I’ve been amazed at the herds of Johnny Come Lately’s who have glom’d onto the amazing Nest thermostat since Google purchased the company that makes it, Nest Labs, for a whopping $3.2 billion last week.
Nest – and even its sister Protect smoke alarm – were hardly new, but that didn’t stop CNN from posting a ‘gee whiz’ video in the days that followed that had all the ‘we were here first’ excitement of a hand-held broadcast from the floor of CES. That – even though Nest is coming up on its third birthday and its cousin, the Protect, was released to considerable fanfare in October.
The question for Google, of course, is ‘how is Nest really worth?’ I use one at my house, and I think it’s gorgeous and smart – but $3.2 billion? That’s why I was interested to check out this article over at Postscapes.com about an open source Nest clone designed by the team at WiFi chip maker Spark – apparently in a single day (and that includes a hand-crafted wooden case!). Spark blogged about the project here.
The idea isn’t to stick it to Nest – or even Google for buying the company. Rather: its to consider the truly disruptive impact that the IoT and the nascent Maker movement may have on companies of all sizes.
As the Spark Team put it in their blog, Nest’s team is incredibly talented and they were the first to show how the IoT and IoT products could be viable.
“But in order to do this, Nest had to spend millions of dollars on R&D to build the basic infrastructure behind the product. The high cost made it impossible for anyone but the extremely well-capitalized to enter the market and create connected things.”
Not so the army of followers (like Spark), which can leverage developments like cheap, IP-enabled components, open source stacks, a cloud based intelligence and a global supply chain to innovate at an astonish pace.
Spark’s thermostat is a good example of that. The company’s Spark Core wi-fi development board was the foundation of the new device. The display used Adafruit 8×8 LED matrices and the company threw in a Honeywell HumidIcon temperature and humidity sensor as the primary sensor. A Panasonic PIR motion detector rounded out the hardware, providing that Nest-like ‘motion detection’ that lets the thermostat figure out when you’ve left the building – so to speak.
Spark’s admittedly boosterish video promoting their wireless sensor gives a pretty good idea of where this is all headed! Check it out.