By Beth Anne McPheeters
A year ago, would anybody have thought that the product development we saw this year at CES would be inspired by an innovation to, of all things, a thermostat? Yes, a thermostat.
This thermostat was introduced by a brand called Nest, of which I am a big fan. I don’t own one, but I do look at them longingly on my trips to Home Depot. The brand’s first blog entry clearly explains why thermostats were the choice for innovation: heating and cooling costs make up about 50% of an energy bill, and therefore were a logical place to try and find solutions for homeowners. Also, it’s pretty.
At this year’s CES, there were a number of new innovations introduced that were related to the Nest thermostat idea. The Aurora Sleep System will tell your thermostat when you go to sleep and when you wake up, allowing the thermostat to customize the temperature to fit your needs. Whirlpool introduced a dryer that can help keep your clothes fresh and wrinkle-free while you’re away, or even delay cycles during peak energy times. The Kevo Smart Lock can tell Nest who is entering the home and what temperature they like.
This is amazing. Think about it. A thermostat. Something that is present in nearly every consumer’s home, but often not given a second thought until it doesn't work. But Nest truly is more than just that. It is bringing the thermostat into the list of must-have for the latest and greatest technology, along the lines of the TV and computer industries. Additionally, it really was the first major entrant into the “smart home” accessible at the consumer level.
The smart home concept is a brand of the “Internet of Things” concept, focusing on how a variety of devices can increase connectivity of the “things.” A number of keynote speeches at this year’s CES on Internet of Things-related topics, much like a few keynotes did last year. And while general consumers may still be learning this term, they do understand the value of connection. And a consumer understands the benefit of energy efficiency, especially when it affects monthly budgets. It will be interesting to see what other innovations come to market that work specifically with Nest, or whether there are other brands who take the lead in the space.
An interesting aspect of the Internet of Things perspective is that, in reality, it doesn't qualify as an innovative idea. It’s not a thought that is brand new, the cause of light-bulb moments for companies around the world.
In fact, from a B2B standpoint, the Internet of Things has impacted innovation leading to more efficient ways to gather data, and then leverage and use this data to make better decisions. Amazing case studies about the London Underground or GE’s Industrial Internet used with locomotives can be found across the Web. From a consumer standpoint, the market has been trending toward the connectivity of devices big and small, from those for whom a connection seems obvious to devices you never thought should or would be connected (i.e., a bedside table light you can turn on with your smartphone – even when there is a chance you would be reaching PAST the light to grab your phone to turn on said light).
But connectivity is quickly shedding its “trend” status and showing that it will be a leading factor for a long time in product development. The consumer is becoming more and more reliant on a few products that will control their lives, whether it be a smartphone, tablet, or yes, a thermostat.