With home Internet speeds increasing and computer power getting smaller and faster, the promise of the connected home seems to finally be a reality. With smart appliances and even smart light bulbs that can be controlled from a smartphone, the so-called "Internet of things" is quickly gaining traction in today's world.
One of the easiest and most practical places for this is the thermostat. A massive amount of home energy is used to heat and cool, much of which is wasted. Thermostats are very simple devices that are basically just an on/off switch. The smarts come in deciding when and how to turn it off and on. Companies like Nest have captured the market's attention with their thermostat and now smoke alarm for being dead simple to use, beautiful to look at, and extremely functional.
The thermostat is also easy to sell to new buyers because it promises immediate money savings, often paying for itself very quickly. Now, Google may be interested in this market. According to a new rumor from The Information, Google is said to be testing a smart thermostat, even letting non employees use it already. Any information as to when (if ever) this device actually becomes a reality is anybody's guess. Big companies like Google are always testing crazy ideas, many of which never leave the testing phase.
This isn't the first time Google has experimented with home automation and energy tracking. Back in 2009 they launched a product called PowerMeter which promised to let users monitor and track their home's energy use. It required placing a small but expensive device into your home's electrical system which would then connect to WiFi and keep constant tabs on energy use. You could then monitor it from your smartphone and see what appliances were using the most energy and when they were using it.
But in 2012, Google canceled the PowerMeter project, citing lack of consumer interest. Perhaps they were simply focusing on smaller individual pieces of home automation, instead of the broad picture of whole-home energy monitoring? Maybe they've been working on the thermostat project since PowerMeter was canceled.
Those who have already adopted smart thermostats like the Nest swear by it and would never want to go back to a traditional, "dumb" thermostat. Google's mission is to organize information and to draw people into using Google services more.
So what business sense would a thermostat make? Would Google use Motorola to manufacturer it, or partner with another company? What type of value proposition does the company see in selling home energy equipment directly to consumers?
One possibility is that this is never, and was never a consumer product. Perhaps they are simply researching more efficient and smart energy solutions for their data centers and offices and have opted to make one themselves instead of buying. Until they officially announce something, we won't know for sure what they have planned.
If Google were to release a smart thermostat like the Nest, would you be interested?