When electronics giant Honeywell announced on Monday that it was suing start-up Nest, a Silicon Valley darling that makes next-generation thermostats, they also thrust so-called “smart thermostats” in to the collective mainstream. Take a look at the coverage.
The lawsuit even occupies the top story spot on Slate.com with a great analysis by (the always excellent) Farhad Manjoo. The piece, while balanced, essentially and effectively makes the case that Honeywell suit is based in fear and meant to crush competition rather than protecting its technology.
One problem is Honeywell’s business model. It sells the Prestige to professional home heating and cooling installers, who then sell it on to consumers as part of a larger furnace or air conditioning renovation. This makes the Prestige more expensive than Nest—$200 to $300 for the main unit, not including the contractor’s installation fee or the add-ons available for the unit. And because Honeywell is trying to appeal to contractors rather than end users, it has little incentive to focus on the things you and I would care about—like the design of the device, the simplicity of the user interface, or the ease of installation.
The Nest, meanwhile, is sold directly to consumers at retail stores and on the Web, and it’s meant to be as easy to install and use as any other gadget. I’m only moderately handy, but I was able to pop in the Nest in no time, and I found that did, as promised, “learn” my preferences. After a few days when it required me to set my temperature manually, the Nest—which is loaded with sensors and predictive algorithms—was able to guess how I liked my house to feel, and adjust everything accordingly. To quote Steve Jobs, it just works.
Read Manjoo’s piece as a primer on the issue – it’s well worth the time.
The SmartVan has been keeping our eye on smart HVAC technology for a while now, and it being a hot issue, we thought it would be a good time to recap our coverage (including a chat with the brains behind Nest) from the past year or so. Enjoy!