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Building an Open Source Nest

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the birds-need-not-apply dept.

Google 195

An anonymous reader writes "Google's recent acquisition of Nest, the maker of smart thermostats and smoke detectors, has sparked concerns of future plans for the devices, and how Google's omnipresent thirst for information will affect them. Thus, a team of engineers at Spark sat down and roughed out a prototype for an open source version of Nest. It looks surprisingly good for such a short development cycle, and they've posted their code on Github. The article has a number of short videos illustrating the technology they used, and how they used it. Quoting: 'All in, we spent about $70 on components to put this together (including $39 for the Spark Core); the wood and acrylic were free. We started working at 10am and finished at 3am, with 3.5 engineers involved (one went to bed early), and the only work we did in advance was order the electronic components. We're not saying that you can build a $3.2 billion company in a day. But we are saying that you can build a $3.2 billion company, and it's easier now than it's ever been before.'"

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What? (5, Insightful)

r.freeman (2944629) | about 8 months ago | (#45988911)

What is the Nest. Do they mean like a natural nest build by bees or what - it is not clear form the summary, is it just me who doesn't find Nest an obvious thing like Apache or Linux that doesn't need introduction?

Re:What? (4, Informative)

_anomaly_ (127254) | about 8 months ago | (#45988985)

https://nest.com/ [nest.com] ...and their blog post about being acquired by google: https://nest.com/blog/2014/01/13/welcome-home/ [nest.com]

Re:What? (2)

unixisc (2429386) | about 8 months ago | (#45990023)

I agree. From the title, I thought it was about building an Open Source incubator or something of the sort

Re:What? (1)

MrBigInThePants (624986) | about 8 months ago | (#45990737)

Why on earth is he labelled troll?!

+1 for confusing headline....

Iron Man is real (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45988935)

...a team of engineers at Stark

Antbot? (2)

spiritplumber (1944222) | about 8 months ago | (#45988941)

OK, if this is the case, why in 2010 when we built an open source Android robot, the folks at Google literally told us that since they were trying to do the same thing, they would try to pretend we didn't exist? (They failed: It is hard to pretend something doesn't exist when it's humiliating you at Maker Faire, or making your hand bleed)

Re:Antbot? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990487)

Oh No! Not humiliated at Maker Faire! The Horror! They must have lost millions!

The hard part (5, Insightful)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 8 months ago | (#45988949)

The hard part isn't building a smart thermostat. The hard part is finding somebody simultaneously dumb enough and rich enough to pay $3.2 billion for a thermostat company.

Re:The hard part (4, Insightful)

DickBreath (207180) | about 8 months ago | (#45989015)

The hard part isn't building a smart thermostat. The hard part is building relationships will all those energy providers.

Re:The hard part (1)

us7892 (655683) | about 8 months ago | (#45989057)

Bingo!

Re:The hard part (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989183)

Why do you need that? On, how stupid of me. You live in a developing country.

Re:The hard part (1)

GameMaster (148118) | about 8 months ago | (#45989989)

Nah, if you're talking about the situation here in the US it seems to me that it's more of a de-developing country...

Re:The hard part (3, Informative)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 8 months ago | (#45989415)

The hard part isn't building a smart thermostat. The hard part is building relationships will all those energy providers.

True. The real growth is not in home owners, most of whom will never replace a thermostat, let alone spend $250 for one or more replacements. The market is the installers and manufacturers to include it with a unit or as an add on sale. My AC guy gives away a $200 (retail) thermostat if you buy a multi-year service plan so it's not a stretch to see them offer a Nest unit.

Umm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990603)

True. The real growth is not in home owners, most of whom will never replace a thermostat, let alone spend $250 for one or more replacements. The market is the installers and manufacturers to include it with a unit or as an add on sale.

Before 2006 (and well in to 2007 in many cases) there were a lot of businesses running on the belief that most cell phone users would never buy an $850 MSRP cellphone and that the "real" market is the carriers to include a phone with service plans.

Apple's made a whale of a profit out of proving those assumptions wrong.

