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Google's Business Plan For Nest: Selling Your Data To Utility Companies 167

Posted by timothy
from the selling-to-burglars-would-be-wrong dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "Google spent $3.2 billion on Nest. How is it going to make its money back selling high-end electronic thermostats at $250 a pop? Well, keep in mind that Google is a company that makes its money off information, not hardware. In fact, Nest is developing a healthy revenue stream in which it sells aggregated user information to utility companies, to help them more efficiently plan their electricity-generation scheduling. The subscriptions net Google somewhere in the range of $40 per user per year."
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Google's Business Plan For Nest: Selling Your Data To Utility Companies

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  • by scorp1us (235526) on Friday April 25, 2014 @11:32AM (#46841277) Journal

    The power company already knows how much I use and when. In fact they send me this energy statement saying I'm using 10% more than my neighbors.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 25, 2014 @11:43AM (#46841371)

      But they don't specifically know how much energy goes into heating and AC, vs. other household uses.

      Say it looks like there's going to be a heat wave next week, it's going to be 100+ for a couple weeks straight, how much extra energy are you going to use (and by extension everyone else like you). If you're using 10% more energy than your neighbors because you're growing pot your increased demand is going to be lower than if you use 10% more energy because you keep the house at 55 degrees to slow the decay of your roadkill collection.

      • by Entropius (188861) on Friday April 25, 2014 @12:29PM (#46841885)

        I keep my roadkill collection at 30 below in a well-insulated laboratory freezer. It's far more efficient (and the pot likes temps above 55).

      • But they don't specifically know how much energy goes into heating and AC, vs. other household uses.

        My furnace is gas and my AC is electric. All other sources of electric and gas are fairly consistent from month to month. My furnace accounts for the vast majority of seasonal variation in my heating bill and AC the same for my electric bill. So yeah, my electric company knows what I use for heating and AC vs everything else. Nest might give them a slightly more accurate picture but not that much.

      • by Albanach (527650)

        The real value should be in automatically increasing my thermostat temperature at times of peak demand.

        If every household could temporarily increase the thermostat temperature when demand is highest, there should be significant potential to reduce the cost of electricity production. Currently there's a need to maintain generating equipment that is normally unused by which can be quickly ramped up when loads peak.

        Of course, ensuring those savings get passed on to customers rather than shareholders is a much

        • by rk (6314)

          My electric company has me on a smart meter that knows my electric consumption at least on an hourly basis and I'm on a time of use plan where I pay a lot less for power during non-peak times and more during peak (peak time is 0500-0900 and 1700-2100 from November to April 1300-2000 from May to October; I'm in the Phoenix metro area). It saves me about 3-4 hundred dollars a year. Doing things like running turning the temp up a couple degrees in the day and running the pool filter during non-peak makes a hug

      • by mysidia (191772)

        If you're using 10% more energy than your neighbors because you're growing pot your increased demand is going to be lower than ...

        So the next buyer of this information is law enforcement.

        On second thought.... they can just wait until the power companies buy the information, and then send them an order to hand over a copy of all the data, for investigative purposes.

        • According to http://www.tokeofthetown.com/2011/03/utilities_are_a_cops_best_friend_finding_marijuana.php [tokeofthetown.com], police have been doing this for years. "At least 60 such subpoenas are filed every month in Ohio alone, reports Dean Narciso at The Columbus Dispatch."
          • by mysidia (191772)

            police have been doing this for years.

            Yeah... but they didn't have information about what portion of the energy usage was heat/air conditioning and what portion of the energy usage was 'other stuff'

            If they can get that information, then they can more efficiently target energy usage for 'other stuff'' and just a search warrant for all properties whose 'other stuff' usage is more than a standard deviation above the mean.

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >The power company already knows how much I use and when. In fact they send me this energy statement saying I'm using 10% more than my neighbors.

      Yeah. I just can't see the value in shelling out 40 bucks a person (which can be a substantial chunk of their revenue, okay maybe not for PG&E but in sane parts of the country) when they already have time of day usage stats, and have upgraded to SmartMeters in most places.

