Google Looks to the Future With “Smart Homes”

Google has invested in the hi-tech future with its $3.2 billion acquisition of thermostat and smoke-detector maker Nest Labs.

The deal was announced earlier last week and will give Google some of the necessary tools required to build a valuable hub for homes.

Google envisions a Jetson-like world of network-operated appliances. The ambition for a smart home will ideally reshape culture similar to the way iPhones have, according to the Associated Press.

The research firm Gartner Inc. told the AP it expects more than 26 billion objects to be connected to the Internet by 2020, an estimate that does not include personal computers, smartphones or tablets.

“That would be a nearly 30-fold increase from roughly 900 million Internet-connected things in 2009,” the AP explained.

Google became a key player in smartphones with the 2008 release of Android, a free operating system that runs on more mobile devices than any other piece of software and is a direct rival to Apple’s iPhone.

According to the AP, Google is currently focusing its efforts on the “smart home.” For this endeavor, Google is aided by Nest Labs, a Palo- Alto based company with 300 employees. Less than four-years-old, years ago, Nest Lab was founded by Tony Fadell, an Apple veteran who helped design the iPod and the iPhone, according to the AP.

“Google bought Nest in order to learn about this world where even more information is going to be accessible by computers,” said Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett.

Nest Labs impressed tech-geeks worldwide in 2011 when it released an Internet-connected thermostat that learns to cool and heat homes to suit the needs of the inhabitants.

And late last year, the company came out with a smoke and carbon-monoxide detector “equipped with voice technology and the ability to communicate with the company’s thermostat. Nest hasn’t said how many of its devices have been sold, though analysts believe they are in just a small fraction of homes. The products have only been available in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom,” the AP reported.

Google hasn’t disclosed its specific plans for Nest, but analysts are buzzing about the possibilities for upcoming Internet-connected home products. There is also a strong possibility that future Nest devices will work with existing Google services. As theAP noted, the blending of Google and Nest products could be a helpful means of gathering advertising and marketing information which, in turn, will help generate the company’s revenue.

In a blog post about the Google acquisition, Nest Labs co-founder Matt Rogers promised that customers’ personal information will only be used for “providing and improving Nest’s products and services. We’ve always taken privacy seriously and this will not change.”

But that pledge won’t preclude Google from incorporating its services with Nest’s products, said Gartner analyst Angela McIntyre. For instance, Google already makes a digital assistant called “Google Now” that strives to learn what its users like and where they tend to go so it can provide helpful information without prompting. McIntyre believes Nest’s products will teach Google Now to become more helpful so it can increasingly take over more of the mundane tasks in people’s lives.

“They need to gather as much information as they can to understand the context in how we live our lives,” McIntyre said.

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