Re:The hard part (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989717)

You really do have dick breath. Their relationships with "all those" energy providers offer zero benefit to anyone.

is that the play? (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 8 months ago | (#45989997)

so is that what Google is thinking w/ their 3.2 Billion?

they get energy companies and local installers to push these things and that's how they make a return on their investment?

it seems to me the profitability horizon is farther than the point at which the competition will be able to...um...compete.

energy companies have been at this for a long time, they are like IBM or AT&T in that they manage to stick around using old-school capitialism US big-biz style...google is an ad serving company known for its search and email

i'm saying energy companies, like my local PGE will develop their own more sensitive monitoring along side this

not that i'm criticizing google either...i'd love for them to buy one of my companies for a billion dollars

the A/C companies are stagnant (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989255)

The hard part is getting Lennox, Traine, or Carrier to build heaters and or air conditioners that can be controlled by USB or ethernet. That is what I want. None of this smart refrigerator crap, or Nest smart thermostat stuff.

Re:the A/C companies are stagnant (2)

necro81 (917438) | about 8 months ago | (#45989377)

build heaters and or air conditioners that can be controlled by USB or ethernet

Heaters and air conditions are largely operated by a single On/Off switch, controlling a 24VAC relay. It doesn't get much simpler than that. What would you want USB or ethernet for?

To avoid the need to wire... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989493)

I can't see much use for USB, but Wifi would make a lot of sense. You could move your thermostat, or perhaps install an additional one, without having to run another low-voltage line down to the basement. It would also allow more sophisticated communication than ON and OFF.

Re:To avoid the need to wire... (1)

skids (119237) | about 8 months ago | (#45990275)

Once you add security and reliability to a wifi receiver, you are talking a good more silicon per unit. Which is why cheezy consumer-grade WiFi toys are so often completely insecure and unreliable. Those of us that don't mind running the cable would do so to escape having a cheezy, unreliable, insecure system controlling our environmental systems.

Re:To avoid the need to wire... (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 8 months ago | (#45990649)

Hack for what purpose? You have to consider the value of the target and the value of your thermostat is virtually none. I mean, if you hacked ALL of them you might have enough compute power to add up to a single GPU mining bitcoin and that'd pull a hacker a cool $20-$30 a month (halved each week as difficulty increases).

Re:the A/C companies are stagnant (2)

AvitarX (172628) | about 8 months ago | (#45989525)

For better control of the stages?

For information back on how often a boiler is actually burning when "on"?

For unlimited flexibility in the HVAC system (number of devices, zones, etc, not limited by number of leads on a device)?

Those are off the top of my head.

Re:the A/C companies are stagnant (4, Interesting)

necro81 (917438) | about 8 months ago | (#45990107)

For information back on how often a boiler is actually burning when "on"

I built an Arduino-based datalogger for my 5-zone heating system for exactly this purpose. It senses the states of the 24VAC and 120VAC relays and converts them into timestamped logical On and Off. The output is a CSV files on an SD card. I didn't go the extra step of putting it on the network, although that'd be pretty easy. The tricky part is the visualization of the data: I spent almost as many hours developing scripts to (offline) post-process and display the data as I did laying out the custom shield and writing the firmware. It'd be swell if I could accomplish that on a Raspberry Pi, serving up a furnace dashboard and interactive history. But, really, I'm not interested enough to go that extra step, nor do I have the time.

So, yes, it would be neat if this functionality were already built into the HVAC equipment, but such a tiny minority of customers would be interested in it that no manufacturer would add the cost of it.

Re:the A/C companies are stagnant (2)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 8 months ago | (#45989659)

First, newer ones can have dual-stage (or even variable-speed) compressors.

Second, it wouldn't hurt to have monitoring/instrumentation so that you can monitor the efficiency of your system and tell when things are wrong.

Re:the A/C companies are stagnant (1)

necro81 (917438) | about 8 months ago | (#45990211)

Second, it wouldn't hurt to have monitoring/instrumentation so that you can monitor the efficiency of your system and tell when things are wrong

I can agree with that: I've personally outfit my furnace with various sensors as part of a homemade datalogging system. I couldn't find aftermarket products that did what I wanted for anything more than one or two zones. However, I don't think that the average consumer is interested in that kind of thing - not to the point of paying extra for it, anyway. I'd be very happy to be proven wrong, but when it comes to energy and efficiency I've found that most people couldn't care less.

Plus: HVAC equipment has a service life of 10-30 years. It may be that, by the time a problem does arise and the information would be useful, there isn't a computer system that knows how to talk to it. USB and Ethernet, as hardware layers, will probably still be around, but will the average computer in the future know how to talk to the furnace?

Re:the A/C companies are stagnant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990625)

First, newer ones can have dual-stage (or even variable-speed) compressors.

It's a pity that the Nest uses them so inefficiently.

