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‘Nest’ Is the iPod of Thermostats

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Like any thermostat, the Nest lets you rotate to the left to turn the temperature down, and rotate to the right to crank it up. But that’s just the start. Here are some of the other things it does:nestphone

  • It can pay attention to its surroundings and turn down the heat automatically when it notices you’re not around.
  • As you adjust the temperature, it can pay attention, learn, and start to adjust it itself to mirror your habits.
  • When you use it in an energy-saving manner, it shows a green leaf to let you know you’re doing good.
  • It allows you to control it remotely over the Web or using an iOS app (an Android one is in the works).
  • It makes its LCD turn blue when it’s cooling your home, and red when it’s heating it.
  • When you set it to a particular temperature, it tells you how long it’ll be until it reaches it.
  • It can nudge you out of your comfort zone ever so slightly–making thing a little cooler or a little hotter to save more energy.
  • It can show the future temperature adjustments it’s programmed to make in a calendar view.

It’s hard to overstate how well-done Nest is, at least from a conceptual, interface, and industrial design standpoint. (I saw Fadell show off a version on a little demo stand, so I can’t vouch for how well it actually does at saving energy.) It looks good, it feels good, and it’s more intuitive to use than garden-variety thermostats that do far less. It seems remarkably polished for a first-generation product in a new category. (Fadell calls it the first learning thermostat.)

nest1Nest Labs plans to sell Nest through home-improvement stores, electronics shops such as Best Buy, and specialty merchants that cater to contractors and HVAC experts. It says that anyone who’s comfortable installing a light switch should be able to install the Nest in about twenty minutes: It comes with a special tool and faceplates that let you avoid spackling and painting if you want.

Will it do well? Only if it changes the way people think about thermostats, which is usually not to think much about them at all. Based on what I’ve seen I think it has a good shot at being at least as important in its category as the iPod was in its field.

MORE: Ten of the Shortest-Lived Tech Products Ever

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