Google Buys Smart Thermostat Company

Google’s making itself at home.

The search engine giant has shelled out $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, the maker of super-sleek appliances including a thermostat that looks like it’s out of a sci-fi movie. It’s Google’s big push to get into the lucrative and growing market of connected homes.

Nest is best known for its “Learning Thermostat,” which figures out users’ daily habits. The technology is already savvy enough, for example, to know not to blast cool air through the house on a hot summer’s day if everyone has already left for work.

In short, Nest understands what users are doing every day in a way that Google’s own search engines and tablets don’t reach. It’s a truly home-centered device that gives Google a view into how people live in the physical world, and not just how they live online.

“The two companies may seem different, but at their core, they’re both heavily focused on understanding the behavior of individuals,” said Anind Dey, associate professor at Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

“People have tablets and phones, but we don’t think of them as home appliances,” Dey added. “[Nest] is something that’s in your house, on your wall, and it knows when you come and go.”

Those types of built-in and outwardly innocuous devices make up the dream of the so-called “connected home,” where extremely sophisticated tech is as everyday as the family goldfish.

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