A team of highly skilled and design-savvy engineers have revealed Nest, an elegant, well-designed thermostat that can learn your preferred settings, analyze your data to spot energy-saving and money-saving opportunities, and look lovely on your wall. Earth2Tech has a review article on Nest, as does Greentech Enterprise. This summary description, from the Earth2Tech article, indicates why this device has strong potential:
The Nest thermostat, on the other hand, is supposed to learn your energy consumption behavior and program itself, and then automatically help you save energy in a convenient way. Once installed, the thermostat takes about a week of hardcore learning to recognize the standard way you heat or cool your home, and then recommends settings that are slightly more efficient than what you already do. It also automatically turns down the thermostat at times that are convenient to you. The device also continues to do lighter learning of your behavior via pattern recognition and your manual interaction with it, throughout the life of the device. …
The Nest thermostat has five sensors — temperature, humidity, light and two activity sensors — and the activity sensors can notify the device to turn down the heating and cooling when no one is in the house.
The Nest thermostat also has a feature called “time to temperature,” which shows the home owner how long it will take to heat or cool the home.
I love the idea of this “time to temperature”, because most people don’t realize how large an effect the thermal mass of the home has on energy use, and how pre-cooling and pre-heating before a high-price period can save both money and energy.
Nest also offers a website with more granular data, remote adjustment capabilities (and I expect that those adjustments can be automated, although the article doesn’t specify), and money-saving energy-saving suggestions.
But even more importantly, Nest comes equipped with a Zigbee chip and wi-fi, so it will be a discoverable device on your home network, and able to communicate with a digital meter and other digital devices in the home. It sounds like it has enough intelligence in it to be extensible over time to be a portal for automating the behavior of smart digital devices in the home … and it can be transactive, and consequently make the home transactive and the homeowner capable of automating the responses of a wide range of smart devices in the home to respond autonomously to price signals. If a grid is not transactive it’s not a smart grid, and Nest looks like it will be a step in that direction. The other necessary condition for a smart grid is retail choice and the customer being able to choose dynamic pricing that Nest can automate. Without retail choice and dynamic pricing, the smart grid is not smart.
A final interesting note about Nest is its path to market: rather than going the mass utility deployment route, Nest is going direct to consumer, hurrah!
However, Nest is one of the only companies that is directly targeting consumers for its thermostat. Nest plans to sell its thermostat at Best Buy, via building specialty channels, and through its website. Fadell tells me the company wants to “connect with the iPhone generation where it shops.”
I’ll be watching this development with great interest.