Nest thermostat acquisition is Google's home invasion — New Scientist

Chris Baraniuk interviewed me for the New Scientist about Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest.

"Nest has always been a company that’s been interested not just in devices but also the data and algorithms behind them," says Sara Watson at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “Obviously that’s going to pique Google’s interest.”

The Nest thermostat is designed to learn when and how you like to heat your home. After a 12-day set-up period, the device has learned your basic schedule, is able to turn the heating on and off intelligently, and in the process it attempts to save you energy by only firing up the boiler when you really need it.

Watson believes Google is now a company obsessed with viewing everyday activities as “information problems” to be solved by machine learning and algorithms. Google’s fleet of self-driving vehicles is just one example. The home is no different, and a Google-enabled smart home of the future, using a platform such as the Google Now app – which already gathers data on users’ travel habits – could adapt energy usage to your life in even more sophisticated ways.

"Imagine Google Now knows you’re on your way home," suggests Watson. "The thermostat can predict that you’re going to be home in 10 minutes and it can get the heat going."

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