All posts by robbertbrouwers

Dutch guy that likes surfing and works as a data analyst.

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 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.





What happens when a new business model becomes a new standard?

Successful new ventures often do something completely different than established companies in the same industry. Uber was founded in 2009 and their most recent valuation is north of $40 billion dollars. That’s an insane amount of money, but Uber is growing rapidly in a huge global industry (transportation). Becoming the standard for a global industry like that is worth a lot of money. AirBnB is a similar story; renting out your home to make some extra cash and bam, they are becoming a serious competitor in the hospitality industry.

Enabling customers to make their lives easier or generate more income; these new customer-focused companies are changing complete industries.

Innovators like these companies develop new technology to allow people to do things in a new way. However their business models aren’t protected by patent law or something similar. This allows other companies to use these new business models, allowing them to either (a) copy the model and compete with the original innovator (AirBnB, for example) or (b) use the new business model in a different industry or industry niche.

Competing with AirBnB and the likes does not seem to be the most logical choice; AirBnB didn’t become the company it is now by copying an existing business model; they created a new one. 

However, it sounds logical that these new business models can be used in other industries as well, and apparently companies have been doing so. Quite a lot.  

A quick overview of some initiatives of AirBnB’ styled businesses:

What this implies is that the innovations from the famous startups (Uber, AirBnB, BirchBox), create a plethora of opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses around the world. The technology is often a lot cheaper given you’re not the first mover, which would be the AirBnB’s etc, the business model is proven and there’s probably still plenty of industries/niches that.

You’ll probably won’t end up with an Uber valuation when you create an “Uber/AirBnB/Tinder for X” type of business, however it does create a lot of opportunity.

Rather than seeing this as copying or unoriginal, we should start focusing on how we can use these new business models for other categories by looking at them in a more abstract manner. Tinder is a dating app, however Tinder’s user experience provides opportunity for concepts that need a low-barrier, many-to-many type of interaction where photos or short snippets of info are the standard. This can be implemented for content, professional networking etc.



Have you heard of some cool or unorthodox uses of these new business models? Please share in the comments!

A Test of Two Models of Value Creation in Virtual Communities

CONSTANCE ELISE PORTER , SARV DEVARAJ, AND DAEWON SUN This article analyses the impact of virtual communities –with a close focus on trust- on the customer-company relation, or more specific: “…trust as the critical mediator of value creation in virtual communities (Porter, Devaraj, & Sun, 2013). A virtual community is defined as “an aggregation of individuals who interact around a shared interest, where the interaction is at least partially supported by technology and guided norms (Kannan, Chang, & Whinston, 2000). Specifically, they identify two types of virtual communities, (1) A virtual community that is customer-initiated and (2) a virtual community that is firm-sponsored. Prospective customers seek information in virtual communities in order to gain valuable information about a purchasing decision. In order to evaluate this information, prospective customers evaluate member-generated information (MGI) by three attributes: (1) Information Consensus, (2) Information Consistency and (3) Information. In Firm-Sponsored communities another element is added next to MGI: Sponsor efforts. Sponsor efforts consists of: (1) Content, (2) Embeddedness and (3) Interaction. One model (customer-initiated or firm-sponsored) is not by definition better than the other in creating trust and informedness of customers, it depends on the situation and stage of the customer process. However firms can take specific actions in order to optimize their firm-sponsored virtual communities. Many firms have enabled customers to provide summarized star reviews for products to provide a better consensus of customer-ratings, however this research shows that this only moderately helps in the customer. In order to improve on this, managers should focus on the consistency and distinctiveness dimensions of MGI in customer conversations. Example: to encourage perceptions of consistency, firms could focus on developing reliable customer management policies and business processes that are aligned across the organization (e.g. return policy, warranty management process) (Porter, Devaraj, & Sun, 2013). An important thought is that firms do not necessarily have to choose for one of these communities; firms can have both are even more than 2 (a customer-initialized, firm-sponsored and third-party virtual community) because they all have different positive and negative attributes. For example, a customer-initiated Virtual Community might be perceived as independent and therefore more credible (Gu, Park, & Konana , 2012). However firm-sponsored communities can provide both customers and the firm itself valuable information about each other (the opportunity to create direct relationships with customers). Also, virtual communities might follow an evolutionary path; firms might not have the resources initially to foster a well-organized, virtual community, but customer may have initiated one. Over time, this community might change in a firm-sponsored community because the firm decides to allocate resources to create a virtual community to improve relations and informedness of customers. An overview of the two models: Customer-Initiated and Firm-Sponsored Virtual Communities Schermafbeelding 2015-04-05 om 15.30.27 Schermafbeelding 2015-04-05 om 15.30.34


  • Gu, B., Park, J., & Konana , P. (2012). The impact of external word-of-mouth sources on retailer sales of high-involvement products. Information Systems Research , 182-196.
  • Kannan, P., Chang, A., & Whinston, A. (2000). Electronic communities in e-business: their role and issues. Information Systems Frontiers , 415-426.
  • Porter, C., Devaraj, S., & Sun, D. (2013). A test of two models of value cretion in virtual communities. Management Information Systems , 30 (1), 261-292.