Homes, Heating, and the influence of Apple

by Joe Sesso on November 2, 2011

Apple is obviously one of the most innovative companies in the world. With creations such as the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Mac Book Air, Apple has dominated the personal electronics market with tech savvy innovations. One of the leaders on the Apple team, and one of the few who Steve Jobs himself thought could succeed him, was Tony Fadell. Fadell was ranked as the number 2 successor to Jobs after Tim Cook by Fortune Magazine.

Tony Fadell knows Apple and innovation. He oversaw three generations of the iPhone and eight generations of the iPod. He was fully entrenched in Apple for most of the 2000s. But rather than wait his turn, Fadell decided to take his knowledge and apply it to homes and energy. Enter Nest Labs, a company that is determined to change the way we heat our homes. Fadell wants to bring his Apple innovations and apply them to the thermostat, the device that controls heating temperature in a home.

The “iPod Generation” Thermostat by Nest Labs

Nest Labs is on the cutting-edge of thermostat technology. Fadell said that the basic thermostat is still the same one from years ago, and the advanced ones are almost impossible to figure out. This is where he saw an opportunity. He wanted to create an easy-to-use thermostat that could also save hundreds of dollars on heating costs for homeowners. This device is created for the iPod generation (basically everyone), and Fadell says it’s just as easy to use. Best of all is that it can be remotely adjusted from the convenience of your iPhone or iPad. It also incorporates “smart” technology, which enables it to adapt to your heating and cooling preferences. This is what Fadell means when he talks about the “Apple Experience.” People love Apple because their products are cool looking and easy-to-use. They are also on the cutting-edge of technology. Fadell made sure that his thermostat received the same reaction from users. He also wanted to give it a hip and cool look, from the thermostat itself to the box it comes in. “It’s the symbol of a green home, and a jewel on the wall,” he says.

The Nest Labs thermostat starts with a basic round design. It also has a digital interface. The interface turns red when the heat is being turned up, and turns blue when it’s being turned down (or when the air conditioning is being cranked up). It can be set to go on and off based on the owner’s schedule. For example, while at work, a homeowner might have the heat turned down to 60. It would then go up to 68 from 5 to 10 pm when the owner is home, and maybe go down to 64 at night while the owner sleeps. This can save hundreds (and even thousands) of dollars per year on heating bills for owners. The device is easilty synched with a homeowners iPhone or iPad.

This could be the first invention of many from Fadell for the home. The product is great, but will consumers pay the retail price of $249? That’s the big question. A basic round device ranges from $50 to $75, and digital units start at about $80. The ends justify the means in savings, but many consumers look at the upfront price as opposed to the potential savings over many years. Only time will tell if this device revolutionizes the home the way that the iPod changed music. Tony Fadell thinks it will. That’s why he left a lucrative position at Apple.


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