Tales of the “Too Smart” Thermostat

Nest Learning Thermostat. Programs Itself, Saves Energy.

Wait, wait a second! Programs itself? Saves energy?? Put down your bagel and coffee, get into your car (hybrid please!) or onto your bike and GO. Go and buy this revolutionary new thermostat!

The heading speaks for itself. Potential buyers hear two things. It’s easy and it saves you money. This my friends is a win, win.

Former ipod creator, Tony Fadell has reinvented the thermostat! Pause for reaction……

The thermostat? You mean that beige box in everyone’s living room? Why would anyone care about their thermostat? People don’t think about their thermostat, so how can Nest, the company who started this all, convince anyone who owns a home and thus a thermostat to switch over to a new one? Not to mention, this new ipod inspired thermostat looks like an eyeball, smack dab in the middle of your living room wall. But…

Apparently it hasn’t been hard. Over 10 million of these smart thermostats are sold a year! The creators boast their creation and state that they have simplified a common problem.

Fadell then goes on to speak about this so called “common problem”.
“Let’s face it, programmable thermostats can be complicated. They’re like any other     device you have to program — they sound neat but actually using them can be annoying.  And yet, the thermostat is one of the most important parts of a home for keeping the carbon footprint low”.

It is all starting to make sense. Nest isn’t trying to sell a new thermostat. They are trying to help thermostat owners become more green oriented and they are doing so by keeping their product simple, while creating an experience. A lovely, simple, money saving experience!

The thermostat remembers your daily routine and behaviours and adjusts the temperature in your house accordingly. The green leaf on its screen tells you that you are conserving energy and BOOM- you are a green home owner.

Nest’s new learning thermostat seems to be a mix of technology and science, with a dash of environmental activism. The convergence of these reoccurring themes is intriguing- however an environmental advancement such as this raises a few concerns.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this new device, I am sold! I already emailed this new device to almost everyone I know, with the subject line reading “ YOU NEED THIS!” (think Nest’s marketing worked on me ??), but you have to wonder if this information is being used and how?

If my thermostat knows when I am away from my house or on vacation, does Nest and their team of techno junkies know as well? Thoughts of privacy, surveillance and power are flooding my brain, corrupting my once naive opinion of this oh so smart thermostat.

It happened with Facebook. We never fathomed that our daily routines and personal interests would be used to compile a humongous database filled with gold; pure informational gold. But it did. We are continually being surveyed and our information is being used, both for and against us.

This household luxury, which not only helps save you time, money and the planet, plants many questions in the critical minds of those living in this digital day and age.

Greening the planet and our economy is a prominent and important issue, however what are we willing to give up in order to become green oriented? I can’t help but realize the visual similarities between the smart thermostat and those passive yet active surveillance cameras you see lurking around on public ceilings. Not to mention the fact that you can control ( yes CONTROL) your thermostat from both your smart phone and or your computer, no matter where you are. As per usual, “there is an app for that”.

Science and technology are continually colliding with culture and politics. Our lives are driven by scientific research,  simplified by technologies and critically analyzed by the ways in which both consequentially have a direct effect on our culture and it’s politics.

It is important to understand that a technological advancement such as Nest’s thermostat is in fact revolutionary and beneficial to the general well being of home owners, but we must not forget to be critical of ulterior motives and the over all direction in which the company may take as they begin to persuade more people to purchase a smart thermostat.

Progress by any means is of value to our society as well as to the smart thermostat, whatever the outcome may be; it is a step in the right direction – so long as buyers remain moderately skeptical not of what they are buying but what they are buying into.

Is the smart thermostat TOO smart?

Sources

http://www.treehugger.com/gadgets/ipod-creators-design-the-perfect-thermostat-that-learns-your-habits.html

http://www.nest.com/

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