs stops selling high-tech smoke detector

Nest Labs, the home automation company recently acquired by Google for $3.2 billion, said Thursday that it was halting sales of its smoke and carbon monoxide detector over safety concerns.

Tony Fadell, the chief executive of Nest, said in a letter posted on Nest’s website that it would stop selling the product, Nest Protect, until it fixed a problem with a feature that lets people temporarily disable the alarm by waving their hands in front of the detector. Fadell said Nest was concerned that the feature could be unintentionally activated, potentially delaying the alarm from going off if there was a fire.

Nest also said it was immediately deactivating the feature, which it calls Nest Wave, on smoke detectors already purchased, something it can do remotely. Fadell said the smoke and carbon monoxide detection capabilities of the alarms would continue to function.

“We’re enormously sorry for the inconvenience caused by this issue,” Fadell wrote. “The team and I are dedicated to ensuring that we can stand behind each Nest product that comes into your home, and your 100 percent satisfaction and safety are what motivates us. Please know that the entire Nest team and I are focused on fixing this problem and continuing to improve our current products in every way possible.”

He said Nest was not aware of any customers who had experienced the problem.

The wave feature that is the source of its smoke detector’s problems is a prime example of how Nest has tried to simplify one of the least glamorous devices in the home. Anyone with a conventional smoke detector knows how easily false alarms can be set off by burned toast and other events that pose no threat to life, sending homeowners scurrying for ladders to remove the smoke detectors and frantically waving towels to silence them.

Nest Wave was designed to make it easier to silence the alarm temporarily by simply waving one’s arms beneath it.