Every so often someone takes an existing piece of technology and finally gets it exactly
Over at MIT's Technology Review
blogger Dave Zax has a write-up on a smart thermostat that lives up to the name.
Rather than being merely programmable (such devices have been available for years) this
soon to be released
* device from Nest Labs
was designed with adaptive learning features. Instead of programming it via the usual time/temp settings scroll & set screens, you simply set it how you like it. The device then learns your preferences and patterns such that you don't need to do anything with it after a few days. It "knows" how you like to keep your home heated/cooled after that. Changes made with the seasons also get incorporated into its memory. Very slick. And exactly the way devices like this should work.Quietly brilliant piece of technology - the NEST thermostat
From the article:
A Smart, Sexy—Thermostat?!
Nest's new device is both; it looks gorgeous and can cut your monthly bill by learning your heating habits.
David Zax 12/06/2011
Consider the thermostat.
That in itself, I know, is asking a lot. What could be more boring, less worthy of consideration, than that bland gray panel on your wall?
But the thermostat, it turns out, is wildly important to our energy consumption: it controls up to half our energy bills. There are reportedly 250 million thermostats in the U.S., with 10 million more purchased every year. One recent innovation, the programmable thermostat, wound up being a complete failure: most users don't program it at all, leading the government to exclude the device from its Energy Star program.
If someone could finally hack the thermostat—finally get it right—it would be a big deal. And there's reason to believe that a company called Nest might be doing just that. Run by Tony Fadell, who helped design the iPod, Nest has actually designed a thermostat that is smart, and dare I say it, even a little bit sexy.
The Nest's central feature is that it learns. I tried to program my thermostat once, and it was a nightmare. As a writer, I keep somewhat unusual hours—when exactly would I be heading out on weekdays, and when on weekends? For me, the most intuitive way to use a thermostat is simply to turn the dial when I want it hotter, or colder.
The Nest lets you do just that—simply turn the dial—and it's smart enough to then learn your schedule as it goes. In about a week, it has learned your habits, and sets its own schedule. In other words, it programs itself.
Of course Nest Labs could have let it go at that. But realizing we're in a much more tightly linked environment today thanks to the dual blessing/curse of smartphone and wifi technologies, they also took the next logical step and made it reachable via smartphone or laptop:
Are you the kind of person who tends to make it halfway to the office before you suddenly remember you forgot to adjust the thermostat before leaving? No problem. You can control the Nest remotely, via smart phone or laptop. Those pangs of guilt are instantly assuaged.
Link to full blog post here
There's a neat little animation put out by Nest that explains how their little prodigy works:
They also have an instructional video and a web widget
that allows you to determine if your current heating wiring is compatible with their device. Talk about not missing a trick!
All in all, a brilliant device coupled with a company that also has the ability to provide an excellently designed website
and well done presentations
. That attention to detail is sorely lacking in most companies these days. Including the ones that should know better.
I don't normally get enthused over gadgets or tech these days. But every once in a while I run into somebody, or something, that just gets it so
correct - and on so many levels - that the magic comes back.
Check it out when you get a chance!
Disclaimer: 40hz isn't affiliated with Nest Labs. He's just very impressed with them.
* UPDATE: This device is in production. It is, however, currently sold out for 2011. It will be available again starting in "early 2012." Price is $249 USD.