SAN FRANCISCO — Let the battle begin over the so-called “conscious home” -- a long-term vision held by Nest Lab’s co-founder Tony Fadell. Now that Google is inserting itself into that "home" picture, through the acquisition of Nest, a smart thermostat and smoke alarm developer, expect the market segment to heat up.
It was at CES Unveiled -- a pre-show gadget-fest at the International CES -- in 2012, where Nest stole the show.
The pedigree of Fadell (who developed Apple’s music player iPod) as the startup’s co-founder, the sleek thermostat design, and the fact that the lowly thermostat came with an iPhone app from day one on the product rollout fascinated everyone.
Two years later, right after the 2014 CES, Google snatched up Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in cash on Monday (Jan. 13).
Google’s move suggests that the search engine giant is serious about becoming a player in the “connected” home appliance market, but more to the point, occupying the space of the much larger Internet of Things market.
Under the deal, Google will acquire both Nest’s products and a design team that includes its co-founders, Fadell and Matt Rogers.
According to Google’s announcement, Nest will “continue to operate under the leadership of Fadell and with its own distinct brand identity.”
The idea of remotely controlling home appliances via smartphones or tables is no longer foreign to many CE vendors, and perhaps, even to consumers.
But Nest’s claim to fame is its simplicity (when consumers are setting it up), the self-learning capability of the device and the company’s flawless execution in making appliances software upgradable.
How to bring connectivity, intelligence, and ease-of-use to home appliances has been the name of the game among CE vendors for years.
At CES last week, LG showed off next-generation smart home appliances that do “HomeChat.” By tapping a Japanese messaging service called Line, LG now allows users to chat with LG’s new appliances via text messaging (in natural language).
For example, texting “I’m going on vacation” in HomeChat will result in the automatic response, “Should I convert to vacation mode?” When you reply "yes," the refrigerator will go into power-saving mode, the family’s robotic vacuum cleaner will sweep the floor at 9:00 a.m. every day, and the washing machine will run a wash cycle on the day before your return.
As the idea of “connected” smart appliances spreads, the next logical step is to improve the way those devices are connected to the cloud, figure out what data will be collected and uploaded to the Internet and what useful analytics will be fed back into those smart appliances.
In his blog at Nest, Fadell wrote: “When Matt and I started Nest in 2010, we were determined to change our homes and the world around us.”
From the beginning, Fadell said, “our vision was to create a conscious home. A home that is more thoughtful, intuitive -- and nice to look at. No one had cracked the code and we were confident we could do it with the right product, the right team, and focus.”
According to Google, the transaction of the deal is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals in the US. It is expected to close in the next few months.