People

Google built a radar for your bedroom. It may just be the company’s first step to monetize wellness.

Google's new Nest Hub smart display uses radar and other sensors to measure your sleep patterns, and Google could offer paid service down the line.

Nest Hub sleep tracking

Google's new Nest Hub smart display uses radar tech to track your sleep.

Image: Google

At first glance, Google's new $100 Nest Hub smart display looks just like its 2018 predecessor, save for a few minor cosmetic tweaks. But come nighttime, it unleashes a whole new superpower: Google has integrated its Soli radar sensors into the Nest Hub to turn it into a futuristic sleep tracker. By combining Soli data with locally processed audio, the smart display monitors tossing and turning, breathing, snoring and coughing to generate sleep reports.

Data and insights gathered by the display can be fed into the Google Fit app for a more comprehensive picture of a consumer's personal health. Google is also laying the groundwork for future use cases that may involve a combination of sleep and fitness data. In a hint of things to come, the company will make the Nest Hub's sleep sensing functionality available as a free preview until next year.

Google Nest senior product manager Ashton Udall told Protocol that the company decided to integrate sleep tracking into the product because smartwatches and fitness trackers simply didn't work for many people, if only because these devices require frequent charging. And sleep is a problem looking for a solution: One in three adults report getting not enough of it, and a whopping 50% have trouble falling asleep frequently, according to third-party research shared by Google. "A lot of people are struggling with this issue," Udall said.

To solve it, Google decided to rely on Soli, the mini radar tech first developed by Google's ATAP skunkworks unit. Soli was originally conceived as a way to track small finger movements to control mobile devices, but it turns out that the radar tech can also monitor an entire body. "Soli can measure movement on the micro scale and the macro scale," Udall explained.

Placed on the bedside table, the Nest Hub is able to focus just on the person next to it — and ignore partners sleeping in the same bed, Udall said: "It sort of creates a tracking bubble for your sleeping area." Google tested the Nest Hub's sleep-tracking functionality with thousands of people, for a total of more than 100,000 nights. Around 60% of those test participants were sharing their beds with co-sleepers.

Google is positioning the Nest Hub as a wellness device, not something capable of clinical diagnosis — an important distinction that does away with the need for an FDA certification. However, the company has partnered with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for the development of the feature, and Udall said that it is currently running studies to evaluate whether it can be used to monitor respiratory health — something that could benefit anyone concerned about COVID-19.

Udall painted the Nest Hub's sleep tracking as part of a move toward more holistic health and wellness monitoring. "It can be really empowering for medicine in general," he said. And it could be something that people may eventually be willing to pay for, especially once Google bundles it with other services.

Google's acquisition of Fitbit closed in January, and one could imagine that the company may choose to offer a package of monitoring for a set monthly price. Asked whether that's the plan, given that sleep sensing is being marketed as a free preview, Udall said: "To be honest, we don't know."

What's left are privacy concerns. Google aims to address them by tracking both raw Soli data and audio monitoring of sleep sounds locally on the device, only sending the combined sleep event data to its servers. The company is also giving consumers tools to pause tracking and delete data from a prior night.

Google's Nest team also stuck to its decision not to add a camera to the Nest Hub. That's notable, given how much time we've all spent on video conferences over the past 12 months. And we can't forget Google's constant — and at times obnoxious — marketing of its Meet video chat product in all of its other apps.

Asked whether his team had to duke it out with the Meet team over this, Udall laughed. "We had many fights, but that was not one of them," he said. "People don't want cameras in their bedrooms."

LA is a growing tech hub. But not everyone may fit.

LA has a housing crisis similar to Silicon Valley’s. And single-family-zoning laws are mostly to blame.

As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers, whose high salaries put them at an advantage in both LA's renting and buying markets.

Photo: Nat Rubio-Licht/Protocol

LA’s tech scene is on the rise. The number of unicorn companies in Los Angeles is growing, and the city has become the third-largest startup ecosystem nationally behind the Bay Area and New York with more than 4,000 VC-backed startups in industries ranging from aerospace to creators. As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers. The city is quickly becoming more and more like Silicon Valley — a new startup and a dozen tech workers on every corner and companies like Google, Netflix, and Twitter setting up offices there.

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Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

While there remains debate among economists about whether we are officially in a full-blown recession, the signs are certainly there. Like most executives right now, the outlook concerns me.

In any case, businesses aren’t waiting for the official pronouncement. They’re already bracing for impact as U.S. inflation and interest rates soar. Inflation peaked at 9.1% in June 2022 — the highest increase since November 1981 — and the Federal Reserve is targeting an interest rate of 3% by the end of this year.

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Nancy Sansom

Nancy Sansom is the Chief Marketing Officer for Versapay, the leader in Collaborative AR. In this role, she leads marketing, demand generation, product marketing, partner marketing, events, brand, content marketing and communications. She has more than 20 years of experience running successful product and marketing organizations in high-growth software companies focused on HCM and financial technology. Prior to joining Versapay, Nancy served on the senior leadership teams at PlanSource, Benefitfocus and PeopleMatter.

Policy

SFPD can now surveil a private camera network funded by Ripple chair

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a policy that the ACLU and EFF argue will further criminalize marginalized groups.

SFPD will be able to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks in certain circumstances.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ripple chairman and co-founder Chris Larsen has been funding a network of security cameras throughout San Francisco for a decade. Now, the city has given its police department the green light to monitor the feeds from those cameras — and any other private surveillance devices in the city — in real time, whether or not a crime has been committed.

This week, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a controversial plan to allow SFPD to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks during life-threatening emergencies, large events, and in the course of criminal investigations, including investigations of misdemeanors. The decision came despite fervent opposition from groups, including the ACLU of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which say the police department’s new authority will be misused against protesters and marginalized groups in a city that has been a bastion for both.

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Issie Lapowsky

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Enterprise

These two AWS vets think they can finally solve enterprise blockchain

Vendia, founded by Tim Wagner and Shruthi Rao, wants to help companies build real-time, decentralized data applications. Its product allows enterprises to more easily share code and data across clouds, regions, companies, accounts, and technology stacks.

“We have this thesis here: Cloud was always the missing ingredient in blockchain, and Vendia added it in,” Wagner (right) told Protocol of his and Shruthi Rao's company.

Photo: Vendia

The promise of an enterprise blockchain was not lost on CIOs — the idea that a database or an API could keep corporate data consistent with their business partners, be it their upstream supply chains, downstream logistics, or financial partners.

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Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Fintech

Kraken's CEO got tired of being in finance

Jesse Powell tells Protocol the bureaucratic obligations of running a financial services business contributed to his decision to step back from his role as CEO of one of the world’s largest crypto exchanges.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kraken is going through a major leadership change after what has been a tough year for the crypto powerhouse, and for departing CEO Jesse Powell.

The crypto market is still struggling to recover from a major crash, although Kraken appears to have navigated the crisis better than other rivals. Despite his exchange’s apparent success, Powell found himself in the hot seat over allegations published in The New York Times that he made insensitive comments on gender and race that sparked heated conversations within the company.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

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