iPod inventor reinvents the thermostat

October 25, 2011 5:54:16 PM PDT
Exactly 10 years after Apple introduced the world to the click wheel to operate the first iPod, the inventor behind the iPod has come up with a way to manage home energy use through a new thermostat that also uses click wheel technology.

"It's a thermostat for the iPod generation," CEO and co-founder of Nest Labs in Palo Alto Tony Fadell said.

A thermostat?

Fadell is so enthusiastic about the idea that he was able to recruit nearly 100 top-level engineers from Apple, Google, Logitech and other Silicon Valley giants to join him. The company has been in stealth mode for one and a half years. It revealed its product Tuesday morning -- a $249 device that is not only easy to program, but also learns the habits of residents to help them conserve energy.

Just go to the local hardware store, and you'll see simple, manual thermostats for as little as $15 or programmable ones priced over $100. But they're difficult to program, Fadell argues, referring to the ones which you can set to raise or lower the temperature at set hours of the day or night. The Nest thermostat uses the click wheel concept to make it fast and easy. On top of that, it has sensors to know when someone is at home or away, and over time, it changes the temperature setting accordingly. An iPhone app allows you to change the settings remotely

But is it guaranteed to save energy?

"If you always want to train it to be 90 degrees in the winter and 60 degrees in the summer, no, [it] will absolutely not [save energy]," Fadell said. "But if you train it wisely, then yes, absolutely it will save energy."

The new Nest thermostat goes on sale in mid-November. Nest says it has ideas percolating to create other home tech devices as easy to use as an iPod.

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