- Nest displays energy usage in units of ‘minutes’ HVAC is on, not kWh
- Nest learns and shows users how long it will take to get to temp
- Manual schedules override the learned schedule, rather than ‘assist’ it
- Auto-away is performed once it learns how often you generally walk around it
- The thermostat has a Zigbee chip that has not been marketed, used nor mentioned by Nest, relying on wifi to do communication
- Nest’s mobile apps are narrowly focused on temperature control, and have not expanded to energy … yet
- Thermostat simplifies energy savings by showing a green leaf indicator
- The communication method of the thermostat talking to their server actually makes it incompatible with some home routers
- The first week of ‘training’ creates very cold mornings in winter until it realizes when to preheat the house
- The thermostat does not anticipate your unscheduled arrival, but does allow you to adjust the temperature of your house from your phone from anywhere
- For upgrades in the field without internet access, they chose to include a standard mini-USB connection – plug it in like a memory stick and copy the update file over.
- Nathan at Sparkfun does a fantastic tear down explanation found here.
‘Learning’ is the Future Buzzword of ‘Smart’ Products
Nest Labs has described its technology to the mainstream media by referring to it as ‘Learning’. Expect many consumer devices to follow suit and for it to become the new way to describe the already trite descriptive word “Smart”. Of course learning is not new, but Nest has finally started the process of teaching the world that technologies such as ‘predictive scheduling’, ‘pattern recognition’, ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘analytics’ are cool by referring to and marketing them in a very digestible way. This is similar to the technology trend found in services such as Amazon, Pandora or Apple iTunes with their Genius music recommendation service that scans your music and then gives a list of artists you would also like. Learning in the digital realm is creeping into the physical realm.
Nest Shows That Good Design Can Get Price
No one in their right mind would ever admit that they paid $249 for a device that normally goes for one-fifth that price … that is, unless it actually made your house look better. Nest continues to get price that is unprecedented in a very competitive and established market by putting a lot of thought into the design – their reflective sides that allow the thermostat to blend with any décor, the friendly round shape with the retro but simple outer ring for control, and the ability for you to interface with it very simply from your mobile devices are getting way more praise (and income) than the industry ever expected.
Consumer Devices Require a Dedication to Customer Support
A well thought-out strategy, automating help, having a dedicated team of real people to help users, and making the installation as painless as possible through instructional videos, pre-self-certifying compatibility, and including tools (such as the screw driver included in the Nest Thermostat) are key for success. These types of strategies, along with the good design, impressed upon many media outlets the desire to write stories on this gadget. My personal experience showed how poor of a follow-up Nest did which greatly affected my opinion and recommendation of the product to others.
Thermostats Are Only the Beginning – If Nest Survives the
Honeywell Court Suit
In an act of frustration for claims Nest has made about their thermostat, Honeywell published a press release announcing their formal patent infringement suit against Nest Labs. The act seems rather childish, because their legal team did not give prior notice to Nest of their complaint, which seems to indicate that the 7 patents Honeywell lists (which includes patents such as ‘A thermostat that is round’ and ‘A thermostat that includes setup questions in plain language’) are a smokescreen for scaring Nest and to bring Honeywell back into the ‘thought leadership’ position. The sad truth is that Honeywell was blindsided by the success of the startup, and mis-judged their stodgey marketing positions that ‘consumers did not want to pay for wifi connected high-end thermostats’. The real question is what will Nest Labs cook up next: Alarm Clock, Coffee Maker, Lamp, EV Charging Station, Solar Inverter …
Nest Lab’s Approach to Home Energy Management is Through the Consumer, not the Utilities – Opening Up the Market to Everyone
Nest looked at consumer benefits primarily, not the electric Utilities’ benefits, to sell their product – which opened up the market to everyone that has an existing thermostat. This could potentially open up a secondary market for Nest to approach Utilities that have a high clustering of these thermostats. This approach is unlike many other energy management solution providers, which try to go through the Utility angle, using an electric utility’s purchasing ability to ‘rate base’ technology (chop up the cost of infrastructure and spread it like peanut butter to all their customers) for use of helping every man, woman, and child in their legal geographic monopoly*. Though there are utilities actively trying to understand how to get at and change home owner behavior to lower their electricity usage peaks, and fill their usage valleys, utilities have fragmented approaches to how to attack the opportunity. Each utility has a different opinion on what they believe the solution is in their service territory, however they all share in an uncharacteristic common pipe-dream that involves consumers buying the infrastructure themselves that then have the hooks for the utility’s to influence their usage patterns. Nest could be a dream come true.*Most electric utilities are geographic monopolies, governed by an oversight organization usually referred to as the Public Utility Commission (PUC). There are some markets, such as in Texas and California, that have deregulated the sell of power/electricity, allowing multiple entities to be the ‘vendor of power’ to a homeowner and separate from the ‘generator of power’. In most areas in the United States, however, the former is the case.