Re:the A/C companies are stagnant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990595)

So you can directly control what 'stage' you want and when. Many new furnaces and air conditioners are 2 or 3 stage as well as having multi speed or variable speed blowers.

The way most work now is that when they get a 'call for service' (thermostat puts power on 1 wire) they turn on the lowest stage, and if the call for service is not satisfied after a pre-programmed time, like say 10 minutes, the higher stage 2 turns on, then 10 minutes later stage 3. The blower is usually fixed to a low speed when just the 'fan' is turned on the thermostat, and a fixed higher speed linked to the stage when call for service is on.

What would be nice with a 'smart' thermostat would be something like, in the winter, a setup where it knows the house schedule, knows the rough outside temp, and can make a decision to leave the system on the lower stage for a longer period of time for a slow rise in heat in the morning so you get to wake up to a warming house with heat continuously coming out of the vents. I have a 2 stage and when the heat turns up in the morning it is back up to set temp in like 20 minutes.. so I get to hop out of the shower with a cold draft instead of warm.
Likewise in summer it might run on the low stage all day long even if it gets a few degrees above the set temp so that it can do better dehumidification and save energy while keeping the house cool enough for comfort.
It would also be nice if it knew it was a nice day out, you tell it the windows are open (or you have your window security sensors linked) and so it decides to run the blower on high to provide air circulation and knows not to run the heating or cooling.

A couple simple wires to tell it call for service and fan is not enough to communicate this. A good chap standard would be Ethernet.

Re:the A/C companies are stagnant (2)

mspohr (589790) | about 8 months ago | (#45989839)

I just replaced my heating system with one from Carrier. It includes an "Infinity" thermostat which uses WiFi to connect to the Internet. I can control it over the Internet from my PC or phone as well as get notifications of status and service alerts. It has a nice display which shows the weather, also. Gives me historical energy use.
It's not as "smart" as the Nest (it's not watching me and my activity) which I think is a good thing.
Google wants the data and wants to be an intermediary with the energy companies.

Re:The hard part (4, Insightful)

Lorens (597774) | about 8 months ago | (#45989355)

No, the hard part is writing a summary that doesn't leave the reader lost and perplexed at the third word.

Re:The hard part (5, Interesting)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 8 months ago | (#45989387)

The hard part isn't building a smart thermostat.

Meh. The hard part is realizing that you should NOT be trying to build a thermostat, period. Static temperature is relatively useless for comfort, which is why people end up moving the thing up and down all the time.

Our bodies don't sense temperature directly. They sense heat transfer, which involves evaporation rate of perspiration in addition to convection. This is the basis of "wind chill" (increased convection increases heat loss) and "heat index" (humidity reduces evaporation).

If there were actually a smart tech company out there designing such a thing, it would do something like keep a relatively constant dew point in the summer. The temperature is irrelevant. It can be 82 degrees and perfectly comfortable in my house, but on other days it can be 70 and unbearably stuffy. Cooling the house on hot non-humid days is stupid; having to adjust the thermostat down on cooler humid days just adds cost. (This is relevant in the winter as well. When it's really dry in the house, you often need a different temperature to maintain comfort than when humidity is at normal levels.)

It would be much more efficient to just stop the whole "thermostat" idea altogether... if we're really after "comfort" with least energy expenditure, why not program our houses to respond to what actually makes us comfortable (which is a more complicated formula taking humidity and temperature into account), rather than a scientific abstraction like temperature that has little human relevance?

Re:The hard part (4, Interesting)

Qzukk (229616) | about 8 months ago | (#45989479)

1000x this. HVAC controls should be about comfort, not temperature.

I'd also love to see a "thermostat" with a "dehumidify" button: run for the next 15 minutes no matter what the temperature is. That'll fix both cool/damp and warm/muggy. And also feel great when I come in after the yardwork drenched in sweat and want to stand in front of the register with cool air coming from it.

Re:The hard part (2)

north.coaster (136450) | about 8 months ago | (#45990557)

All of this sounds good on paper, but what I would like to see is some detailed information on how to translate "comfort" into an algorithm that can be used to control a furnace and/or air conditioner. Then get the folks who developed the "open source 'nest' " to implement the algorithm.

Pretty Sure Nest Does This (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 8 months ago | (#45989617)

In the summer you can use the AC to dehumidify, also, it handles humidifier/dehumidifier.

Re:The hard part (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989923)

the Nest can use your AC to dehumidify the house. Not as good a way as using a real dehumidifier but it gets the job done.

