Nest Thermostats can adjust the temperature on a schedule, and Nest Cams can automatically stop recording when you tell them you’re home. Rather than setting a schedule or manually flipping the switch, have your smartphone automatically set Nest as “Away” when you leave and “Home” when you return home.
This is ideal if you don’t keep to a specific schedule–Nest will set the Away or Home switch based on your actual physical location. Nest can also use a motion sensor built into a Nest Protect smoke alarm to detect if you’re home, but that will only work if the Nest Protect is centrally located and you’re moving around enough.
Geofencing to the Rescue
The apps below use geofencing. Modern smartphones can track your location using low-power techniques and detect when you move out of an area, or move back into it. You’ll just define your home as a rough area on a map. Your smartphone’s location services will then monitor your location and tell the app when you leave or arrive. The app will then change the setting in your Nest account.
This should be pretty light on your battery, as it’s using basic geofencing capabilities built into your phone’s operating system–the app itself isn’t constantly checking your location. You can also use geofencing for other purposes–for example, you could set a reminder to buy milk that would pop up when you’re near a specific grocery store.
The Nest app should have this feature itself, but it doesn’t. We’d like to see Nest add this feature, as it just makes sense. Dropcam had this feature before it was purchased by Nest and became Nest Cam, and Google removed it.
For iPhones: Skylark
We tested Skylark on iPhone and it worked very well. This app provides a free fourteen-day trial, and then requires a one-time $ 9.99 purchase to continue functioning. It also works with Honeywell thermostats.
Skylark works well in households with multiple people–assuming everyone has an iPhone. For example, let’s say you set up Skylark on your phone and your spouse’s phone. If you leave home while your spouse is at home, Skylark won’t set your Nest account to Away, because it knows someone is still home. If your spouse them leaves home before you’ve returned, Skylark will set your Nest to Away. When either one of you returns, Skylark will set it to Home.
A Skylark license covers multiple devices at a single location. You only need to pay that $ 9.99 once, even if you have four people living at your house and would like to install it on four phones.
The app is fairly simple to use. Install it and you’ll be asked to enter your Nest credentials and define the area that contains your home on a map. It’ll then work automatically, pinging you with notifications that it changes your Nest status when you leave home or return home. You can disable these notifications, if you prefer.
On Android, we like Coming Home. This app is open-source and completely free, so it won’t cost you a cent. Like Skylark, it works with multiple people. You can install the Coming Home app on multiple Android phones and it will only set your Nest to Away if everyone using the Coming Home app is away from your home.
Install the app on one or more Android phones and go through the setup process to connect it with your Nest account. Use the “Connect to Nest” button to connect the app to your Nest account, and then tap the “at Home” button to define the geographic area that contains your home. You can then go into the app’s settings screen and configure exactly how it works.
Unlike Skylark, Coming Home has a default fifteen minute delay after it notices you’ve returned home before it actually sets your Nest as Home. This is designed to avoid the problem where your phone may inaccurately report its location and accidentally set you as home when you’re not. You can change this in Coming Home’s settings, if you like.
Whichever app you use will now automatically toggle the Away setting on your Nest account. To confirm it’s working properly, you can just open the Nest app after you leave home and check. You can now configure your thermostats and cameras to function differently when you leave your home–just go into the Nest app on your device and use the settings to change their behavior.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a solution that will work if you have a combination of iPhones and Android phones in your house. That’s one big reason why we’d like to see Nest add this as a standard feature to the official Nest app.