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Automating your home with products like the Nest Thermostat or the Nest Protect smoke detector is very cool, but wouldn’t it be nice to actually test those automations out without having to buy those devices first?

This is exactly the situation that I found myself in this year. After buying the Nest thermostat and seeing how cool it was to control my home’s temperature based on the weather forecast (thanks to IFTTT), I decided to also buy a Nest Protect to see what other things I could automate. I was a bit disappointed with the few devices or ways that I could automate with the Protect via IFTTT, and disappointed that I wasn’t able to test the automation features with my other devices before I had purchased the Protect.

Well the truth is that you can try that first, using the Nest Home Simulator Chrome app.

What is the Nest Home Simulator?

The truth is this is a little bit of a hack. The Nest Home Simulator is a product intended for hard-core programmers who are working to develop products that interact with Nest products. Programmers do this by interfacing with what’s called an API (Application Program Interface What Are APIs, And How Are Open APIs Changing The Internet What Are APIs, And How Are Open APIs Changing The Internet Have you ever wondered how programs on your computer and the websites you visit "talk" to each other? Read More ), which Nest products provide as a way for those developers to “plug into” and control or read Nest products.

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The Nest Home Simulator is a really cool way to simulate those API “plugs”. Developers use this to create and test software without having to buy physical Nest products, or to test what happens when events are detected – such as a house fire – without actually having to start a fire in real life. But this also gives you, the consumer, a tool to use to test your own IFTTT recipes before you go out and buy a Nest product.

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Pretty cool, right?

Set Up Your Virtual Nest Products

Setting up your collection of virtual Nest products to test is pretty easy, but there are some important steps you have to go through first. The most important of which is that you’ll need to sign up for a Nest Developer account, to get rid of that “locked” message you see in the first image in this article.

The key is that you need to sign up for the Nest Developer account with the same email address you used to sign up for the Nest Home Simulator. Once you install the Nest Home Simulator app, you’ll see it show up as an icon in your list of installed Chrome apps.

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When you open the simulator, you’ll see a default “structure” set up, without any devices listed under it. Off to the right side of the screen, you’ll see where you can add virtual Nest devices to the account.

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Once you add the device, you can rename it and give it any label you want. For example, here I’ve added a virtual Nest thermostat that I defined as existing in my virtual upstairs bedroom.

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I also created a virtual Nest Protect, and a virtual Nest Camera. I was especially interested in the Camera because I was curious what IFTTT automations are available for it (you’ll be able to see those further on in this article).

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Once you’ve added all of the virtual Nest devices in your Nest Home Simulator account, go to log into your Nest.com account (again, using the same email address that you used when signing up for everything else) and the new Nest virtual hardware should show up.

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Now that you have your new virtual Nest products showing up in your official Nest account, you’re ready to start playing around with IFTTT recipes!

Testing IFTTT Recipes With Virtual Nest Devices

If you don’t have an IFTTT account, sign up for one (and make sure to read through our IFTTT guide The Ultimate IFTTT Guide: Use The Web's Most Powerful Tool Like A Pro The Ultimate IFTTT Guide: Use The Web's Most Powerful Tool Like A Pro IFTTT is an automation that will enable you to connect 2 services so that, when something happens with one service, a trigger goes off and an action takes place automatically on the other. Read More so that you know how to use it!)

Next, search for the Nest channel, and click the Connect button to connect your IFTTT account with the same Nest account where you’ve set up your virtual devices.

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Once the channel is set up, you can find the Nest devices by searching IFTTT for “Nest” — you’ll see all of the available products with integrations available. Choose any of the devices that you want to play around with.

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Now that you have some virtual Nest devices available, IFTTT will find them and let you use the available Triggers and Actions with your other smart home devices.

Example Virtual Nest Recipes

To see this in action, I decided to write two IFTTT recipes using my new virtual Nest devices. In this first example, I wanted to get an email every time my virtual Nest thermostat in my virtual bedroom rises above 94 degrees F.

If you’ve properly set up your virtual Nest devices, you should see them show up in the trigger field dropdown.

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In this case, I choose the Bedroom thermostat, and set the temperature threshold at 80 degrees F.

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For the action, I set up a Gmail trigger to send an email letting me know what the current temperature of the thermostat is.

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And now….to test whether the IFTTT recipe actually works with a virtual Nest device!  Going back to the Nest Home Simulator, you can just adjust whatever virtual state you want the Nest thermostat to have. In this case I cranked the virtual bedroom temperature to 94 degrees.

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Sure enough, moments later I received an email in my inbox letting me know that the virtual bedroom Nest thermostat had hit 94 degrees.

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It works!

In this second example, I wanted to see if I could make two virtual Nest devices control one another. In this case, have the Nest camera motion set the bedroom Nest thermostat to a target of 75 degrees.

In this case, I wanted to test the motion trigger, so I clicked New motion event.

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For the IFTTT action, I chose my virtual Bedroom thermostat and had it set the temperature to 75 degrees.

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Once you’ve got the recipe set up and ready in IFTTT, it’s time to go back to the Nest Home Simulator to make the trigger happen!

For virtual Nest cameras, there’s a button where you can generate motion and/or sound detection events.

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After triggering the virtual Nest camera to “detect motion”, I waited a few sections and checked the virtual Bedroom thermostat. Sure enough, IFTTT had automatically set the target temperature to 75 degrees!

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This is just a small taste of what you can do with the Nest Home Simulator once you’ve set up all your virtual devices. You can test any IFTTT trigger and action you like. It also goes beyond IFTTT. If you’re a fan of services like Zapier, you could also use your virtual devices to trigger zaps Create Awesome Life Automations with Multi-Step Zaps Create Awesome Life Automations with Multi-Step Zaps Zapier, the single largest competitor to IFTTT, announced that it now offers users the ability to create multiple action automations called multi-step zaps. Read More .

Having virtual devices to play with like this is extremely convenient, and it can help you avoid wasting money on Nest products that may not actually be very useful for you. Now you can find out whether you want to play, before you pay!

Have you ever considered buying a Nest smart home product but hesitated because you weren’t sure they’re useful enough? Do you think using the Nest Home Simulator might change that? Give it a shot and let us know what your thoughts are!

  1. Bryan Wolfe
    August 23, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Great idea.

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