Not that I use the feature, it's regularly below 30% humidity in the desert.

Re:The hard part (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990463)

Interesting... the original AC unit was designed precisely to keep a newspaper's printing room at a specific humidity level -- the temperature control was just an added bonus. That's why we call it an air conditioner instead of an air temperature regulator.

the Nest does *not* do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990721)

the Nest can use your AC to dehumidify the house. Not as good a way as using a real dehumidifier but it gets the job done.

Not that I use the feature, it's regularly below 30% humidity in the desert.

I *have* tried to use the feature -- it does not work.

All the Nest offers is a choice to run the A/C until the temp gets to 3 degrees below the temp target you set. If you set a temp target of 80 degrees during the summer days then the Nest will not run the A/C if the temp is 77 degrees even when it detects a humidity level of 65%.

The more I try to use the Nest the more obvious it becomes that the developers either live somewhere where the climate is always mild or they are accustomed to wasting more energy on their home HVAC than Al Gore does.

Re:The hard part (1)

davids-world.com (551216) | about 8 months ago | (#45989789)

If you think of a thermostat as a device that closes a switch when the temperature is below or above a set point, you're certainly right. But if you had some vision, you would see a new generation of devices, "smart homes", real-life ubiquitous computing, energy sustainability, and opportunities for data-mining or even networked intelligence. That's why I have two Nests - right now it's just good-looking and convenient (remote control!), but I'm adopting technology that, in a few years, may change the way I live.

Re:The hard part (1)

TheloniousToady (3343045) | about 8 months ago | (#45990141)

Here's my vision...I see a vision of...Larry and Sergei needing "adult supervision" again from Eric so they don't pay way too much for The Next Cool thing.

It's not about buying Nest (though you'd think Larry and Sergei could invent cool stuff themselves...) but it's about paying way too much for it.

Re:The hard part (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990203)

So I guess you're too stupid to buy a $20 programmable thermostat and program in your schedule?
That's the only market for Nest thermostats I can fathom.

Re:The hard part (1)

FilmedInNoir (1392323) | about 8 months ago | (#45990081)

I'm worried of the ULC.

This is great (2)

rtkluttz (244325) | about 8 months ago | (#45988951)

I actually only heard about Nest about a month ago and was VERY interested until I found out it was cloud based. I immediately typed a complaint to them about it. I'm very happy Google is heading this way with it. Even if Googles open solution is still cloud based, it should open API's and communication documentation so that people like me who are NOT interested in giving control of my house to a cloud app under someone elses control that can sometimes override by proxy. I'm a security concious guy and I simply do not want my homes firewall open to anyone but me. My phone or tablet should connect DIRECTLY to my in home equipment or server without anyone else having to be involved.

Re:This is great (1)

JimNTonik (1097185) | about 8 months ago | (#45989067)

What do you possibly have in your house that it's worth somebody's time to hack your thermostat?

Re:This is great (1)

operagost (62405) | about 8 months ago | (#45989225)

The energy lobby.

Re:This is great (1)

berashith (222128) | about 8 months ago | (#45989249)

I ask the opposite question. If the thermostat can be controlled across my wireless network with a phone or tablet, why do I have to go to the internet to do it? I like the idea, and even the remote control aspect could be useful, but I havent figured out how optional that is, or if it is an all or nothing proposition.

Re:This is great (2)

braeldiil (1349569) | about 8 months ago | (#45990631)

Since I have a Nest (and love it), here's the scoop: It doesn't have to be connected to the internet at all. It would work just fine as a standalone thermostat. Most of the functions would be harder to use (only so much you can do when you have 1 button and a wheel), but as far as I can tell they're all there. The web access provides an easier-to-use interface to the Nest. I don't use it much - it did a good job of learning my schedule, so mostly I use the web interface to turn stuff on at the airport after trips. There's some reporting and statistics, but those are mostly fluff.

Re:This is great (2)

c0d3g33k (102699) | about 8 months ago | (#45989281)

What do you possibly have in your house that it's worth somebody's time to hack your thermostat?

The concern isn't necessarily about what's in the house (though putting the pets at risk due to extreme heat/cold could result from a hack). It's the information gathered by the thermostat(s) that has value. There's the usual metadata that can be added to your "profile" for purposes of advertisement. The Nest and similar devices can also reveal information about your habits, like when you are present/absent from the house, how long, time spent in each room (the Nest has a motion sensor). That could be useful for thieves, govt or law enforcement officials interested in knowing when the house is unoccupied or where you are likely to be should they wish to find you.

