Google builds a 'Nest' for future of smart homes

Jan 15, 2014 by Michael Liedtke
In this Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, file photo, Tony Fadell, Founder and CEO of Nest, poses for a portrait in the company's offices in Palo Alto, Calif. Google said Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, it will pay $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, which develops high-tech versions of devices like thermostats and smoke detectors. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

When our Internet-connected gadgets and home appliances all learn to talk to each other, Google wants to be at the center of the conversation.

This imagined future is still a few years away, but Google is already preparing with its $3.2 billion acquisition of high-tech thermostat and smoke-detector maker Nest Labs.

The surprise deal announced this week will provide Google Inc. with more tools to build a valuable hub for homes. It's a world of networked toasters and tea kettles, or a so-called "Internet of Things," that is destined to reshape society, experts say.

The research firm Gartner Inc. expects more than 26 billion objects to be connected to the Internet by 2020, a figure that doesn't include personal computers, smartphones or tablets. That would be a nearly 30-fold increase from roughly 900 million Internet-connected things in 2009.

Google is getting ready with the help of Nest Labs, a 300-employee company started less than four years ago. Tony Fadell, Nest's founder, is an Apple veteran who helped design the iPod and the iPhone.

As influential as smartphones have become, their role in understanding people's habits and preferences could be eclipsed once everything in the home has a computer chip and is connected to the Internet.

"Google bought Nest in order to learn about this world where even more information is going to be accessible by computers," said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett.

In this Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, file photo, the Nest smoke and carbon monoxide alarm is shown at the company's offices, in Palo Alto, Calif. Google said Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, it will pay $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, which develops high-tech versions of devices like thermostats and smoke detectors. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Nest Labs quickly won over gadget lovers with its 2011 release of an Internet-connected thermostat that learns to cool and heat homes to suit the needs of the inhabitants. Late last year, the company followed up with a smoke and carbon-monoxide detector equipped with voice technology and the ability to communicate with the company's thermostat.

Nest hasn't said how many of its devices have been sold, though analysts believe they are in just a small fraction of homes. The products have only been available in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

Google hasn't disclosed its specific plans for Nest, but analysts anticipate an entire line of Internet-connected home products will be coming to countries around the world. Some of those Nest devices could be melded with existing Google services in an effort to make people's lives easier.

Such a move also would provide Google with the means to gather more insight that could be used to sell the digital advertising that generates most of the company's revenue.

In a blog post about the Google acquisition, Nest Labs co-founder Matt Rogers promised that customers' personal information will only be used for "providing and improving Nest's products and services. We've always taken privacy seriously and this will not change."

Google still makes most of its money from advertising tied to search requests. Acquiring and developing products with Internet connections and environmental sensors can only help Google get an even better grasp on people's interests.

Explore further: Google buys 'smart' thermostat maker Nest for $3.2 bn

1 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Apple alums give home thermostats a new twist

Oct 25, 2011

Nest Labs, a startup founded by former Apple engineers, hopes to do for home thermostats what their former employer did for smartphones -- make them hip and intuitive.

Recommended for you

Cadillac CT6 will get streaming video mirror

Dec 20, 2014

Cadillac said Thursday it will add high resolution streaming video to the function of a rearview mirror, so that the driver's vision and safety can be enhanced. The technology will debut on the 2016 Cadillac ...

Poll: Americans skeptical of commercial drones (Update)

Dec 19, 2014

Americans broadly back tight regulations on commercial drone operators, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, as concerns about privacy and safety override the potential benefits of the heralded drone ...

Cheaper, more powerful VR system for engineers

Dec 17, 2014

It's like a scene from a gamer's wildest dreams: 12 high-definition, 55-inch 3D televisions all connected to a computer capable of supporting high-end, graphics-intensive gaming.

Nokia HERE prepares maps for autonomous cars

Dec 17, 2014

Autonomous cars will need a new kind of map, a crucial element that until now has been given a back seat to the more popularly discussed issues of sensors and legal questions. Senior Writer Greg Miller in ...

Dutch launch 'intelligent bicycle' that warns of danger

Dec 15, 2014

The Netherlands on Monday launched its first-ever "intelligent bicycle", fitted with an array of electronic devices to help bring down the high accident rate among elderly cyclists in the bicycle-mad country.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.