All technological innovations come about through a need to improve life for the consumer. Online shopping, supermarket delivery services, web self-service and online booking are just a few examples from the wealth of recent inventions that have come about as brands clamour to deliver the greatest user experience.
The latest revolution on the lips of industry leaders is the 'connected home' - the idea that home appliances can be controlled via the web. For some, this might seem far-fetched - and granted, the concept has taken time to find its feet. One of Samsung's first forays into the field saw the invention of the 'smart fridge', featuring an LCD screen above the ice dispenser that allows its owners to read news and tweets - presumably to ease the tension as they take time away from their computer, tablet or mobile screens to source refreshments.
But more recently, the concept of the connected home has gained serious traction in the media, largely as a result of Google's acquisition of 'Nest' - in a ground-breaking step for intelligent technology.
- So how exactly does the 'connected home' work?
The concept of Nest is that every electrical appliance in the home can be controlled via the internet and has the capability to make 'smart' decisions. Nest technology uses data to cultivate knowledge about its environment and make inferences about how its owners behave in the home.
Essentially, Nest monitors activity to identify patterns in behaviour and uses these to streamline home life. For example, through its thermostat, Nest will gather data to interpret which temperature settings its owner uses in the home and set it accordingly in future for the times it computes they will be in.
- So what's in it for Google?
For Google, the ability to expand its knowledge of consumer behaviour beyond the online realm offers great promise for the future of its enterprise. However, as the connected home as a concept gains traction, the major challenge that the industry will need to address is that these devices are both secure and non-invasive.
Behind Google's drive to understand offline behaviour is a desire to glean more accurate consumer insights, and in turn, help brands to optimise their products and services accordingly. Essentially, it wants to offer a better service.
- So how can all this save me money?
Well, because Nest will effectively 'know' when you're likely to be in the house, it can optimise the home heating system. Because Nest 'Auto Tune' learns everything about your home - your schedule, patterns and heating plan - it has a capacity to automatically make changes that will save money and energy. It means you won't have to crank the heating up to full-blast when you get in from work because the device has already prepared the room to be temperate for you before you step through the door. It also means the heating won't be left on throughout the day if you forget - Nest will turn it off for you.
In fact, this revolutionary technology can even take into account what the weather is like, how efficient the fire or combustion heaters are and how draughty the windows are, to make more informed decisions.
Of course, we don't live by strict routines day in, day out - and for that reason, the device can be overruled by the app. For example, if you're going to be home an hour later from work, you can manipulate the time that the heating goes on remotely from your mobile.
As for Google's involvement, by providing the means for smart businesses to gain insights into their customers' expectations, the search giant is empowering consumers to get better service, leaving brands competing to offer the greatest convenience and user experience.
In a nutshell, the joint aspiration of both Nest and Google is to make the world a better place for both brands and consumers, and they're doing this through the currency of the age - data.
Although it's still early days for the connected home, already the evidence is there to suggest that the one major party who wins in terms of efficiency and convenience is the consumer. In fact, one Nest user from the US calculated that the device saved him over $300 in energy efficiency in just one year since installation.
Though technology will always continue to advance and change, one thing that will never go out of fashion is the need to save money. As technology gets smarter, it will improve the ability to optimise not just heating efficiency, but the output of all home appliances, yielding cost savings across the board for the future.
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