Re:This is great (1)

JimNTonik (1097185) | about 8 months ago | (#45989427)

Assuming that the data is reliable in any way. I have a Nest, and I've turned off auto away because it was awful at predicting when I'd actually left the house. It could be useful in theory, but in practice it's a lot less accurate than you're giving them credit for. Is the Nest collecting data about you? Sure. Is that data likely to be useful against you in anyway, very unlikely.

Re:This is great (1)

Kardos (1348077) | about 8 months ago | (#45989967)

> It could be useful in theory, but in practice it's a lot less accurate than you're giving them credit for.

You're fixating on the current version. Don't think it'll get better with time?

Re:This is great (1)

JimNTonik (1097185) | about 8 months ago | (#45990061)

No, I don't.

Re:This is great (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989603)

At risk: my other computer equipment and embedded devices.

Take a look at shodanhq.com, then perform the following steps.

1) Hack my Internet-accessible thermostat. You now have a conduit onto my home network.
2) Use the thermostat to attack the other devices in my house, or for that matter anything on the Internet. This has already been done (http://internetcensus2012.bitbucket.org/paper.html).
3) Do whatever you like. Steal information you consider interesting, sell access to any systems you compromise, or whatever. purpose. you. choose.

Moral: don't assume that the value of access to your devices is based solely on their *intended* use, or that your equipment will be compromised solely based on how interesting a target *you* are.

Want to sell a wifi-enabled thermostat? I still don't think it's a good idea at this time, but go ahead. Just ensure that the default settings have the radio turned off, and that I can leave it disabled forever. Yes, most people will still make bad choices based on convenience plus ignorance of the cost and risk. But it's a start.

--klodefactor

Re:This is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989069)

lol google open it up? Have you not realized they've been *closing* APIs to prevent people from avoiding Google+ and their display ads? Where have you been the past 3 years.

Re:This is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989073)

If your thermostat is not separated from the internet by a spark gap, the NSA will be able to adjust your house's temperate AT ANY TIME! Hell, a tur'rist couple probably cycle your furnace on/off in such a way as to produce carbon monoxide and ASSASSINATE YOU!

aw man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989203)

You trust Google over Nest?

hahahahaha

Re:This is great (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989303)

I'm a security concious guy and I simply do not want my homes firewall open to anyone but me

You can run more than one network in your house. They can even have difference security configurations.

Re:This is great (1)

DogDude (805747) | about 8 months ago | (#45989745)

. My phone or tablet should connect DIRECTLY to my in home equipment or server without anyone else having to be involved.

Hahahaha! Now what happens when some bad software gets root on the gadget you use to talk to your house?

And while we're at it, why do you need to control your house temperature with anything other than your finger pushing a button on the thermostat? Is there some level of complexity to a thermostat that I'm missing? Is your thermostat located somewhere other than inside your house? Do you have some interesting situation that would require you to remotely change the temperature of your house? If so, what is it (the situation)?

I'm a security concious guy

If that were true, you'd walk over to your thermostat on the wall and push a button.

Re:This is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990327)

The only cases that I can think of (for me) are (assuming winter) .. I'm at work and forgot to turn it down to save on energy use (etc..) or I turned it down, and I'm coming back early so can it start to warm up when I'm (x) minutes away?

Or similarly .. did I leave it turned up/down? I forget..

patents ruining the day again (3, Insightful)

StripedCow (776465) | about 8 months ago | (#45988955)

But we are saying that you can build a $3.2 billion company, and it's easier now than it's ever been before.

Were it not for patents...

Re:patents ruining the day again (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989123)

Who do I believe? The people who do it or the slackers on Slashdork who blame everyone but themselves?

the technical ens is not the problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989083)

"We're not saying that you can build a $3.2 billion company in a day. But we are saying that you can build a $3.2 billion company, and it's easier now than it's ever been before."

Doing the technical development is not the issue. It's the damn lawyers and patent trolls that will soak up millions and years...

What article? (2)

colin_faber (1083673) | about 8 months ago | (#45989163)

Am I missing something here? Where's the link to the article referenced by Mr. AC.

Re:What article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989961)

Thanks to Google (the irony!), here's an article about it: http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/17/spark-io-hackers-make-an-open-source-nest-thermostat/

Re:What article? (1)

brainspank (515274) | about 8 months ago | (#45990271)

the post is a secret poll to see who reads TFA.

