Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Nest, Bringing Elegance To Your Thermostat

We've had a Nest Thermostat for a couple weeks now. Long enough that I've formed an opinion worth sharing on the blog.

The Nest, for the uninitiated, is a newfangled thermostat. That's right, the thing that you pretty much ignore (or fight endlessly with your spouse over) has received a massive makeover. The Nest strives to both look sleek, and more importantly, be brilliant. It wants to bring Artificial Intelligence to the problem of heating and cooling your home; effectively managing your furnace and AC through software. By doing so, it's pretty confident that it can be more efficient than the old style set-it-and-forget-it or programmable models.

So how does it do?

Well, after our relatively short stint with it, I can say they nailed the sleek part. Every part of the product, from the packaging, to the install, to the device itself, seems well designed. The thermostat, for example, has a bit more weight to it than an all plastic model, which means that it feels like a quality product. It has other nice touches, like a motion sensor that causes it turn on when you walk up to it. In many respects, it feels like a better designed Apple products than the actual Apple products I have in my house (an iPad and Mac-Mini).

And the sleekness isn't just about hardware. The software on the thermostat is as simple as you'd expect (turn dial to temperature; you're done). But more impressively, the web and Android apps are also clean and polished. That means that it's trivial to manage your thermostat from any room in the house, or any location in the world.

As for brilliance, the jury is still out. Shira's not a fan of devices that think they are smarter than she is. Still, she can fine tune the Nest whenever she wants; which she loves. We'll have to see overtime if the AI aspects of the device shine through. For example, it supposed to automatically detect if we're out of the house and adjust the thermostat accordingly. But I work from home, upstairs. So, how's it going to deal with that? At the very least, I can say that we don't feel like we're fighting with the AI. The Nest does what Shira tells it to do (unlike me, most of the time), and if it wants to try to be smart too, that's great.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the day when all our appliances have this same transparency and control as the Nest. Why can't I pre-heat the oven from upstairs? Or see exactly how much hot water I have left in the hot water heater? Would I like to know if our freezer is working overtime, or our fridge is too humid? Sure, why not. For years we've been talking about Smart Homes, whatever that means. But with the Nest, I'm finally getting a sense of how it may actually be useful.

So, is the Nest worth $250? From a hardware and software perspective, I'd say yes. Do you *need it*? Almost certainly not. But I'd be willing to be, it's the way of the future.

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