      • Maybe they are also selling the utilities other info besides just the thermostat settings - obviously the big G has other probes into your life and perhaps they are correlating the power use info with data gleaned from other products / sources (like that camera in the Nest smoke detector - say 'Hi' to your cameraman).

      • by lgw (121541)

        Depends on what data Nest collects. Bet it can't figure out your sex habits?

        • Depends on what data Nest collects. Bet it can't figure out your sex habits?

          This is slashdot ... "alone, in his mother's basement". What else is there to figure out?

    • by unimacs (597299) on Friday April 25, 2014 @12:12PM (#46841673)
      The utility company doesn't know when you go to bed at night, when you get up in the morning, when you leave for the day, and when you get back. The NEST does.

      Further the NEST knows how long it takes to warm or cool your home to a given setting as it relates to weather conditions. The NEST knows how quickly your home loses heat in the winter and how fast it heats up in the summer.
    • It's the schedule. You have your thermostat set to turn the air on at 6am and go off at 8pm. The power company knows what you had it set to yesterday, but they do not know what it's set to today. Did you just press the hold button? Turn it off? All of this could give power companies great insight into what their electrical load will be like ahead of time.

    • by Kimomaru (2579489)
      Yeah, but they don't know what color pants your wearing.
    • But how does that relate to your temperature in your home.
      You may be using 10% more just because you have a couple extra PCs running all the time.

      But if your home uses 10% more energy per other homes considering changes in temperature. That could mean that you may get some sort of deal on insulation, or weatherizing your home. Perhaps they may charge you more because you run the AC with the windows open.

    • With a traditional meter they know how much you used but not when and not on what.

      A "smart meter" tells them the when. If the want to know "on what" they will need other sensors reporting to them.

      What they really want of course is the ability to do "demand side mangement". To be able to cut off the highest peaks by turning off peoples freezer or AC for short periods.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      In fact they send me this energy statement saying I'm using 10% more than my neighbors.

      And all your neighbors except one probably receive an energy statement saying that they use 10% more than their neighbors.

  • by MikeMo (521697) on Friday April 25, 2014 @11:33AM (#46841289)
    Remember, with Google, you - and what you do online - are their product. That information, and your "eyeballs" are what they sell. Expect them to behave accordingly.
    • by Kenja (541830)
      And with Microsoft, Facebook, and any other company that provides a "free" product. It's shocking how many people don't figure that out and seem to think these companies are just acting magnanimously to provide services.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Except that the Nest thermostat is anything but free. Sure, the cloud services to let you control your thermostat from outside your house are free, but the hardware itself is quite expensive. I wonder if there's any open source alternatives that would allow you to remotely control your thermostat, while not requiring some cloud provider. Your phone could directly connect to the thermostat when you open a hole in your router. Perhaps a little too difficult for most home users, but certainly something that
    • by alen (225700)

      this is true, but in a lot of cases companies having detailed data is better for everyone

      if your utility had detailed usage for every minute of the day in every location they could plan and only build out extra capacity in the right locations instead of the entire footprint
      same with wireless carriers

      everyone loves to complain how the local government or utility is dumb and doesn't build out in the right place, but once you try to provide them the data people complain about privacy

      • by j_l_cgull (129101)

        Perhaps people won't complain about privacy if the utility provider is the entity that builds and uses the data monitoring system, instead of a third party entity ?

      • If you were growing pot in your barn, you might have a different opinion.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          If you were growing pot in your barn, you might have a different opinion.

          I don't have a barn you insensitive clod. ;-)

    • by ranton (36917)

      Remember, with Google, you - and what you do online - are their product. That information, and your "eyeballs" are what they sell. Expect them to behave accordingly.

      And thank god that companies like Google have found ways of turning me into a valuable product without any effort on my part. It has taken a lot of work to turn myself into a product that I can sell to employers for a good paycheck. But Google and Facebook provide best in class services to me for free and all I have to do in return is use them.

      • But Google and Facebook provide best in class services to me for free and all I have to do in return is use them.

