Your Thermostat and the Internet
Google recently announced that it is spending $3.2 billion in cash on… thermostats. To many, their purchase of Nest Labs seems incongruent with their search engine and advertising business. What’s so special about these mundane appliances? And what in the world is Google going to do with them?
Google + Thermostat + Internet = ?
The search giant bought Nest Labs, which has been selling the Nest home thermostat since 2011 and recently added the Nest Smoke Alarm. Nest is in the business of reinventing “unloveable” things, the company says.
There are a lot of products that have not received much R&D attention in decades; in particular, they have not been “smartened” with Internet connections, sound and motion sensors, or any of the latest widgets. Nest does all of that. One result is the Nest Thermostat, which really is a pretty nifty device.
It is aware of you and everyone in your home, thanks to built-in sensors. It learns your habits and programs itself to anticipate your need for heating and air conditioning. It knows when there’s nobody home and turns down the energy-guzzling furnace or A/C unit. It knows when you go to bed and when you get up, and adjusts temperature controls accordingly. (So far, it doesn't seem to know if you've been bad or good. But maybe Google does, hmm…)
The benefits of a Nest thermostat include up to 20% savings on energy bills. Plus, you don’t have to remember to turn the thermostat down at bedtime or before going out. You don’t have to learn how to program the thing; it programs itself in a few days.
If you’re coming home early and want the temperature adjusted off-schedule, just call your Nest thermostat on a smartphone and tell it when you’ll arrive. This luxurious convenience costs about $250.
The Nest Smoke Alarm doesn’t just chirp or shriek at you, it talks to you. A synthesized voice tells you whether there’s a little smoke (popcorn burning) or a lot (GET OUT NOW!). It tells you whether it’s warning about smoke or carbon monoxide or a low battery. It says interesting things, so people are more inclined to pay attention to it instead of pulling its batteries. It costs $129.
Why Is Google Interested in Thermostats?
Nest products are useful, and cool. But why is Google spending billions of dollars to buy Nest Labs? “We are excited to bring great experiences to more homes in more countries and fulfill their dreams!” said Google CEO Larry Page in the deal’s announcement. Somehow I don’t think that’s the real reason. If this thing could slice, dice, or cook a chicken to a perfect golden brown, walk the dog, and remind me that I need the oil changed, while keeping tabs on the temperature and air quality, THAT would be a great experience. But really, whose dream involves thermostats and smoke alarms?
So what's the real reason? Google’s business is collecting data about you and using it to sell advertising. The more data Google collects, the more effective it becomes as an advertising medium, and the more money it can make. Every single product that Google offers has a tie-in to this overarching business purpose.
Some pundits say that Google simply recognizes that Internet-connected appliances in the home represent a huge market in the not-so-distant future, and speculate that Google made this move to prevent Apple from acquiring Nest. Other, like me, say "We'll see."
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome! Post your comment or question below.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 17 Feb 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Your Thermostat and the Internet (Posted: 17 Feb 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved