An easy-to-use thermostat that learns from your habits. That's the idea behind a new take on an old energy-management device, from a company called Nest Labs.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company announced Tuesday the Nest Learning Thermostat, which "learns from your behaviors, preferences and surroundings to create a custom heating and cooling schedule." The device uses sensors, algorithms, machine learning and cloud computing to create what Nest Labs believes is a new generation in user-friendly, home energy management solutions.
'Reinvent the Thermostat'
Tony Fadell, Nest Labs co-founder and CEO, said in a statement that he found it "unacceptable" that thermostats, which control 10 percent of all the energy consumed in the U.S., were far behind other devices in terms of technology and design.
Fadell said he, co-founder Matt Rogers, and his team "set out to reinvent the thermostat using advanced technologies, high-quality manufacturing processes and the thoughtful design elements that the iPhone generation has come to expect."
The company described its thermostat as "like no other thermostat on the market," in that it will not only save money and energy, but "will teach and inspire people to think more about how they can reduce home energy consumption."
That home energy consumption is a significant part of the average homeowner's expenses. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory calculate that the average annual energy bill for a typical single-family home is about $2,200, of which heating and cooling constitutes about half the bill.
But studies have indicated that as many as 89 percent of homeowners rarely or never program the device because of complexity. In 2009, Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, revoked its certification for all thermostats because few were actually being programmed to lower energy costs.
Home Energy Management
Nest's key to having consumers use their device is, not surprisingly, making them easier to use. This is to be expected, given the background of the key team members, who hail from consumer-oriented companies like Apple, Google, Logitech and Twitter. Fadell is a former senior vice president of the iPod division at Apple, and Rogers is a former iPod and iPhone lead engineer.
The Nest thermostat programs itself based on temperatures set by the user, and, within its first week of use, learns the user's schedule and automatically turns down heating and cooling when the user is away.
An Auto-Away feature uses sensors to track when no one's home, and the device can be connected via Wi-Fi, so that it can be controlled by a mobile device. As the Nest thermostat is learning, so is the consumer. The device shows a green Nest Leaf reward when the temperature is set to save energy.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp, said that "the technology Nest is bringing together has been around or under development" for some years, but "the time had not yet come."
Now, she said, home energy management is a technology whose time has come, propelled by the coming together of "green awareness" and affordable technology. DiDio predicted that home energy management could "take off in the next eighteen to 24 months," especially if consumers start to see unified solutions that address all their home energy needs.
Posted: 2011-10-25 @ 3:10pm PT
It sounds great, where is it available?