        If only that were the case. I never wanted a Google+ account, and never used it. But Google created one anyway when I signed up for another service.

        Not only that, but Google collect data on you even of you don't sign up for any of their services. They spy on you via adverts on third party websites.

        There's nothing wrong with you choosing to exchange your privacy in return for "free" services. The problem is them collecting data from people who haven't agreed to that arrangement.

        • by ranton (36917)

          But Google and Facebook provide best in class services to me for free and all I have to do in return is use them.

          If only that were the case. I never wanted a Google+ account, and never used it. But Google created one anyway when I signed up for another service.

          Not only that, but Google collect data on you even of you don't sign up for any of their services. They spy on you via adverts on third party websites.

          There's nothing wrong with you choosing to exchange your privacy in return for "free" services. The problem is them collecting data from people who haven't agreed to that arrangement.

          If Google is automatically creating a Google+ account, its only because you are using other Google services that are basically being funded by their search and advertising money. And if you are being tracked by 3rd party adverts that is because you are visiting sites that are funded by Google adverts revenue, so you are still taking advantage of their "free" services.

          • If Google is automatically creating a Google+ account, its only because you are using other Google services that are basically being funded by their search and advertising money.

            Right. And so I may be willing to agree to that trade off with some of their services and not others. They are pushing other services on me. It's a land grab and it's a shyster move.

            And if you are being tracked by 3rd party adverts that is because you are visiting sites that are funded by Google adverts revenue, so you are still taking advantage of their "free" services.

            Wrong. Third party sites have their arrangement with Google. FOR ADVERTS. That does not mean Google have any call on my data. I've made no arrangement with them. Google should only get something out of it if I respond to their advert.

    • You say that like it's a bad thing. As far as I'm concerned, I love the fact that I can trade demographic data for various online services. I'd far rather give them that than have to shell out real money. And as a bonus, I get ads that are potentially actually useful to me, rather than (say) feminine hygiene products.
      • by Hentes (2461350)

        But in this case, you have to shell out real money. And after paying $250 for a glorified bimetal, selling your data on top of that is a cheap moneygrab.

    • by mi (197448)

      You are quite right. And yet, I can't shake the feeling of respect for them — they are doing a much better job collecting and using the data, than the government agencies do. Surely, Department of Energy (for just one example) would love to have such details of our energy use. But they can not and — run by bureaucrats and politicians, rather than profit-motivated free people — will never able to.

      Intelligent energy-use would be very helpful in reducing costs, waste and pollution. Somebody

    • really dr. truth? tell me more.

      yes, the inevitable post that thinks it's going to shatter our perceptions of google. OMFG they aren't developing and hosting all those services out of the goodness of their kind hearts?

      remember, we KNOW how they make money. we get it. some of us choose to continue to use them, some don't, but we all understand.

    • Techno-hipster crying "Wolf!" Quick, alert the media.

  • by alen (225700) on Friday April 25, 2014 @11:33AM (#46841293)

    this is horrible, imagine if they could build out for peak capacity in the right locations for the right times so there wouldn't be anymore rolling blackouts in july and august

    • demand response (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Noah Haders (3621429) on Friday April 25, 2014 @11:40AM (#46841351)

      this is horrible, imagine if they could build out for peak capacity in the right locations for the right times so there wouldn't be anymore rolling blackouts in july and august

      presumably the next step is for the power companies to control your thermostat to cut back your A/C during peak times.

      • by alen (225700)

        in theory it's better than a blackout

        part of NYC the peak usage is above the capacity of the wiring and local electrical transformers. and yet people and businesses don't do anything to reduce demand and complain how the electricity has to be shut off

        a person is smart, but as a group people are usually dumb

      • this is horrible, imagine if they could build out for peak capacity in the right locations for the right times so there wouldn't be anymore rolling blackouts in july and august

        presumably the next step is for the power companies to control your thermostat to cut back your A/C during peak times.

