The iPod godfather Tony Fadell, left Apple three years back and was secretly designing a new gadget. Even his staff had been sworn to secrecy since word got out he was leaving retirement to do something new. The reporters camped out in front of his office in the ever-leaky land of Silicon Valley with cameras, but were unsuccessful.
Apple fans were expecting the former DJ who oversaw 18 versions of the iPod and the first three versions of the iPhone to design and unveil a great entertainment or communication device but that didn’t take place. Instead the designer started a new company with completely unexpected news that he wanted to reinvent thermostats!
Fadell’s new company, Nest Labs, is bringing Apple-level design and technology to the those little boxes on the walls of a quarter of a billion US homes and offices that control the internal temperature. Why? Because all the ones on the market are either ugly or too hard to use and they control a whopping 50% of the average American home’s energy budget. His goal was to take something we never thought about and make a thermostat more than just sexy. He remarked that his version of the thermostat uses the guts of a smart phone
“I thought who is actually going to make this kind of product? It’s almost a cellphone with a little heating and cooling technology. If you see how much energy is used or is controlled by the Thermostat, over 50% of your home energy is controlled by a thermostat. That’s an average home. A small home is $1200, a year for heating and cooling bills and it can be thousands more for large homes. And that’s a thermostat, this dumb device that no one likes, no one cherishes, controls the big part of your energy budget. So let’s make it a cherished item and have a really great interface so that it’s simple to use,” Fadell said to Techcrunch.
The Drop-dead user-friendly Features
The thermostat analyzes the thermal decay of a house to determine how long it takes for heat to dissipate. This helps prevent it from continuing to expend energy if the warmth of daylight will return before the house cools down.
An “Auto-Away” feature uses far-field motion detection to assess whether no one is in the house for a few days, perhaps because you’ve gone on vacation. If so, the unit goes into low-energy mode.
The Nest thermostat also tracks your manual heating adjustments. For example, it can learn that you turn off the heat when you leave for work in the morning and turn it back on when you return in the evening, and then start to automatically make these changes for you.
Tony Fadell on- Why Thermostats!?
“Three years ago when we left Apple we wanted to change our lives. We wanted to have a green lifestyle and make sure we educated our kids that way. We’d started designing our home in Tahoe that was going to be green. So we were adding solar panels, geothermal walls, doing everything. And one day my architect came with a specification for a heating and cooling system with expensive thermostats on there. I was like $350 Thermostats, Whoa those are expensive. Those have to be incredibly nice given, like iPods and iPhones and those things,” he said.
“And I looked at him and I was like, wait a second. This looks like a beige box from the ‘90’s. It looked like a computer before the iMac. There’s got to be something better. So I quickly scanned the web to find something better and I found about 350 tourists who worked about the same with different feature sets, but none of them seemed to be any good. So I said,”Okay.”I think I’ll do this on my own,” he added.
When Fadell left Apple, he promised Steve Jobs he wouldn’t build a device to compete with what he’d done at Apple. Instead, he’s taking the design philosophy to an utterly different industry.
Users are so desperate for the home heating revolution that the devices have sold out and are back ordered. Those who’ve since reserved their units may not receive them until February 2012. Fadell says Nest has ceased taking orders until it can catch up.