Can a thermostat be cool? Profile of design company Nest

nest2We like to recognize companies that share our values of 1) gorgeous design, 2) saving people money, and 3) ease of use. The company we’re profiling today doesn’t have anything to do with hdtv antennas, but we’re so glad that they exist, and we think that more people should know about them.

Nest is a company founded by two engineers—Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers—who played key roles at Apple in the development of the iPod and iPhone. Many people weren’t surprised when the two tremendously gifted engineers left to start their own company.

What did surprise people was what the two men decided to make: a thermostat, that tacky plastic accessory everyone has in their home which inspires climate-change wars and ends unequally cooled relationships.

nest1As designers of hdtv antennas, we can empathize with the decision to take a product that most people see as outdated, unattractive, irrelevant and unsophisticated, and apply to it the highest standards of engineering and industrial design. Consider how they introduced it on their blog:

“Think about it,” I say. “I bet your thermostat is ugly and impossible to program. And I bet it drives you crazy.”

“I do mess with it a lot. Then I give up. Then I regret it when I get my energy bill.”

“Exactly. Turns out you change the temperature in your house 1500 times a year. 1500! Our thermostat learns what temperatures you like so it can program itself. It senses when you’re out and turns itself down.

nest3And we started from scratch with design, so it’s beautiful. Gorgeous hardware, easy install, fully integrated software, remote control from your smartphone.”

The thermostat Fadell and Rogers built shows how even the most neglected of devices can be pushed to make ordinary people’s lives better. Nest’s device saves you money by learning your habits and adjusting energy use automatically.

It can adapt in real-time to the presence of more or fewer people nearby than usual, which also saves money. It has WiFi so you can control it wherever you are via smartphone. And the device itself looks magical as it works—glowing blue or orange as it heats or cools your home—and is intuitively simple to use.

The force of Apple is strong with this one.

These are features we understand. The devices you knew from your house growing up should be very different from those same devices today. We expect this from our cars, phones, and definitely television antennas, so Nest’s philosophy makes sense.

What’s next for Nest? A smoke detector, of course! Reviews of the Protect—officially introduced this past Tuesday—have thus far have been stellar. We can therefore expect the fledgling company to continue reinventing the overlooked devices of the home. Bravo, we say.

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