        It is, in fact, the current step [kcplsmartgrid.com] in some places.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        this is horrible, imagine if they could build out for peak capacity in the right locations for the right times so there wouldn't be anymore rolling blackouts in july and august

        presumably the next step is for the power companies to control your thermostat to cut back your A/C during peak times.

        They already do:

        http://www.pge.com/en/myhome/s... [pge.com]

      • Re:demand response (Score:4, Informative)

        by unimacs (597299) on Friday April 25, 2014 @12:16PM (#46841717)
        That's already an option with our electric utility. In exchange for a reduced summer time rate, we let them cycle our A/C. The don't do it through the thermostat. They have a box directly connected to the compressor. There are limits as to how much time it can be off. There's been times when it's been activated at our house but it's usually on again before there's been very much of an impact on the the temp of the home.
      • by what2123 (1116571)
        I don't know if you are being sarcastic or serious. Either way, this is happening now. PP&L in Pennsylvania started this last year. If you are using a SmartMeter & have a Controller, you can elect to have PP&L "Save" you money by turning off your A/C during peak hours during the day. In theory it almost sounds okay, it failed pretty horribly in a couple locations last year with many older folks homes turning into 90+ degree ovens.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      this is horrible, imagine if they could build out for peak capacity in the right locations for the right times so there wouldn't be anymore rolling blackouts in july and august

      That's rather narrow way of thinking. They companies that own transmission lines *already* know this information.

      • by alen (225700)

        and if you know who your biggest users are at any time of day you can work with them to reduce usage so you don't have to spend a lot of money for upgrades

      • this is horrible, imagine if they could build out for peak capacity in the right locations for the right times so there wouldn't be anymore rolling blackouts in july and august

        That's rather narrow way of thinking. They companies that own transmission lines *already* know this information.

        I wonder why they are paying the reported $40 per user then?

        • by Algae_94 (2017070)

          $40 per user seems extremely high, at least compared to my utility bills it is. They couldn't possibly get enough information from me to justify the cost. Google may be able to sell this to utilities right now, but those utilities are bound to smarten up and cancel these deals in the future.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      this is horrible, imagine if they could build out for peak capacity in the right locations for the right times so there wouldn't be anymore rolling blackouts in july and august

      Gee, you'd think they could put some metering on their *own* equipment to figure out peak demand and plan accordingly.

      Where do you live that you have rolling blackouts? That sounds like a huge failing on the part of the power company - they already know how much power an "average" house uses in each neighborhood (so they can plan capacity for new customers), and they already know how aggregate power usage correlates to temperature, so they can plan for 100 degree summer days.

      Of course, the big problem is ge

      • by alen (225700)

        NYC

        parts of NYC, the usage is beyond the capacity of the local wiring and there are blackouts. lots of people have window AC's they blast at full in the summer time. but they don't insulate the windows so they don't have to blast the AC at full and then complain there are blackouts.

      • by mikael (484)

        It would be easier installing solar panels on the roof-tops and office walls. Guess when the time of greatest demand is? During heat-waves and everyone wants air-conditioning. And the lucky thing is this happens when there is lots of sunlight. So any office block could have their own energy storage system simply using solar panels along the South facing sides.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      *Your* electricity company already knows your usage statistics. This data will presumably be sold to competitors with whom you have no business relationship.

      Although given it's the US I have to ask if you actually have competition amongst utility providers over there.

      • by hendrips (2722525)

        No, we don't have competition, and unless you are an extremely rare exception, you don't either. Having a competitive retail electrical distribution infrastructure is difficult, bordering on impossible. That's why they're regulated as utilities.

        • by Shados (741919)

          Competition for electric vs electric is rare, but competition between electric and gas is not uncommon. Where I am the electric and gas company is one and the same, but I used to live in an area where they were not, and competition was somewhat aggressive.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Google is a one trick pony. From robot cars to balloon-based internet access to Android OS, they still only have one business model: selling advertisements. 96% of Google revenue is generated via advertising channels. Take away the advertising and Google as we know it is gone.
    • they still only have one business model: selling advertisements

      Yes. Is this supposed to make me sharpen my pitchfork?

