February 25, 2014- Technology in Your Home - Part Two

Now that we have an idea of where the technology is headed, let’s look at the companies that are blazing the trail for the future of technology in your home.

I thought I would start with a company called Nest Labs. Co-founded by former Apple engineers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers in 2010, the company introduced their first product, the Nest Learning Thermostat in 2011. In October 2013, Nest Labs announced the Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector.  Both product designs are sensor-driven, Wi-Fi enabled, self-learning and programmable.

Just to give you an idea of where this type of technology is going, on January 13, 2014, Google announced plans to acquire Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in cash and let Nest Labs continue to use its own brand. Who would have thought that a smoke detector and thermostat company would be so valuable?  The value is not in what the device does, it’s in the technology that creates the interaction between the user and the device.

I have both of these products in my home and from my experience, I would say that they are worth the investment.

After installing the Nest Thermostat a year ago, I have experienced a reduction in my heating costs and this savings has already paid for the cost of the thermostat.  This thermostat knows when someone is home or away by a built in motion detector and will heat the home accordingly. It’s smart.  If you are away from your home for a prolonged period, the motion detector will sense this and automatically turn down the thermostat to your minimum temperature setting. You can also create a heating schedule, or just let the thermostat learn your heating needs by how you use it. Let’s say that every weekday morning you get up at 6am and turn the dial up to 20 degrees and then when you leave for work you turn it down to 15 degrees. Upon your arrival home from work, you put the dial back to 20 degrees then at 10pm, before bed, you put it down again to 15 degrees. If you do this for 2 or 3 days the thermostat will learn from you and then automatically create a schedule so you don’t need to touch it. You don’t even need to be home or get out of bed to adjust it. You can control it from any smart phone anywhere in the world. Every month you receive an email with an energy report. This report will tell you how many hours your heating has been on and when it was on, as well as give you a comparison on how your energy efficiency compares to other Nest users in the area.

The Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector just launched earlier this year and the product has taken away the nuisance that you find in a traditional smoke detector. If any of you have a smoke detector near your kitchen you know that the slightest bit of cooking smoke will set it off. In most cases people find this so annoying that they will just disconnect it. The Nest will of course sense the same smoke but it will give you a polite warning in a human voice that there is smoke in the area. If this is a false alarm you just need to walk up to the detector and wave your hand in front of it and it will not go off.   In addition the Nest Protect tells you what the problem is and where it is. And if you have more than one detector, they connect so they can speak up at the same time even if Wi-Fi is down. For example, if you have a detector in your kitchen and one in your bedroom and there is smoke in the kitchen, the detector in your bedroom will tell you. This advance notice can make the difference between making it out in time or not.

Both products are available at Home Depot and for more information on these products visit www.nest.com

January 21, 2014 -Technology in Your Home - Part One


Did you ever think that you could get excited about your thermostat? We have to admit, we did and either we need to get out more, or a company has come along and finally made this mundane everyday household item something worth talking about. They have.

We really feel that the implementation of technology in our homes is in its infancy. Don’t get us wrong, there is plenty of fantastic technology out there for our homes, but the mass appeal has been stifled by the lack of infrastructure and high cost.

It’s interesting for us to look at the landscape today and see what technologies have been successful and why. Why is other technology unsuccessful, or slow to be adopted? On the success side, obviously, is the Smart Phone. Why did this catch on so fast?  Simple, it’s subsidized.  You go in to your local mobile phone store, sign a piece of paper, and get a new phone that costs $800 for a mere $100. Some may call this selling your soul to the devil but technology would not be where it is today if things were different. Other technologies have not been so lucky, and fall into the slow to be adopted category. The first plasma screen TV we saw in a store back in 1998 cost $30,000 and we all know how that turned out.  Sixteen long years later and we just got one for free with our new bed. Like it or not, the subsidization of mobile phones by the service providers has catapulted the technology 10 years into the future from where it would have been if we had to pay full price for our beloved phones. 

What does my mobile phone have to do with technology in the home you may ask? A lot! Now we have a common user interface that everyone can work from. Think of it this way... remember back in the day when you had a remote for your TV, VCR, Amplifier and DVD and CD player? Each remote or user interface did only one task. Very helpful, as you did not have to get up to change the channel, but a bit confusing when the grandparents came over to house-sit for you. Then a company came out with the universal remote. One user interface for a multitude of tasks. Genius! This is what the Smart Phone has done, but in a big way. A really big way.

Now that we have control, what do we control?  The market is being filled with start-ups trying to answer this question for you. We are going to start to see everyday mundane objects like thermostats be much more than a dial on the wall. These things will now be interactive. You might say really? How on earth can I interact with my thermostat and why would I want to? 

All good questions. In the months to come we will be featuring useful technology for your home that can be easily integrated into your everyday life. Get ready to have a conversation with your dishwasher!