Re:What article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990541)

The first rule of Open Source Nest is you don't talk about Open Source Nest.

Re:What article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990821)

http://blog.spark.io/2014/01/17/open-source-thermostat/

Google's ego: never knowingly underrated. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989201)

This reminds me of an undergrad electronics project ~20 years ago. I suppose it was maybe 16 hours of work spread over a couple of weeks, and that was with no domain background. There's nothing new or difficult here - it's like those "build an AM radio in a minute" videos on Youtube, which demonstrate routine knowledge and good manual dexterity, but not groundbreaking achievement. I couldn't see a practical application then, and I don't see one now.

But the world's moved on, people are a lot stupider, and Google's a data-mining company who manage to sell any old nonsense to anyone (pro-tip: just because I read about expensive cars last week, it doesn't mean that I have $200k to drop on a car regularly over the next few weeks). So, I can see them convincing people to buy this crap.

So why didn't you do it first? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989205)

It's pretty easy to build a version of most things once there's a working example in front of you - the real value is doing it first, not just copying.

Re:So why didn't you do it first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989353)

Or, in other words, product development isn't just "engineering".

Re:So why didn't you do it first? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 8 months ago | (#45989551)

Thermostats aren't exactly complicated. There have been electronic ones around for a long time and the idea of "smart" thermostats for even longer. Connecting things to smartphones is also not a new idea.

If you're saying that Nest didn't do anything all that impressive, I'm with you. Their thermostat is pretty. If it worked well it would be a reasonable offering. But I don't see how it's worth 3.2 billion dollars.

This would seem likely to be another insanely overpriced acquisition that will either end up at a fraction of it's value in a few years or get merged into the rest of the company to hide the loss.

Re:So why didn't you do it first? (1)

torkus (1133985) | about 8 months ago | (#45989857)

It's worth it for a few reasons...

- home automation has been struggling along...quirky, expensive, not quite there. Yet. Nest is one of the few that's made it without turning into x11 crap from china. People are far more likely to allow home.google.com to automate their house than xyzautomagic5567.ru

- metadata is valuable. Even if it's not perfect it's still far better than none for ... so many people. Look at google's cross-platform information usage. Google knows you're married, you google christian dating and 3 weeks later herpes medicine...the following week you get adds for divorce lawyers :) I'm exaggerating a bit but if google knows your home why not display adds for seamless around dinner time? If you set an away for 2 weeks...how about house monitoring / security services?

- The reputation of the company and the inventiveness of the execs has value too. Who else could make a THERMOSTAT cool? Seriously.

- one more way google (and everyone else) can laugh at scada exploits ... or /TinHatOn/ allow the gov't to take over our houses

- on a larger scale contracting with power companies for things like optional temp adjustment on high demand days in return for reduced charges (i.e. raise AC by 2 degrees when it's 105 out and in return your days power costs 20% less...and the power co avoids having to buy expensive power from out of state or go to brown-out conditions)

etc. etc. etc.

There are many reasons if you take a long term view. Looking at just the thing on the wall? Well they still managed to sell an audrino and temp sensor for $250. That's worth something :)

Re:So why didn't you do it first? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 8 months ago | (#45990607)

1. It still is. Nest is a niche company that accounts for a tiny fraction of thermostat installs. People are going to love it when nest.google.com isn't getting the adoption Google would like and they decide to shut it down. Google's track record with hardware is... horrible. Actually, Google's track record with software is pretty bad too.

2. Bingo. That's what Google wants. More data on you so they can sell you stuff. Is it worth 3.2 billion? Maybe. Google undoubtedly knows better than I do. Either way, Google didn't buy Nest because thermostats are hard to make. It bought Nest because it wants to monitor what temperature your house is set at.

3. There are cheaper ways to hire people than paying 3.2 billion dollars for the company they work for. Google is a much bigger, better known, better respected name than Nest. If they actually want to sell thermometers, the first thing they'll do is retire the Nest name. Kinda like they're doing with Motorola Mobility.

4. Google isn't going to be laughing at SCADA exploits. They've now made themselves responsible for some of them.

5. Does Nest contract with power companies? I don't see that on their web page. Are you making stuff up now? Sure Google COULD do that in the future, but they could also do that with a Google thermostat instead of a Nest thermostat.

