Google acquisition spree takes in Dropcam and Alpental

Google's acquisition spree is continuing, with the company buying the connected camera company Dropcam for $555m and Alpental, which makes systems that could be used in future 5G connections.

The Dropcam acquisition was officially made by Google's Nest subsidiary, which manufactures "intelligent" thermostats and a smoke/carbon monoxide detector, as part of a push to build a "smart home" portfolio.

Nest also revealed that it will begin sharing some data with Google - after insisting previously that its privacy policy would block such a move.

Announcing the purchase of Dropcam on the Nest blog, co-founder and head of engineering Matt Rogers said that Nest had looked at a lot of camera companies that offer remote viewing of the owner's home via an internet connection. "In a matter of a few short years, their team has managed to create products that change how people interact with their homes," Rogers wrote. "So naturally, we couldn’t help but feel our companies would be a good match."

Dropcam, set up in 2009, offers cameras with capabilities including night vision and motion and sound sensing, which send the video in encrypted form via Wi-Fi to cloud storage. The company received a total of $47.8m in venture funding.

He emphasised that Dropcam customer data would fall under the same privacy policy as Nest's, and so "won’t be shared with anyone (including Google) without a customer’s permission." He added that "Nest has a paid-for business model and ads are not part of our strategy. In acquiring Dropcam, we’ll apply that same policy to Dropcam too."

The emphasis on the lack of ads follows an SEC filing made by Google in December 2013 - ahead of its $3.2bn acquisition of Nest in February - in which it resisted the idea of breaking out how much money it receives from mobile ads because, it suggested, it foresaw a future where ads could appear in all sorts of places - including cars, fridges, watches and thermostats. It subsequently insisted it would not do so with Nest.

But Nest's insistence that it would keep customer data outside Google was weakened on Thursday when Rogers told the Wall Street Journal that Google will connect some of its apps to Nest systems, so that Google will know whether the devices' users are at home or not. That will let them use voice control via the Google Now digital assistant to set the home's temperature, or sense when they are arriving home.

Rogers said that Google's access would come via Nest's applications programming interface (API). He added that any company seeking to link to customers via Nest would have to write to them explaining how and what data they were using.

Meanwhile Google has also bought Alpental for an undisclosed sum, in what is reckoned to be its 19th acquisition of 2014, spending more than $5.5bn so far.

Alpental uses millimeter-scale radio communications at the 30GHz to 60GHz range to develop high-speed communications which could have applications in the next-generation 5G mobile data systems and for Wi-Fi wireless broadband.

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Powered by article was written by Charles Arthur, for on Tuesday 24th June 2014 15.52 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010