  • I bet traditional power company metering could already tell what hours of the day and which days of the week I am usually at home. What could Nest tell them that they don't already know?

    • by danlor (309557)

      In fact the meter is a far more accurate measure than the thermostat ever could be. It only controls one appliance in a household, and you have no idea what kind of appliance they are actually hooked up to. It could be super efficient, or an old clunker... gas or electric...geothermal? There has to be more to this.

      • I suppose if you tie energy usage to thermostat settings you could get a decent picture of insulation and heating/ac efficiency of the structure. Then the power company could make useful suggestions on how best to reduce your bill.

      • by vakuona (788200)

        You are not thinking far enough.

        Smart meters and thermometers could allow smarter uses of electricity, e.g., at peak times, if your temperature is only marginally above the set temperature, your AC could be switched off automatically. If you are way above the set temperature, the utility would let you keep using your AC until it comes down to a comfortable temperature.

        You could even have peak pricing, and maybe you could instruct your AC to only turn on when the price per unit of electricity is below a cert

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Only the latest smart meters can capture data down to hour-resolution. Traditional meters cannot capture that level of detail unless a meter reader is standing there typing numbers in. Large scale deployment of smart meters costs millions in labor and infrastructure, so this type of device from Nest could be extremely useful for both consumers and producers, at a lower cost than the alternatives.

    • I bet traditional power company metering could already tell what hours of the day and which days of the week I am usually at home. What could Nest tell them that they don't already know?

      I assume that they have some interest in how much of your use is heating/cooling related vs associated with other purposes. Thermal management, especially cooling, tends to be both a big item, and the one that shows nasty seasonal and sometimes just unpredictable variations. It's also the one that probably has the most 'slack', either in providing people with some incentive to relax their targets by a few degrees or to include various thermal energy storage mechanisms in new builds and renovations of existi

  • Or is there a way to prevent it from phoning home? I'm interested in getting one, I just don't feel like feeding more information to Google than I have to.
    • Or is there a way to prevent it from phoning home? I'm interested in getting one, I just don't feel like feeding more information to Google than I have to.

      You can run one without configuring its wifi link, and it will perform functions that don't require network access.

      If you do connect, though, get ready to sign up for a Nest Account (probably soon to be merged with Google+...) and access your device through the excitement of the cloud. None of that scary, technical, "No, I'll just type in my own home IP myself and leave your man-in-the-middle out of it." nonsense.

      So, not a total brick; but you'd better really like the 'learning' features to spend $250

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Or is there a way to prevent it from phoning home? I'm interested in getting one, I just don't feel like feeding more information to Google than I have to.

      You can build your own Nest-like thermostat:

      http://blog.spark.io/2014/01/1... [spark.io]

      It still uses cloud based software, but at least it's not Google's cloud, and since it's open source, you can see exactly what it's sending to the cloud.

  • This could actually provide very valuable information for energy companies. Like the kind that could genuinely make life better for middle class people trying to save a buck and the environment. They already know how much power you consume, and send people around to read your meters.

    Google should secure it with a nice read-only api and should offer to install one at your house if you agree to give them the data from it for ~5 years.
    • The real reason they want this data is to be able to remotely change thermostat settings on air conditioners and electric water heaters during peak demand periods.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Only to out of date energy companies. Most have already installed smart meters that log and report back everything. I can tell you when my wife used the coffee maker and toaster in the morning and when she left for work by looking at the power use graph online from my meter.

  • by SIGBUS (8236) on Friday April 25, 2014 @11:44AM (#46841393) Homepage

    It appears you are running a marijuana grow op. Do you want to:
    ( ) Hire an attorney
    ( ) Locate nearby vendors of weapons and security systems
    ( ) Find out about hydroponic equipment and cultivation techniques

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Friday April 25, 2014 @11:47AM (#46841431)

    Of course Google was going to do this. That's why there was a whole bunch of red flags raised when the acquisition was announced. We should all be more privacy conscious and it's not like there are alternative's to the Nest gear. I was about ready to pull the trigger in January for three Nest T-Stats but after hearing that Google was buying them, I changed over to Cyberstats [motison.com] instead.

