In its savviest move yet, on Wednesday, February 12, 2014, Google announced that it has acquired Nest Labs for US$3.2bn. Having already published something about Nest‘s smoke detectors and thermostats on these pages, I can nonchalantly attest to having seen the handwriting on the wall months ago. This is a big business match made in heaven. Rumored since January 15, when Google bought out Boston Robotics, this move makes Google an eclectic worldwide behemoth.
Californians won’t forget the California Electricity Crisis of 2000 and 2001 when there was a shortage of electrical supply caused by market manipulations – by the Texas energy consortium Enron and companies like PG&E threatening to shut the whole state down rather than allow their monopolies to fall out of favor. The state suffered from a number of blackouts and the economic fall-out destroyed the public’s confidence in its ruling order. Their manipulations were the last straw for many concerned citizens and the state house voted for a cap on monopolies that allowed business and homeowners in California to switch to smaller competitors. For entrepreneurial dreamers like the late Steve Jobs, Google’s Jeff Bezos and Tony Faddell, the possibilities offered up by this philosophical shift by the power brokers in the Sacramento State House made the Utopian ideal of the Smart Home actually possible, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.
Google have long been obsessed with the idea of building the intuitive self-sustaining, green, secure Smart Home that could, in a crisis, survive off the grid. The intelligent hardware necessary to make this small Utopia work was illusive, however. Their very first attempt, five years ago, was through the creation of Power Meter, an Internet service. An online service meant to monitor power usage in each consumer’s home, it drew little but yawns from an apathetic public. Who would want to come home from work each night and keep a sort of diary about their energy consumption on a website? US$34m down the tubes? No matter. Jeff Bezos is a pretty determined character.
A software platform known as Android@Home came next. Bezos and his geek engineering army of the California republic went after a different kind of customer. One who, atypically, was a young, ecologically-enterprising, professional concerned about notions of utilitarian self-sufficiency in power; someone who would be ecstatic to build the ‘smarts’ into their new internet-connected home.
Unfortunately, although Jeff is a fine cheerleader/coach, more than a few of the starter-upper Cal Tech-type engineers and manufacturers he shmoozed into partnership quickly got cold feet after the stock market crash of 2007-08 and backed out. The first of these products was meant to be an LED light bulb that could be turned on using a smartphone app, but the manufacturer quit only a week or so before it was due to hit the market. Bezos had to solve the missing link problem between a software platform and an Internet service. Such ideas were fine and even practical in practice as far as they went, but the missing ingredient in all of this was a truly useful piece of intelligent hardware. A bundled mash-up of software, hardware and online service to make one’s home superior in every way.
Naturally, logic is bound to follow its course and in stepped Steve Jobs’ former right-hand man and blue-eyed boy at Apple, Tony Faddell. Faddell, the lead inventor of the iPod as well as founder of Nest, dreamed the same dream as Bezos. Indeed, his Nest thermostat – connected to online weather forecasts and information from its sensors about a user’s movements, the intake from the house’s solar panels, time of departure from work, time returning home, the kids’ computer and gadgets usage – can set the temperature, set the alarm, turn on the oven, announce when the fire alarm has gone off or that there are burglars. Such insight into our preferences – revelations of the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of the homeowner – are nothing compared to the development of the algorithms that turn our lives into a state of perfect symbiosis with our Smart Home.
Nest becoming a part of Google changes everything. Google’s infrastructure -the Internet company, the computer company, its data center: All will benefit from the Nest‘s ability to collect intelligence