These days, it seems like everyone is innovating for the future. From eco-friendly prefab housing to high-tech city bridges, companies and cities are putting unique and interesting spins on what they believe will change our future. But, think about this for a second: Have you ever thought long and hard about what your thermostat will look like in 10 or 15 years?
Probably not. Turns out that the thermostat, for better or for worse, hasn’t really changed its form or function in the last few decades, aside from a digital interface and more sophisticated temperature-sensing technology. It seems as though there wasn’t much to say about the device until the introduction of the Nest: A high-tech smart thermostat that broke the mold for its minimalist design and mobile, sustainable programming options.
“Before Nest, people didn’t care about their thermostat,” says Matt Rogers, co-founder and VP of engineering at Nest. “We’ve really awoken that frustration by bringing great design, great technology and a great experience to the space.”
Mashable spoke with Rogers about how the Nest broke the mold of digital climate control, and what he thinks is going to be the real thermostat of the future.
What do you think of high-tech climate control? Would you use it in your home? Let us know in the comments.
The Thermostat Speaks
Rogers says that in the year that Nest has officially been on the market, one of the places where the system has had the biggest impact the introduction of a “learning” appliance. Instead of a thermostat that simply controls the temperature in the house, or follows a (complicated) program set based on a timer, Rogers says that the impact of introducing learning into the thermostat has changed the way people view their climate control tendencies.
“If you turn it down before you leave, Nest will learn and turn it down for you,” Rogers adds. “It’s simple.”
He says he expects this sort of learning will lead to an even more personal thermostat of the future: One that will not only be able to recognize patterns in a house, but also be custom-tailored to work with the home’s features (a heated floor, for example, instead of a traditional duct system) to produce an optimized program without any input or jury-rigging from the user.
“People don’t buy ecosystems. People want to buy great things,” Rogers says.
Another mold-breaking feature that has proven a boon for the Nest team is accurate climate reporting month over month. Nest will actually collect heating and cooling analytics — which includes the time it takes to hear or cool a home, how much energy is being used, and the peak times for energy consumption — and send them to the user to track trends. He hopes that this feature becomes an important part of how we control the climate in our homes in the next few years.
“I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface into the things we can do with our data,” Rogers says. “We can understand so much more about the ecosystem as a whole.”
The learning, talking thermostat is bound to be noticed, meaning that consumers who adopt smart thermostats are also able to understand how their energy is working for them.
The Thermostat Goes Green (So You Don’t Have To)
Which brings the thermostat to another core tenet of Nest’s philosophy: sustainability. In 2010, Energy Star — the government program that monitors and rewards appliances that are known to save customers energy — completely killed its program for thermostats. With the thermostat controlling a lion’s share of energy costs and the inefficiency of the system preventing smart conservation, there seemed no feasible way to actually save energy.
Rogers says that the Nest is able to save its consumers energy and money because it does all the heavy lifting.
“Everybody likes to save energy and save money,” Rogers says. “But to ask them to change their lifestyle is a challenge. Instead, we give them all the tools to do it and lead them along the way.”
Nest sets the example because it already knows what temperatures promote energy conservation, and notes when users are saving money by displaying a little green leaf. Rogers says this visual feedback is an easy and simple way for people to know when a temperature is a “good” one that helps curb energy, or a “bad” one that sends it skyrocketing.
“You have that insight as opposed to having no idea and flying blind,” Rogers adds. “You can also do it in a simple way, and the leaf helps people feel that reward.”
He hopes the thermostat of the future will also be accompanied by the heater of the future and the air conditioner of the future — appliances that could talk to each other and take cues from algorithms to work optimally. When the system is cooperative, you’re more likely to see greater efficiency and adjustment throughout warmer and cooler months.
“We can drive a lot of efficiency from the thermostat when we drive communication to it,” Rogers explains.
The Thermostat Grows Up
It’s hard to see the future of digital climate control because it’s only been tackled within the last year, but as Rogers and the rest of the Nest team push forward, it’s easy to see that one thing reigns supreme.
“It has to be dead simple, as simple as possible.”
Don’t bet on any fancy tablet-controllers or a variety of knobs and buttons to control your air conditioner anytime soon: It turns out, sometimes the best solution for the future is also the least complicated.
Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/12/05/nest-climate-control/