updated 09:45 am EDT, Tue October 25, 2011
Nest Learning Thermostat auto-adjusts to habits
Key iPod architect Tony Fadell on Tuesday brought out an unusual follow-up in the Nest Learning Thermostat. Borrowing some of Fadell's learning from his time at Apple, the Nest Labs device is designed both with very simple rotary control and intelligence that auto-adjusts based on real habits. It uses humidity, motion, and temperature detection to automatically lower the temperature when the home is idle, and it can track patterns to tell when it's most likely to need to change the temperature.
Visual cues make it clear what's happening. Blue indicates it's cooling, red indicates heating, and a leaf icon indicates that it's saving power.
Wi-Fi is built-in and gives it more refined adjustments based on the weather, raising or lowering the heat based on the temperature and the amount of expected sunlight. The Wi-Fi is key to remote control: users can change the temperature for one or more Nest thermostats either from the web or, appropriately, from an iOS device. An Android version is coming later.
The design isn't as advanced as some intelligent thermostats but, like the iPod, is intended to make the technology accessible. Most end up wasting smart thermostats because they're too intimidating, Nest Labs says. The company expects that buying the Nest could save $200 to $300 a year on a typical $1,000 energy bill.
Best Buy will carry the Nest thermostat in mid-November. At $249, it's expected to pay for itself in the first year. The device can also be self-installed and doesn't need a technician.
Fadell is widely credited with kickstarting Apple's rise to prominence in mobile and, along with Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive, Jon Rubinstein, and others, helped overcome the complication of MP3 players with the iPod. He left full-time Apple work in 2008 but stayed on as an advisor even up until March 2010. He gave a strong clue as to his plans for Nest when he said he would work in green technology, although he has since revealed that he had the idea in 2009. Nest Labs is known to have major investments from major venture capital firms that include Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, and Generation Investment Management, whose support from Al Gore creates another Apple connection.