    • Of course Google was going to do this. That's why there was a whole bunch of red flags raised when the acquisition was announced. We should all be more privacy conscious and it's not like there are alternative's to the Nest gear. I was about ready to pull the trigger in January for three Nest T-Stats but after hearing that Google was buying them, I changed over to Cyberstats [motison.com] instead.

      Considering that a decent, non-remote-capable thermostat will run you almost as much as a Cyberstat (if not more), $85 buck seems like a pretty stellar deal.

    • Wow, this one works with millivolt systems, nice. The Nest doesn't, even though I have the required 24VAC supply already wired but disused (a very old t-stat used it, current unit is battery powered). The only way I could do it with a Nest is clobber some sort of relay system to drive the boiler. The only downside is that the Cyberstat doesn't appear to have a battery backup. Millivolt systems have the advantage of providing heat without needing external utility power.
  • My low end programable does everything that I want it to do and it does not report on me. Paid for itself in the first two months that I had it too. ROI on a NEST would take years, not even sure if it ever would.
  • Does the Nest still work if it can't access the internet? Seems like a no-brainer to just configure your router so that it can't communicate outside your LAN.
  • I hope the Nest Thermostat is better than the Nest Protect Smoke Detector. Those gave me a case of serious "early adopter burn".

    The Nest Protect detectors have the tendency to generate false alarms in clean air (no smoke, no dust, no steam) and are very hard to disable (get a ladder, dismount, get a screw driver, open device, remove battery). The idea of disabling a false alarm by WIFI has not occurred to them yet :-(.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Friday April 25, 2014 @11:56AM (#46841521) Homepage

    NEST's generate a lot of heat that make them keep the house colder than actually set, they cause you to use more power in summer and warm climates. Have they pushed out a firmware that fixes this major flaw with the devices?

  • by Jason Pollock (45537) on Friday April 25, 2014 @11:56AM (#46841529) Homepage

    The single biggest thing that power companies worry about is demand. Long term, short term. They worry about it second by second, millisecond by millisecond even. If someone has a better short term model they can make money.

    This is why power companies worry about the weather so much. It has very little to do with the sun or the wind. Who cares if you're a coal/natural gas plant?!?

    Except you do. The generators all have consents that say that the can only take a certain amount of water from the river for cooling, and they can only raise the temperature of the river a certain amount. That means the temperature of the water (and air) are very important. There is a direct correlation between weather and the amount of power they can generate.

    Add to that demand prediction. Sure, they've got a model, and smart meters tell them when you are likely to use power (based on previous patterns). However, Nest's data will tell them when you are going to use power. 100%. Even better, Nest is able to _delay_ that power use, or shift it to when it is cheaper. It will even result in a more stable grid, since that data feed will allow the generator to know when there's about to be a brownout.

    New Zealand already does this with "ripple control" on water heaters. Suppliers turn water heaters OFF at the meter when power prices get to high.

    This is not about snooping on what you do (the power companies already know), it's about the grid itself.

    • At first I thought they were interested in knowing what your thermostat is set and how well insulated the house is to changes in temperature, but they could have done that with a web-form and a letter to customers.

      Then I thought they just want the data sooner, meaning they want to know when your heat or AC will turn on so they can adjust their feeds before the appliances start to draw the power but then I realized they already know that on an aggregated basis in their grid software (at power exchanges and
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ledow (319597)

      This isn't about snooping, per se.

      What you describe is infinitely more about the grid getting it's own way. When demand is "too much", they can turn off the least-profitable areas to concentrate on the most. Without their consent. And when demand is too low, they can allow your devices to ramp up without question.

      It's about stripping the grid to the barebones to chase profits, and then - when the bare bones can't cope - turning off the demand at the source. Sure, you'll be annoyed that your power just w

      • Actually, there is a lot of room in between where intelligence can help the home owner substantially.

