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How Nest cameras detect sound and motion

Google Nest cameras, and doorbells and Nest Hub Max look for objects that move in the view of your camera (motion) and listen for relevant sounds.

When you add a Nest Aware subscription, your camera uses advanced algorithms to pick out different kinds of activity. This makes the alerts you receive to your phone, tablet or email even more helpful.

Depending on which camera and Nest Aware subscription you have, your camera records and stores either event-based video history or 24/7 video history in the Nest or Google Home app. If you added your camera to the Nest app, you can view activity your camera detects in the Nest app’s Sightline and event history.

You can also view camera events in the Home app’s Feed and History.

Select your camera or doorbell:

Nest Cams set up in the Home app

Nest Cams set up in the Nest app

Nest Cams set up in the Home app

This section covers the following cameras:

  • Nest Doorbell (battery)
  • Nest Cam (battery)
  • Nest Cam (indoor, wired, 2nd gen)

Important: The algorithms that perform these actions are on the camera. Unless noted otherwise, no data is sent to the cloud.

Basic motion and sound detection

Your camera runs algorithms to process video and audio data so it can determine whether it detected something you might want to know about.

  • The camera is designed to analyze its video data for people, animals and moving vehicles, and can recognize when the same people reappear.
  • To detect anything besides a person, animal or moving vehicle, the camera checks for general motion in the scene. It learns what’s normally in its background view and looks for movement and changes. As a result, it can sometimes trigger not just for important things, but also for minor things like tree branches that sway in the wind. If you only need your camera to detect people, animals or moving vehicles, it's recommended that you don't turn on this feature.

To change detection settings:

With the Home app

  1. Open the Google Home app Google Home app.
  2. Tap your camera or doorbell.
  3. Tap Settings Event.

With the Nest app

Note: You can only turn off notifications for specific camera events.

  1. Open the Nest app Nest app icon.
  2. Select your camera or doorbell.
  3. Tap Settings Notifications.

Activity zones

Activity zones can help determine when your camera records something. If you set up Activity zones, your camera only records in the zones that you’ve enabled. This allows you to ignore busy or unimportant areas of your scene.

If your camera detects that even a small part of a notable object is in an Activity zone, your camera should record it.

Familiar face detection

If you have a Nest Aware subscription, you may be able to turn on familiar face detection. When it’s turned on, your camera builds a library of faces and compares each new face with the faces in that library. Some familiar face data is handled only on your camera, and some is managed through the Nest Aware service.

Data handled only on the camera: When your camera detects a face, it creates a “faceprint” (biometric signature) to compare with other faces in the library. The biometric signature stays on the camera and never goes to the Nest Aware service. All matching and identification of faces happens on the camera itself.

Data handled through Nest Aware: Nest Aware manages the library which contains the face images and categorizes them. It does not contain biometric signatures and face models, or perform matching and identification.

Sound detection

Sound detection recognizes certain important categories of sounds, like a dog bark or a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm. It can distinguish between these sounds and other loud sounds you might hear.

Note: Sound detection is only available on Nest Cam (battery) with wired setup and Nest Cam Indoor 2nd gen.

Your privacy

Your data is handled as described in the Google Privacy Policy, and as explained in more detail in this Privacy FAQs Help Center page.

You can also read Google’s commitment to privacy in the home.

Nest Cams set up in the Nest app

This section covers the following cameras:

  • Nest Doorbell (wired)
  • Nest Cam Indoor
  • Nest Cam Outdoor
  • Nest Cam IQ Indoor
  • Nest Cam IQ Outdoor
  • Nest Hub Max

Basic motion and sound detection on all cameras

Before your camera can detect activity, it first needs to figure out what everything in the scene looks like when there’s no activity. That way, it can tell when something in the scene changes, like when someone walks into its view.

It can also pick up unexpected noises like when your dog barks. The software tries to ignore background noise like the steady hum of a fan so that your camera only sends alerts when something notable happens.

How Nest Aware improves sound and motion detection

With a Nest Aware subscription, your Nest camera’s sound and motion detection receives the following improvements:

  • More accurate alerts about motion and sound
  • Fewer false alerts from things like light, shadows and branches
  • Activity Zones to get notifications about motion in certain areas, like a pathway or door

The advanced sound and motion detection that comes with a Nest Aware subscription requires a lot of computing power. When your camera’s video streams to Nest’s cloud servers, our software can look for different kinds of activity. The cloud servers let us easily update and refine Nest Aware activity detection over time, while your data is kept private and secure.

For more information about how we keep your data private and secure, refer to the following:

Motion detection improvements

Nest Aware algorithms use motion pattern, shape and texture recognition of what moves so that your camera can do the following:

  • Notice small things and things that are far away, like when a kitten runs across the other side of a large room.
  • Detect fast things, like when someone runs past a doorway or window.
  • Reduce false alerts. For example, you probably won’t get a notification if your camera detects tree branches that sway in the wind.
  • Look for certain kinds of activity and send an alert. For example, when your camera detects someone who walks into its view, it can send a person alert. Some Nest cameras can even detect familiar faces.

Sound detection improvements

  • Nest Aware algorithms measure ambient audio levels and filter out any regular noise in the area (like a running air conditioner). That way, sound detection can notice fluctuations in noise and determine if an important audio event has occurred, like a boom or the crash of a window breaking.
  • Nest cameras can pick out specific types of sounds and alert you when a sound occurs. For example, you can set up notifications for your camera to send an alert when a dog barks or a person speaks, but not to bother you when it senses other noises.
  • Sound detection is also upgraded to be more sensitive, so normal conversation is picked up as an activity event.
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