Sunday, January 19, 2014

Google and Nest: A bigger, still blurry, Picture

PowerMeter, Android@Home, PowerSense
All Google efforts: the first abandoned, the second invisible, and the third known by its screenshots.

And, in case there's any squares reading my blog, the NEST is THE thermostat.

The title of an article at The Energy Collective compelled me to read it: Google and Nest: The Big Picture for Home Automation Competitors.
... there’s certainly a good reason to consider the value of Nest’s data to Google. Intuiting people’s daily habits around the home, knowing what choices they make regarding comfort versus energy efficiency, tracking how often they interact with their devices to get a sense of their interest in technology -- all of these are imaginable insights that a data analytics expert like Google could draw from a simple set of home automation devices.
Multiply these kinds of insights by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of homes, and that data begins to take on an even greater value as a demographic resource. That could even apply to energy: utilities are increasingly turning to store-bought smart thermostats and the companies that manage them for demand response and energy efficiency resources.
Household data will likely be part of the value of a whole host of growing home automation companies. According to GTM Research’s report Home Energy Management Systems, 2013-2017, five HEMS vendors have publicly announced passing the 1-million-customer mark:, Tendril, Opower,Vivint, and ADT. Others, such as GreenWave Reality and iControl and EcoFactor, are past the 1 million home mark through their telecom partnerships . On the smart thermostat side, Nest was set to pass the million-home mark as well by the start of this year, report author Kamil Bojanczyk noted.
Maybe, but the screenshot for PowerSense makes me think the rational might be simpler.
It looks like the Android@Home project has shifted to thermostat control during the silence, the first evidence of which has revealed itself in the form of a screenshot of the Google Play Store.

Google EnergySense leaks, points to home automation | | December 2013
Image from
It looks like the Android@Home project has shifted to thermostat control during the silence, the first evidence of which has revealed itself in the form of a screenshot of the Google Play Store...
EnergySense appears to be a smart thermostat control app that allows the user to control the temperature of their home no matter where they are. Profiles are available for home and away, and a great deal of the UI seems to be gesture based.
According to a report from The Information, Google is not building their own hardware for the pilot program. The program itself consists of both Google employees and trusted testers who are testing its viability.
That report was from December - so I'd say the purchase of NEST could be seen to answering a couple of questions: viability seems to be considered possible, and there is now hardware in the Google universe.
At this level, the NEST thermostat purchase may be a result of Google's experience with its NEXUS smart phones - where strong hardware appears to have strengthened the brand of the ANDROID operating system.

I suspect this is also about the ANDROID operating system hosting the applications dominating the developing home automation segment.

Time for Google's Android @Home to Make a New Splash | Bloomberg | May 2013
Android @Home is far from dead. Android enthusiasts recently found traces of Android @Home in the Android 4.2.2 update. Some casual searches on LinkedIn(LNKD) reveal that the company isn’t just maintaining the team, but is actively hiring and adding people. There are industrial designers and software engineers “working on Android@Home cloud services,” managers who’ve been working on “Nexus Q and other fun things to come,” and numerous people listing Android@ Home as their current area of work. A bunch of them were hired in 2013.
...Android @Home’s bigger vision has always been to connect everything in your home—not just a single bulb, or a speaker system in your living room. Back in 2011, Android @Home hardware director Joe Britt told me: “In thinking about accessories as devices that surround the phone, we started thinking about how far away from the phone you could migrate. Is a light bulb a potential accessory? Is a dishwasher a potential accessory?”
My hunch is the NEST thermostat is similar to the NEXUS line: a hardware product designed to make Google the dominant brand for operating systems, programs, data warehousing and mining, in an expected internet of things.

Not everybody is excited about it: if you read Lloyd Alter at Treehugger you'll be selling your sweater/jumper stocks on the NEST purchase news.


The Energy Economics Exchange, from the Energy Institute at Haas, has posted Why Would Google Pay $3.2 Billion for Nest? audit performed with Nest data does not require anyone to ever step foot in your home. A Nest audit is necessarily more limited than an in-home audit, but with smart data analytics and high-quality weather data it can still provide important information.
And at the end of the audit, Google can provide a set of tailored recommendations aimed at improving the thermal comfort in your home. No need to stop at generic suggestions – these recommendations could come with real quotes from local service providers. We think it is this sales lead generation potential (AKA advertising) that Google hopes to monetize. In addition to energy audits, the same data can be used to monitor changes in behavior after retrofits, and/or to verify savings guaranteed by product retailers.
These services would beat the status quo technology, not because it is better, but because it is good enough, fast, and convenient. This is the classic Silicon Valley entrepreneurial story: find something that was expensive to do before, disrupt, offer a higher quality of service for a 10th of the price. And make it much more convenient. This is transaction cost economics. What the service Google/Nest can sell is convenience and a smarter way to interact with everything having to do with your home energy use.

1 comment:

  1. Here's how to cut your electric bill by 75%:

    Want to know how to easily produce all of the renewable energy you could ever want right at home?

    And you’ll be able to make your home totally immune from power failures, blackouts, and energy grid outages
    so even if everyone else in your area (or even the whole country) loses power…you won’t.