By Poornima Gupta
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Nest Labs has a new gadget to sell and it's another little-noticed, pedestrian home device: smoke detectors.
The Silicon Valley startup that elevated the lowly thermostat with attention-grabbing designs is now launching a $129 "Nest Protect," a smoke and carbon monoxide detector that speaks and responds to hand gestures.
Nest - co-founded by Apple alums Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers - has embedded its sleek gadget with a female voice that warns users when smoke and carbon monoxide levels get dangerously high.
Users can wave a hand to silence alarms, and choose to receive alerts on their smartphone or tablet, Matt Rogers said in an interview with Reuters.
"It's really about finding the unloved and these things are incredibly important that you cannot live without," he said, when asked why Nest decided to work on a smoke detector. "Yet they don't work. They are frustrating. They are ugly."
Rogers said there really has been no innovation in this market for many years and is ripe for disruption.
The market for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is three to four times bigger than thermostats, Nest's first device that retails for $249, Rogers said. "We are again looking at the top end of the market."
The new device has a battery life between three and seven years, and comes in black and white. It will first go on sale in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. And the smoke alarm can be set to warn in either English, French or Spanish.
Nest Protect includes nine sensors to help detect hand gestures and other movements. The device can also act as a low-powered night light that automatically switches on when someone walks under it.
The new gadget goes on sale in November at retailers such as Best Buy and Home Depot, or online at Amazon.com.
Nest, which counts Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Google Ventures and Shasta Ventures among its investors, employs a large number of designers and engineers from Silicon Valley firms like Apple and Google Inc.
It gained a large following with its first thermostat - a round, brushed-metal device with a convex glass screen that displays temperature and changes hue to match the color of the wall it attaches to. It also tracks usage and employs that data to automatically set heating and cooling temperatures.
Nest now has about 280 employees, up from 90 in 2011.
"It's been an absolute ride," Rogers said of Nest's journey from a startup in stealth mode to a recognized brand in home automation.
(Reporting by Poornima Gupta; Editing by Christopher Cushing)