Alphabet designed home security system with the help of former burglars

  • Alphabet's Nest unit paid "former burglars," as well as police, to help with design of new home security system
  • The maker of internet-connected devices spend several years developing Nest Secure, an effort launched by former CEO Tony Fadell
  • Fadell, a former Apple exec criticized for his combative management style, 'kicked people in the ass sometimes,' one Nest executive said

Alphabet's Nest unit designed its home security system with the help of police and "former burglars" during a years-long development process begun under former CEO Tony Fadell, company executives said.

"We brought in a whole bunch of former burglars," Nest general manager Michele Chambers Turner told a room full of media gathered in San Francisco for the unveiling of Nest Secure.

The company asked the thieves questions like, "How do you case a house?" and "How did you break in?" and used their replies to help design the system, Turner said during the presentation, which also included video footage of an arrest of a home burglar.

The arrest was genuine, not staged, Nest product marketing director Maxime Veron told CNBC after the presentation.

A woman adjusts her Nest Secure alarm system. 
A woman adjusts her Nest Secure alarm system. 

Both the former burglars and police who were consulted on the system's design were "mainly volunteers" who were nevertheless paid for their time, Veron said in an interview.

The system, which includes motion sensors, cameras and a device called Nest Guard that oversees it, will ship in November.

The company was working on Nest Secure "for several years," said Veron, which means it began under co-founder and former CEO Fadell, who left his leadership role in mid-2016.

Alphabet (formerly Google) acquired Nest for $3.2 billion in cash in early 2014.

Veron defended Fadell, his former boss, for his leadership style. "When you're trying to ship a product, you need a charismatic person to kick people in the ass sometimes," Veron told CNBC.

All of the products the company showed Wednesday were conceived under Fadell's leadership, "except one," said Veron, who declined several times to identify the product.