NEST - Analytics and Big Data for the Consumer IoT? (Or is this just a bunch of hot air?)

By James Brehm

I recently moved into a historic area of town. By historic, I mean the houses are old, with character, unlike the cookie-cutter McMansions of my suburban past. There’s an abundance of art, music, and great food within walking distance of my home. The neighborhood is multi-cultural, with every age group and socioeconomic background accounted for.

But what that also means is that the homes are not necessarily the most energy efficient homes in the city. While many of the people flocking to the Southtown neighborhood around me recycle, drive economic vehicles (or bike and walk), and attempt to be energy efficient, the age and condition of many of the houses does not bode well for green living.

One would think that a way to become more energy efficient would be to install a smart energy-efficient thermostat, like Nest. But Nest, who advertises itself as “the world’s first learning thermostat” that “programs itself” and “saves energy” really isn’t that smart.

You see, I travel for work.  When I’m not on the road, my schedule at the office is a bit crazy. I go into the office between 6 and 7 AM, I may or may not stop back at the house mid-day, and I come home on light days around 4:30 or on busy days may stay at the office until 11:00 or 11:30 PM.

When I arrive home, I really would like the temperature in the house to be comfortable. And if not comfortable, I would like it to be at the very least consistent. But with Nest, it’s like a game of Russian Roulette; you never know what you’re going to come home to.

This summer, on a sweltering 100+ degree day, I came home to a house where Nest had decided that I was out of town so it had hibernated itself. The temperature inside was nearly 90 degrees. And twice during our latest cold snap, Nest has decided to put itself on the “Away” setting. Who wants to come home to a house that’s 55 degrees?

Nest promises easy access to data about my energy consumption by providing specific metrics on my heating and air conditioning usage, how my usage compares to previous years, and where I stand in relation to others in my proximity. It also is supposed to know when I am home and when I am away, adjusting my home’s temperature accordingly. All of these things should make me a more efficient homeowner while saving me money.

This would be nice, if it did indeed work.

But a greater concern is how much information does Google need to know about me? And is all their data as crappy as the data they get from Nest? Is this why all my Google searches produce “paid results” that are irrelevant?

Google already knows with whom I communicate in my personal e-mail account (Gmail), where I travel (Google Maps and Android location data), if I watch a YouTube video, and what I search for on the web. Add that to the data Nest is attempting to gather and Google seemingly has a story for Wall Street and for those spending advertising dollars.

But the truth of the matter is, as bright as the “Googlers” appear to be, the analytics they seemingly use are still pretty remedial.

So the question I have is this: is Google selling air to Wall Street and their advertisers? Or is it real analytical information? I believe it’s nothing but hot air at this point– and with Nest, you can’t even measure the temperature.

When will analytics and big data begin to pay off for the consumer IoT space?