Google enters the Nest

Google enters the Nest
SMART TOOL: Nest’s learning thermostat (above)
I am fascinated by a commercial where the father and mother are hanging out at a remote cabin when their teenage kids join them. The kids say, “We stopped by the house.” The father says, “Did you lock the house, turn off the music…” The kid says, “Yeah, yeah.” The father rolls his eyes. Who can completely trust teenagers, right? He goes to his smartphone and finds an app, which remotely turns off the water, locks the doors, turns on the alarm system, and switches off the lights and the music system. His house is now secure.

A good Nest

I heard of Nest Labs a few years ago when I interviewed Forbes publisher, Rich Karlgaard. We were talking about the next wave and the internet of things (IoT). He was excited about the possibilities that companies like Nest bring to the table. Fast forward to this week’s announcement that Google is in the process of acquiring Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in cash. The company’s smart home devices can communicate directly with the smartphone and their learning thermostat and smoke detector have been well received. With former Apple developers at the helm, Google seems to have factored in design, technology and utility.

The partnership would provide Nest with the big company resources to expand aggressively into the connected home. But an acquisition is not just about the promise of its products, Google is also paying for the patents and the “Nesters”, including a design team led by Tony Fadell who was the senior vice-president at Apple and “one of the fathers” of the revolutionary iPod division.

In his blog, Tony talks about the decision to merge. “Google will help us fully realise our vision of the conscious home and allow us to change the world faster than we ever could if we continued to go it alone. We’ve had great momentum, but this is a rocket ship.

“Google has the business resources; global scale and platform reach to accelerate Nest growth across hardware, software and services for the home globally. And our company visions are well aligned — we both believe in letting technology do the hard work behind the scenes so people can get on with the things that matter in life. Google is committed to helping Nest make a difference and together, we can help save more energy and keep people safe in their homes.”

Who is afraid of internet of things

Google’s foray into hardware on the heels of its Motorola acquisition clearly shows that the company is riding front and centre into the IoT. According to Gartner, there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the IoT by 2020. Is that a new car or a computer on wheels? Here is a thought. Imagine a world where you plug in your destination and you don’t have to touch the wheel. Your car would get you there by accessing traffic, maps and related travel data. There are apps today that can tell you where to find parking. Make way for wearables that can monitor your health and send your data to physicians and pharmacies. Need a second opinion? You don’t have to schedule a call; your smart device has already figured it out. Flyables would ease the cost of transport. Amazon is investing in drones to deliver your packages and we don’t have to worry about the poor UPS man trudging through bad weather to deliver your Christmas gift. We have already had a taste of the scannables with coupons and etickets and QR codes, doing away with the expensive paper habit.

Now imagine all these devices communicating with each other and taking decisions based on the constant assimilation and examination of personal data. From check ins to check ups. From work place to work outs. From home away to home alone.

Man-to-machine-to-machine

The rise of cheap and affordable computing that is always on (24/7), the increased propensity for social connectivity combined with a growing scarcity of natural resources is leading the way for augmented machine learning. This is leading to the re-imagination of traditional industries, business processes, R&D, products and services plus more.

Intuitive machine learning would impact healthcare, government, insurance, education, transportation, travel and retail. Consumers would be lured by the ease of access and faster decision-making. Who wouldn’t be interested in a fire alarm that would beep, investigate and send a diagnostic to you and your service provider? Or a wearable device that could monitor any alarming fluctuations for an aging family member and alert you and the doctor? How about retailers who can run A/B tests in real time using networked cameras to figure out what interests customers on the shop floor.

You can run but, sorry, you can’t hide. Google can find you.

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