That's what the woodpecker recently asked me. (1, Offtopic)

vikingpower (768921) | about 8 months ago | (#45989217)

We met in the backyard, where he took a rest from hauling a crate of beer to his hole in the ash tree. The woodpecker said "Hey dude, you are rambling on about open source and FOSS all the time. Could you get me an open source nest, by any chance ? Us woodpeckers are rather into the proprietary model, we all have our own beak. But mine has signs of wear, and the price of new ones is too high." "Sure", I replied, "Apache Nest might be something for you. Or otherwise, check out jNest on github." Last I heard about him, he was founding a business - together with some raven from the neighbourhood - for 3d-printing spare beaks.

Re:That's what the woodpecker recently asked me. (3, Funny)

c0d3g33k (102699) | about 8 months ago | (#45989655)

What did the fox say?

Re:That's what the woodpecker recently asked me. (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about 8 months ago | (#45990621)

Abay-ba-da bum-bum bay-do

Fox language is Turing-complete, as everybody knows.

Been there done that (5, Insightful)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 8 months ago | (#45989295)

Throughout the years I have seen instances of precisely this kind of arrogance in various forms.

Everything always "seems easy" at first glance on the surface. This is more often than not a reflection of gaps in ones understanding or failure to consider the problem space with sufficient detail.

The other major issue is failure to understand the sometimes monumental difference between building something that "works for me" vs "works for everyone".

Anyone can hack together an arduino that flips a relay when temperature sensor reads outside of a certain threshold and package it up to look like a cheap version of the nest. This proves precisely NOTHING in my estimation.

Re:Been there done that (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 8 months ago | (#45989733)

Maybe Nest should reproduce google in a few hours: wget -r -O -http:/ /yahoo.com | grep boobies

Re:Been there done that (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 8 months ago | (#45989759)

Quite. Nest is internet connected, and that means security. What are the chances this thing isn't easily hackable? Keep in mind that someone with no clue about security needs to be able to install and operate it. Where is the smartphone app to go with it?

Re:Been there done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990057)

I've had a wireless, learning thermostat for 7 years at least ( I know we refinanced 7 years ago and it was in well before that). The only difference here is that this ignorant device is dependent on 'the cloud' and also means that its remotely influenced.

They took a fine idea, and did stupid shit to it, and then had a marketing budget. Thats it.

Yes, polish is important, but its a thermostat,, all it has to do is keep the temperature. It doesn't have to look pretty to compete with the competition cause NONE of them waste time on pretty ... its a thermostat.

There is nothing on the NEST that is 'first' or 'better' than whats already come before it other than marketing and having the VC to pay to put it in stores like Home Depot and Lowes.

It's easy (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 8 months ago | (#45989343)

From TFS: It looks surprisingly good for such a short development cycle

It's trivially easy to *look* good - being functional is somewhat harder.

And building a 3.5 billion dollar company is just a *little* bit harder than writing a few scraps of code and soldering some bits together.

Re:It's easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989561)

And building a 3.5 billion dollar company is just a *little* bit harder than writing a few scraps of code and soldering some bits together.

Shhh, don't talk about the emperor like that. Google wants you to believe that it is superior engineering talent that keeps them where they are.

Re:It's easy (2)

Random2 (1412773) | about 8 months ago | (#45989653)

Soldering the bits together? Isn't that what Monster Cables do to get them there faster?

That seems to be worth a lot of money....

All you need now... (1)

slapout (93640) | about 8 months ago | (#45989365)

...is an open source bird to live in it.

Re:All you need now... (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 8 months ago | (#45990101)

That lays open source eggs

Typical Open Source Fan post (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 8 months ago | (#45989375)

Yes .. the raw materials cost $70.

But how much of the CNC machine, the laser cutter, their time and also the time needed to come up to speed to know how to combine these items into one product? (and thats not even allowing for the design and marketing time that should be credited to Nest of actually coming up with a concept that sells)

If anything I'd say the real cost of this prototype is in the range of $20k at the very least.

Re:Typical Open Source Fan post (5, Informative)

kwalker (1383) | about 8 months ago | (#45989495)

Or, you know, use hand tools...

They're not saying they could build Nest for $70 in parts, they're saying they built a nest-clone device in less than 24 hours for about $70 in parts. Their time was theirs to spend, and they're not "marketing" this.

Re:Typical Open Source Fan post (1)

OzPeter (195038) | about 8 months ago | (#45989699)

Or, you know, use hand tools...

They're not saying they could build Nest for $70 in parts, they're saying they built a nest-clone device in less than 24 hours for about $70 in parts. Their time was theirs to spend, and they're not "marketing" this.

