"Smart home" is a term that gets thrown around rather a lot at tech trade shows, but one device that really exemplifies what a modern smart home can be is the Nest Thermostat.
Designed by members of a team who worked on Apple’s iPod, the Nest is a sleek-looking digital thermostat that can actually "learn" its owners' schedule and then continue to regulate temperature to suit the user's preferences and patterns.
By regulating temperature and adjusting itself to switch on or off when needed, the Nest not only saves people money on their electricity bills, but also gives people more control over how they control their energy costs.
The Nest Learning Thermostat learns your preferences and adjusts its program accordingly. It also provides a guide to energy savings. It won a CES "Best of Innovations" award in the eco-design and sustainable technologies category.
Check out the video below to see a demo and full interview.
As a family who's away a lot on weekends, the idea of having a thermostat be able to learn our behavior and adjust accordingly for energy savings is pretty cool. I always try to remember to turn down the thermostat prior to leaving, but sometimes the craziness of trying to get a family up and out gets in the way. Not sure I agree with the founder that the look of NEST is more appealing than a simple white digital thermostat on the wall. But I did like what he said about their battery strategy in terms of getting the longest life out of their units.
Beth your comment about the styling of the Nest Product compared to a conventional wall-mounted white thermostat brings to mind an old debate related to quality and integrity of a products' design vs. its initial sex-appeal to grab a consumers attention.
Consider the case study of Motorola products in the 80's & 90's. Motorola was known in every arena (portable radios, consoles, pagers, cellular, etc) as the quality product with the innovative technologies, but styling and consumer appeal (including inter-compatibility with existing accessories) was always an afterthought.The guys in the Industrial Design Department were always the most ignored voice when it came to inputs on product definition, and always had to make the most frustrating concessions to their vision of product appearance when the design-effort hit the CAD stations.The ME & EE design teams considered the ID team as a support role only.
That all reversed in 2003 when the RAZR was first introduced.A rogue team of Industrial Designers with some supporting ME's and EE's produced the first RAZR in a Motorola closet, away from the visibility of conventional wisdom of the other product groups.
Well, the RAZR design proliferated, and as you know sold more than a hundred million units of various derivative versions; a quantity UNHEARD OF in telecom before that point in time.
Suddenly the pendulum had swung, and the ID team was now calling the shots, and were the leading team for all product development efforts in front of the more technical ME, EE and SW teams.The ID team argued, it's the appearance that grabs the attention first.Then, it's the quality and smooth operation the keeps the customers returning. A good point; hard to argue.
Unfortunately, the Motorola management culture faltered by swinging a full 180⁰, instead of seeking a more balanced blend of disciples in product definition.
Point being, there is today a huge faction of the product development community that still feel strongly about Industrial Design being the first point of a product success. The NEST Thermostat is a textbook example. – JimT.
Appreciate the backdrop story, Jim. It does put things in perspective and design is definitely subjective when it comes to taste. I guess for me, the idea of wall thermostat is something that's functional and should blend into the surroundings, not jump out screaming, look at me, look at me. To me, that's what the Nest does regardless of its innovative and compelling functionality. Just a simple matter of taste!
I agree it's pricey. Over time, I suppose it wouldn't be hard to make up the $249 cost in energy savings, but I do wonder how many people will pass on this, even knowing that they could get the money back over time.
There are less expensive alternatives that use an internal clock. Is it that important for it to learn? There will be significant savings from a more standard clock-based one, just not maximimized savings.
It's not surprising that the world's first cool theromostat would come from a company run by a couple of former Apple executives. I forget to turn down/up the heating/cooling when I'm out for some time. Having a thermostat remember to do it would be a big help.
As a lifelong mentally disciplined communications technician, I rarely forget to set/reset my home thermostat. However, its setting, controlling a heat pump, isn't necessarily predictable on a daily basis. Since the HP efficiency varies according to the daily high temperature, I may turn it down and restore the temperature later in the day when the HP efficiency is higher, or not, as the case may be. I'm not really interested in turning my thinking process over to gadgets and doodads that promote mental laziness. To each, his own.
One class of device that I avoid as much as possible are those that attempt to learn from what I do. They always wind up getting what I want wrong. Always.
What I want are things that will do what they are told to do, when they are told to do it. The "smart learning" feature adds at least one m9ore layer of complexity, and as a result is an order of magnitude less reliable, and far more likely to be less satisfactory. Besides that they always cost more.
We once tried a "learning" thermostat, and the results were not very good. fortunately it could also be programmed, which was a saving factor. Unfortunately it only lasted a year before ceasing to function at all.
One question about the pretty illuminated thermostat is about how much effect the display backlight has on the measurement accuracy. All display backlights create some temperature rise above ambient.
I was thinking the same thing William. I am not a fan of technology that "thinks" it knows what I like. This include software. If I don't use a featue for a little while I either can find it or forget it's there. As for a "smart" thermostat, I think I can change the setting if my schedule changes....
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