Google released the latest and greatest Nest Hub this week: the Nest Hub Max. It’s big and offers some features that tip over the line from cool to creepy. The powerful camera tracks movement and uses facial recognition to distinguish between users.

Homeowners might not find this new product compelling enough to switch brands or to upgrade. On the other hand, small business owners could find the expanded feature set helpful. Here are a few ways that could make the Nest Hub Max a worthwhile investment for an entrepreneur or the owner of a small office or store.

Powerful camera could help with product demos

The camera on the Nest Hub Max has a 127-degree, wide-angle lens, which automatically pans, tilts, and zooms to follow the user around the frame. This could be useful for recording product demos, exercise classes, or how-tos sessions.

Personal trainers are taking on more and more virtual clients and fitness studios are streaming classes in both live and recorded formats. Having a camera that tracks movement automatically could make it easier to record a demo with specific, detailed instructions.

The new version also lets users pause or resume playback simply by raising a hand near the camera. There are many work place-onas that could benefit from hands-free control like this, ranging from a doctor’s office to a commercial kitchen.

SEE: Google Home: A cheat sheet

Using face recognition for a to-do list

The Nest Hub Max uses facial recognition to identify individual users. Whenever the display recognizes a certain user, he or she can tap the screen to see personalized information such as calendar appointments and video messages. This could be handy for a manager to use to assign and track tasks among employees.

Users also can view the camera’s live feed on a phone, which could be helpful if an employee is trying to troubleshoot a problem with a colleague or manager who is not in the office. In response to questions from CNET, Google said that the camera is always processing what it sees to power the gesture and recognition features. Google says that this happens locally on the device without uploading the data to Google’s servers.

The device does upload video through the cloud when the user streams the camera feed to a phone or makes a video call. With that Nest Cam functionality, anyone with access to a particular Google or Nest account can view a Nest Hub Max’s live camera feed as well as motion-activated clips saved on a phone via the Google Home app or the Nest app.

Privacy priorities change at work

There are lots of reasons not to share every shred of your personal data with Google. Also, there is still an expectation of privacy at home, no matter how many speakers are listening. The situation is different at work. Gartner predicts that by the end of 2019 over 50% of employers will monitor employees by analyzing email text, logging computer usage, or tracking employee movements. Employers can’t record spoken conversations or put cameras in locker rooms or bathrooms but most consumer privacy laws can be waived at work.

In a 2019 survey by Accenture, employers said that high-tech snooping on employees will help “grow the business” (77%) and “unlock the full potential of people” (74%). The survey included 1,400 C-suite executives and 10,000 workers. Employees reported more concerns about this type of monitoring, specifically that an employer will use the data as a form of punishment. Those concerns go away if people think the information will be used constructively. Seventy-nine percent of employees in the survey said data-based feedback would be a good thing if it offered “suggestions on how to optimize my time.”

If a business chooses to use the Nest Hub Max to manage tasks among employees, employees would have to agree to the terms of Face Match, Google’s facial recognition platform. That means an individual’s face would be stored on Google’s servers, according to what the company told Ry Crist on CNET: “…when a Nest Hub Max has multiple users enrolled in Face Match, it may upload the face models to the cloud to ensure that each is distinct enough from the other to avoid false positives.”

The Google Nest Hub Max
Derek Poore/CNET