Which is like saying that if you live in NYC that its cheap to buy takeout food for $70 from a hip restaurant in LA .. but not mentioning the private jet you used to fly you there.

Re:Typical Open Source Fan post (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 8 months ago | (#45989649)

So what? The cost of the raw materials is more indicative of what it would cost to get a final product manufactured than the prototype price, including everything. It actually seems to me their cost is a little high, probably because they've built a local thermostat instead of a cloud one.

Re:Typical Open Source Fan post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45990483)

It costs about that ($37 for components on top of $39 for their device) http://octopart.com/bom-lookup/x7lnOrCu

I don't understand the draw (2)

sideslash (1865434) | about 8 months ago | (#45989399)

I love the idea of home automation, and have been involved in a couple significant DIY projects involving my own scripting (no custom electronics design, that's not my skill). I've focused on things like multi room audio and intelligent video surveillance. If somebody offered me a $250 thermostat (yes, I saw that they did it for $70 here), my response is "really? Isn't that kind of... boring?"
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that they're innovating in the thermostat space. But I want much, much more than that.

Cold zones (5, Informative)

unixcorn (120825) | about 8 months ago | (#45989433)

I just bought a new thermostat. I really wanted a Nest because of it's cool factor however, I ended up buying a Honeywell. First, the Nest isn't as advanced; for example, the Honeywell has some features that allow me to run the fan periodically throughout the cycles. It also allows me to add an additional "slave" thermostat and average the temperature between my upper and lower levels. While the Nest allows you to view multiple thermostats in a single interface each stat required separate HVAC systems. The Honeywell also comes with a remote control that sense the temperature where you are sitting and will adjust the set point to make you comfortable. The bottom line is that sometimes new and cool isn't as good as tried and true when you actually do some research.

Re:Cold zones (1)

Jaruzel (804522) | about 8 months ago | (#45989881)

Mind sharing which Honeywell it was that you bought?

I've recently swapped out an old rotary one for a DT90E, and I'm really not happy with it - it keeps flicking the boiler on/off too often :(

Thanks.

Re:Cold zones (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989975)

I wish you'd put a Honeywell Automatic Apostrophe detector on your keyboard. it's means IT IS. You wanted a Nest for it is cool factor?

Arduino (1)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 8 months ago | (#45989581)

Arduino-based thermostat projects have been around for some time, and some are networked. Easy to DIY and can be done for under $100. Google around.

BTW, I have had my Proliphix network thermostat for more than 5 years now and still very happy with it.

It's a fucking thermostat (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989637)

You set it. It controls the heater. Jesus fucking christ already, this is where we're at in 2014?

Replacing the software on the Nest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45989645)

I wonder how long it will be before the Nest software is reverse-engineered and an open source replacement for it is available, as has been done with router firmware and almost done with the add-ons for Canon camera software (CHDK). From what I can tell, there's nothing wrong with Nest's hardware, but a lot of people would like a different cloud and remote access model.

Re:Replacing the software on the Nest (2)

chaim79 (898507) | about 8 months ago | (#45990319)

I am ready to look into that, I have a nest (1st gen) and experience and tools in embedded development, looking at the mainboard [cloudfront.net] (reverse side) [cloudfront.net] for the nest there are plenty of touchpoints and even a set of contacts, how much you want to bet the JTAG interface for the Microprocessor is exposed letting someone (like me) install my own software?

Right now I'm looking around to see if anyone else has started this effort, no takers thus far but maybe that's just my search-fu being weak.

WTF is an acquisitiona (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 8 months ago | (#45989905)

Acquisitiona? Isn't that Portuguese for credit note or something?

First sentence is incorrect... (1)

ilikenwf (1139495) | about 8 months ago | (#45990045)

What's with the run on, incomplete sentence?

Soulskill, you suck (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 8 months ago | (#45990051)

Why do we call the people who put Slashdot stories up "editors"?

Google's recent acquisitiona

Four words in and you've already a word.

they've posted their code on Github. The article...

What article would that be? Oh, if only there was a way of providing easy access to it via some kind of clickable "link [spark.io] "!

The weird part (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 8 months ago | (#45990567)

About ten years ago, even evil Honeywell offered programmable thermostats in the classic round form. Now? Can't find one. I'd like to replace the current thermostat, but it's mounted on a large, round escutcheon and placing a rectangular box in the center of that would look too stupid to tolerate.
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