The Smart Home – How thermostats are learning from your behavior [Nest Thermostat]


In 2020, 26 billion -yes, billion!- devices will be connected to the internet. Although this includes PC’s, Tablets and Smartphones, it’s still almost 30-fold increase over 2009 according to research by Gartner Inc[1].

By being connected to the internet, these devices are able to communicate with other devices. Functionalities like switching off the lights when you’re away from home, or turn on the heater when almost back home are just some of the endless possibilities that these connected devices will bring with them.

Home Automation 

Home automation is one area in which connected devices might make our lives a lot easier. Take Nest [2] for example. Founded by two ex Apple engineers, the product looks and feels as easy and intuitive as it should be. Rather than you as a consumer fiddling with the settings to save on energy, Nest learns from your behaviours and is programmed to act accordingly.

So why hasn’t anyone done this before? It sounds simple enough right?

In a Q&A from Mashable.com with co-founder Matt Rogers, the above mentioned question was asked and turned the following response:

Nest is actually a culmination of a lot of different fields coming together to make the product happen. We have learning technology, so you don’t have to program your thermostat. You just adjust the dial and it learns your habits and programs itself for you. We have a bunch of sensors from the medical industry. These sensors allow us to basically turn the temperature down when you’re not home. We’ve taken all of the electronics from the smartphone industry to make it low-cost, low-power and high-performance. On the software side, we’ve learned a ton from the open-source community [3].

Basically a high-tech solution for something that used to be rather stupid; your thermostat; it used to be a button on the heater itself, moved on to becoming a plastic box on the wall to control central heating systems, and now it learns and senses to optimize heating and cooling in your house.

So why is this worth all the effort? Because the thermostat in your house controls half of your home’s energy [4]. Being able to save 20% on your annual heating and cooling bill not only saves you a ton of money, it benefits the environment as well.

As a consumer you contribute to its development with a minimal amount of effort; a couple of days of turning up and down the heat allows Nest to learn your patterns and it will adjust accordingly.

Moving forward, these type of appliances allow tracking of our activities that we have to do anyway (turning down/up the heating) but learn in the process to avoid these activities in the future, but it shouldn’t have to stop there. Perhaps the next stap is that based on combining heating/cooling behaviour around your place to establish more energy efficient behavior in households. These combined platforms could forecast the amount of energy needed for the next X hours/days and buy this energy at periods of low demands to decrease energy usage even further.

[1] http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2636073

[2] http://www.nest.com

[3] http://mashable.com/2011/12/15/nest-labs-interview/

[4] https://nest.com/thermostat/saving-energy/

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