Nest Labs purchased fellow startup MyEnergy on Wednesday to enhance its partnerships in the utility sector and expand its residential demand response offerings.
Nest doesn’t call its new services "demand response," but it has been building its utility relationships and announced deals with Austin Energy, Green Mountain Energy and Southern California Edison last month.
MyEnergy just publicly disclosed its first utility partnership earlier this year with Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative and claims to have customers in 1,500 utility service territories.
MyEnergy, which was founded as Earth Aid in 2007, also says it can deliver real bill data to customers as fast as a utility can. “Think of it as an outsourced re-creation of a utility’s customer billing and verification platforms, only pulling data from every utility in the country, and you get a sense of the scope,” wrote Jeff St. John in February.
“Giving our customers more in-depth access and analysis of their energy usage has always been part of the Nest vision,” Tony Fadell, Nest founder and CEO, said in a statement. “We’ve made great strides in the past year and a half; by bringing MyEnergy into the Nest family, we can reach our goals even faster.”
MyEnergy offers many of the same perks as other companies in the home energy management business, including neighbor comparisons. Although there are more than 30 million deployed smart meters in the U.S., companies like Opower, Energate, EnergyHub, Tendril and others are looking for paths into the home that can pull together utility data but don’t require a smart meter, such as a broadband connection.
“With less than 25 percent of the U.S. population connected to the smart grid, we’ve focused on developing technology that makes it easy for people to access the information they need to make decisions about their energy use,” Ben Bixby, co-founder and CEO of MyEnergy, said in a statement. “We’re excited about the opportunity to join Nest to continue giving people useful, actionable information.”
Nest seems to be heating up as the mercury rises, with multiple announcements in April. For more on Nest Labs, read on for Stephen Lacey's recent story on the thermostat's software upgrades just in time for summer.
Winter might be coming in Game of Thrones, but summer is coming in America. And in preparation for more potentially record-breaking heat, Nest is releasing some interesting new software updates for its smart thermostat.
The first is a product called Sunblock that responds to heat gains when the thermostat is directly in the sunlight. The light sensor on the device follows the sun's movement and adjusts the temperature accordingly. According to Nest, nearly two-thirds of thermostats sit in direct sunlight at some point during the year, causing the device to read temperatures incorrectly and run air conditioning when it doesn't need to be on. The company says this is one of the top issues that customers complain about.
The second is an update to the Auto-Away feature that automatically responds to a homeowner's schedule. When Nest launched its first-generation product, a number of consumers criticized the learning feature for failing to properly adapt to varying schedules. One reviewer said the product "isn't ready for the duties it claims to have mastered." Some commenters on our last Nest story said the product is still difficult to use. Nest now claims its Auto-Away function has "gotten much better at learning when you're coming home."
Nest also updated its mobile platform for remotely controlling the thermostat, added a dehumidifying feature that uses a sensor to control the air conditioner when humidity increases, as well as a new way to schedule fans.
"If we've learned one thing about our customers in the last year, it's this: they really like fans," wrote the Nest's VP of Engineering Matt Rogers in a blog post.
The company said these updates are a direct response to the features that customers are demanding or updates to products that people have complained about. The release, which will be automatically pushed to Wi-Fi-connected devices, builds on Nest's recent partnerships with utilities to create residential demand response programs around its thermostat. Last week, Nest rolled out a new seasonal adjustment function and a rewards program that compensates homeowners for automatically turning down their heating or cooling during peak demand.
Nest Labs was founded by two former Apple employees who worked on developing the iPod. The company has gotten a lot of attention from investors, utilities and consumer technology enthusiasts for building an intelligent thermostat that resembles an Apple product. While the device has gotten mixed reviews for its intelligence and ability to respond to changing conditions, Nest says it is listening to customers and constantly working to update the product.
As George R.R. Martin writes in A Game of Thrones: “Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.”
As Nest grows up, starts building its functionality and learns from how consumers use the thermostat, the product will continue to evolve -- much like the iPod has over the years.