Take a Look at the Nest Learning Thermostat

March 13, 2015
With Nest, data becomes savings on the homeowner’s energy bill, and gives the energy-conscious user a smaller carbon footprint.

Last month on this page I stated an opinion that Nest and Google are mining data from their thermostats and other devices, a statement that was erroneous and for which I apologize. Nest is being run independently from the rest of Google, with a separate management team, brand and culture. The company has its own separate headquarters.

Nest accounts and Google accounts are not cross-referenced or linked. There is a “Works with Nest” integration from Google. But, like all Works with Nest integrations, it’s entirely up to the user if he wants to turn this on. Nest emphasizes that it will only share the information necessary to make things work, and only with the homeowner’s permission.

Be that as it may, Works with Nest is more than just an on/off switch. It’s about integrating multiple functions in order to make a house more “conscious” and ultimately more comfortable. Works with Nest makes it possible for Nest devices to securely interact with the things that homeowners already use every day, such as appliances, door locks, lawn sprinklers and lighting. When the function is able to connect these different parts of life, the Nest tech team can work behind the scenes to deliver personalized comfort, safety and energy savings.

For example, the Nest Thermostat can go into Auto-Away mode so you’re not heating an empty house. It also lets the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm light the way at night so you don’t stub your toe. The learning features include setup and setback times and temperatures. The homeowner turns the thermostat up or down and the device notes the setting and time of day. After a few days of this, the Nest has it down pat. It also learns the characteristics of the HVAC system and how the house responds; its Time-To-Temperature feature says on the face of the thermostat that it will reach its setpoint, for example, “in 20 minutes.”

The thermostat does this on its own. No one at Nest or Google spends the day looking at a screen tracking if you’re home or not. The company emphasizes that it is in the business of making and selling products that create a thoughtful home, not in the business of selling data. And it doesn’t want to be. Google does not sell Nest data either.

Nest only collects the data it believes is necessary to provide a great experience with Nest products — to help save energy, to alert occupants to smoke and CO, and to keep the homeowner in touch with his home. With Nest’s recent acquisition of Dropcam, an interior security camera, if the homeowner is notified that the smoke alarm is going off, he can see inside his house from his computer or mobile device to see what’s going on.

Nest only shares personal info when a customer asks to connect a Nest product to another device in a home. Nest also lets you know what information it’s sharing and why. Customers can stop sharing information at any time.

With Nest, data becomes savings on the homeowner’s energy bill and gives the energy conscious user a smaller carbon footprint. It becomes an alert on the customer’s phone when something’s wrong. Data
becomes a feature that makes a house home more thoughtful. Homes shouldn’t waste energy when no one’s there. They should let us know when the batteries in our smoke alarm are
running low.

To reiterate, the customer’s personal information is not for sale to anyone. The way the
company puts it, when you buy a Nest device, it’s a lot like trusting a neighbor with a set of house keys.

So contractors should give the Nest Learning Thermostat another look. And, again, my apologies to Nest and Google.