History of Smart Thermostats

Within the evolutionary scope of our Smart Homes, the idea of a smart thermostat is becoming somewhat commonplace. People are slowly coming to the realization that the monthly savings realized by these devices will allow them to pay for themselves reasonably quickly. And as more of these devices become visible in the homes of our friends and family, even the tech skeptics will accept them as a mainstream solution to controlling their heating and air conditioning systems, thus accelerating the adoption rate. But in reality, however, these devices are relatively new and their history is less than a decade long.

Back in 2009, Time Magazine selected a device called the EnergyHub Dashboard as one of its 50 Best Inventions of the year. The device was the brainchild of a guy named Seth Frader-Thompson who was inspired by the fuel efficiency screens that were a feature of the Priuses of the day. While studying the screen it dawned on him that houses face much the same issue of energy efficiency. With that in mind, he built the EnergyHub Dashboard which communicated wirelessly with your furnace and other appliances and reported how much gas or electricity each was using, and ultimately what it was costing the consumer. Lev Grossman, senior writer at Time said “In a car, you can usually see how much gas you’re using. With electricity in a home, you never could before. But now, in real time you can, using EnergyHub, and I think it’s going to save America billions and billions of dollars.”

That may have been somewhat hyperbolic, and ultimately the EnergyHub failed to become a household name, but it did birth a new market and highlight a consumer problem in searching of an elegant solution. Enter Tony Fadell, an Apple engineer, who was building a new vacation home for his family. When it came time to select a thermostat for the home, he found all available options to be inadequate and lacking. He recruited a fellow Apple engineer named Matt Rogers and they designed and brought to market the Nest Smart Thermostat in 2011. From its introduction, like most Apple products, it was met with universal praise despite its elevated price in respect to traditional competitors. Ultimately it would garner enough praise and sales to lead it to its current position as a market leader.

Nest’s success also proved the viability of this market space. And as such, it attracted numerous new upstart competitors to space, as well as motivating the old school manufacturers to throw their hats in the ring and update their products lines. The current industry leaders: Honeywell, Nest, EnergyHub, EcoFactor, Schneider, ecobee, Emerson, Comverge, Carrier, presents a mix of established companies and newer tech companies. As they battle it out for market supremacy the nagging question remains, is the market dominator listed among this group or will some unknown explode into this space with a killer app (à la the iPod) that blows the other away? Only time will tell.