Google Moves Into Home Automation With the Purchase of Nest Labs

by / Monday, 20 January 2014 / Published in Personal
Life with Nest Thermostat   Nest

Excitement is stirring throughout the home automation community due to an acquisition of Nest Labs by Google. Nest Labs is a company that develops learning thermostats; thermostats that can control all elements of the temperature within a home and learn based on a family’s habits and preferences. The goals of learning thermostats include energy efficiency, reduced utility costs and increased personal comfort. Through this large purchase, Google has revealed an interest in the home automation market.

How Google fits into the Nest Labs concept.

Google is a company that tends to diversify — sometimes to the extreme. The purchase of Nest Labs by Google, a transaction that cost $3.2 billion, was unexpected and sent waves of speculation throughout the industry. Previously, Nest had worked very closely with Apple; developers on the Nest team were previous Apple developers and the Nest device is marketed in brick-and-mortar Apple stores. On closer examination, the reasons behind this acquisition are a little more obvious; Nest Labs maintain an Android application (as well as an iOS application) that can be used to interface directly with the Nest Thermostat. Should Google wish to enter the arena of home automation governed by smartphone devices, the Nest Thermostat is a provable entry point.

Home automation through Android applications.

Home automation is not something new to the Android device. Applications such as InControl Home Automation are already sold through the Android store, which includes the ability to control locks, lights, outlets and more. There are many of these devices available through private companies that use the Android platform as a method of controlling their systems. By entering into the home automation market, Google may be intending to transition towards native applications that could could control a network of home automation devices. Google has experimented with similar applications in the past; in 2009 they attempted to allow consumers to monitor their electricity uses, but the service did not prove popular enough to continue.

How the Internet of Things may affect the future of home automation.

Today, the chief problem of home automation is still a lack of consistent standards. To control a home, a homeowner would usually prefer a single application that can control every aspect of their home. Presently, the market is saturated with one use devices — such as the Nest Learning Thermostat — and this requires the homeowner to control multiple items through multiple platforms, thereby reducing the overall utility and convenience of such a system. What home automation really needs to succeed is some form of consistency; an integration of the Internet of things into a singular and easily controlled system. Both Google’s Android devices and Apple’s iOS devices would seem to be the perfect platform for this, as many individuals are already using their smartphones for the majority of tasks in their daily life.

Major concerns about Google’s entry into the home automation market.

Some have expressed skepticism regarding Google’s purchase of Nest Labs: the integration of Google into many different aspects of daily life has given some individuals reservations regarding the power of the company. Google will also be launching their own line of self-driving vehicles within the next decade, and they have been aggressively pushing their augmented reality device, Google Glass. With an entry into the home automation market, Google stands poised to become an unstoppable force in the arena of technology. In addition to these issues, some have raised privacy concerns regarding the Internet of Things and the sheer amount of data that Google will be able to access and store regarding an individual.

Whether the purchase of Nest Labs will prove to be fruitful for Google remains to be seen; the company does have a track record for overly ambitious projects and projects that simply fall by the wayside. Google has always maintained an extremely experimental structure, and tends to try out projects simply for the sake of determining their viability. The company itself has largely remained silent regarding its intentions towards the home automation market and has not yet made any major changes to the Nest Thermostat or the company they have purchased, nor have they released any other home automation products as of yet.