        There are huge differences in incremental costs for power generation and lines. The cost of switching on a peaking natural gas turbine plant for peak power generation increases the cost of electricity by insane amounts, from $50-200/Mwh to $20,000/Mwh (NZ numbers).

        So, providers implement time-of-day metering which roughly matches up with demand. It still doesn't match up with the provider's incremental cos

    • Where I live, Katy to I-10 toll fees [hctra.org] change based on the hour of the day. Specifically right before, during, and after rush hour. I'm sure this is true in other parts of the country as well. Just as an example.

      Right now, I have a 12 month contract paying 10.8 cents per kw. It's *not* based on time of day. There are incentives to time-shift (delay or advance) AC usage during peaks times however. But I will tell you right now that this technology will force the industry to start charging users based on peak

  • I thought the point of Google buying Nest, was that so they could analyse your behaviour, and then figure out when to serve you ads for pizza.

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday April 25, 2014 @01:12PM (#46842391) Homepage Journal

    The most important part of Nest's utility-based revenue model (which predates the Google acquisition, BTW) isn't the data that flows from Nest to the utilities, it's the command signals that flow the other direction, enabling the power company to adjust your thermostat in order to reduce the demand from peak AC utilization, in a way that isn't likely to bother you.

    The basic idea is that the utility company can tell Nest that peak usage is between, say, 4 and 6 PM. Nest can then tell the thermostats to turn the AC on from 3 to 4 PM, to pre-cool your house and keep your AC from running during the peak hours. The details depend on your desired temperature ranges, what your thermostat learns about the thermal characteristics of your house, predicted external temperatures, etc. Nest can also try turning your thermostat temperature up a bit to see if maybe you are willing to put up with a little higher temperatures... and the device can learn whether or not that's the case based on whether you manually bump it back down.

    Utilities are willing to pay quite a lot of money to Nest for the ability to better spread and manage their loads. That is the main reason they pay Nest, not for the usage data... and according to some articles I've read, Nest generates more profit from the utilities than it does from selling devices. Consumers generally save money by reduced overall consumption as well.

    http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/18/nest-uses-its-data-to-turn-electric-utilities-into-cash-cows/

    I can see Google integrating the thermostats with other information to make this even more effective. For example, suppose information about your location (from your phone) were used by your thermostat to determine when you head home from work. If you're working late and no one else is home, there's no reason to kick on the AC until you actually leave the office. They could add in information from your calendar as well, to allow thermostat to potentially predict that you won't be going home at 4 PM because you have a 5 PM meeting, even though you normally do go home at 4.

    I expect integration with Google Now as well; imagine a Google Now card that tells you your home's current temperature or one that warns you when your energy usage is higher than normal, so your monthly utility bill will be higher. Perhaps you could be notified that your utility company will give you a couple of bucks if you're willing to turn your thermostat up a few degrees today, and given the opportunity to say "yes" or "no" on the spot.

    (Disclaimer: I work for Google but the above speculation about what Google may do is just my personal speculation about what's possible.)

    • by TFoo (678732)
      The moment my Nest changes my settings without me asking for it is the moment I ditch the device and go to a different brand. Yes, there's the auto-learn feature, but I have it disabled and have manually set my programs: and that better be the way it stays.
      • by swillden (191260)

        The moment my Nest changes my settings without me asking for it is the moment I ditch the device and go to a different brand. Yes, there's the auto-learn feature, but I have it disabled and have manually set my programs: and that better be the way it stays.

        You should have bought a cheaper thermostat. The auto-learn feature is the whole point.

  • ... my utility to subsidize the purchase of a Nest.

    I'm waiting .....

  • by samantha (68231) *

    I believe in the internet of things. I believe that the world can become much smarter and planning can be done much better and resources used in ways they will be most effective far easier if better information from the ground is available. The only reason I worry about such information is because of certain bad players, especially government ones, that tend to great abuse it and criminalize whatever they wish. Accelerating change makes vast information flows from everywhere pretty nigh inevitable. Wh

If you aren't rich you should always look useful. -- Louis-Ferdinand Celine

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