When Silicon Valley startup Nest started shipping its first product — the iPod of thermostats — last November, it explained that the intelligent, Internet-connected gadget was designed to automatically download and install firmware upgrades across the Net, giving it the ability to add new features on the fly. Now the company is making good on that promise with its first update, which adds two major new features.
One is a new 10-Day Energy History view, available on the iPhone and Android apps as well as on the Web. It’s a timeline view that plots out your energy usage — blue represents cooling, and red is heating — so you can more easily see when your systems are kicking in and when you’re conserving energy by not relying on them. It also marks days when you helped save energy (by living with the temperature a bit cooler or hotter than usual) with a green-leaf icon.
The other new option is called Airwave; it’s available in homes with air conditioning. Since air conditioners remain chilly for five to ten minutes after they’ve powered down, Airwave automatically turns on the fan and circulates this chilly air when it can, rather than cranking up the air conditioner again. (It works best in dry climates, since you don’t want to circulate around if it’s too humid.) Nest says that Airwave can save up to 30 percent of the energy you’d otherwise use to cool your home.
According to Nest, three out of four customers who install their own Nest thermostats get the job done in under a half hour. But the company is also announcing that it’s made a couple of tweaks to the $249 thermostat’s hardware to make it easier to install. It’s reengineered the connectors behind the faceplate to make it easier to connect the necessary wires without pinching your fingers. And it’s designed its own custom screws so you can fasten the thermostat to the wall without anchors.
I still think that Nest has a shot at helping to set off a revolution at least as important as the one launched by the iPod, which its cofounders Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers spearheaded at Apple for years. This company hasn’t changed the world yet — but it says that it now has customers in all fifty states.