Skip to Content

Updating Nest: Smarter, Sexier, and Savvier than Ever

Bringing ordinary consumers into the pro-environmental fold is Nest’s great achievement.
April 29, 2013

Nest, the only company that has ever gotten journalists to use the words “sexy” and “thermostat” in the same sentence (see “A Smart, Sexy–Thermostat?!”), today announces a sexy thermostat software update for its sexy thermostat hardware. As the Verge and others report, Version 3.5 of Nest’s software brings data to solve a few basic problems. For one thing, the Nest thermostat is now smarter about knowing when its being directly hit by sunlight (which could lead it to think your house is hotter than it is). Nest is also getting smarter about fighting mold, automatically turning off the AC to keep things dry in periods of high humidity. And Nest’s Auto-away feature has reportedly grown stronger, too, so it’s better at saving power when you’re out of the house. Last week, Nest also announced some features that help reduce energy demand during peak periods (that only rolled out with a few partner grids).

What’s perhaps smartest about Nest, in my opinion, is this: it’s a pro-environmental company that masquerades, almost, as a lifestyle brand. Its got the design chops of Apple’s iPod division behind it, for one (how else would the word “sexy” get thrown around so much?). Its viral or viral-worthy videos have a sleek, ready-for-primetime quality. Use Nest, and your beautiful homes will be happy, these ads argue.

“Saving energy is a beautiful thing,” runs the tagline to that ad. And Nest’s genius is in selling us pro-environmental behavior as a “beautiful” thing–not as the “right” thing, which would probably be ineffectual. As I’ve written elsewhere, the environmental movement is fighting a war that is now mostly psychological. We know which behaviors are best for us as a society and as a globe. But it’s now largely a question of marketing, “branding” even, to steer consumers in a healthier direction.

It’s naïve to expect most people to be scrupulous about not wasting energy because it’s the right thing to do. But give an energy-saving product all the accoutrements of the other products that markets love–sexiness, sleekness, ease-of-use, intelligence, and (after an admittedly non-negligible up-front investment), monetary savings–and presto, you’ve got yourself an environmental movement. Otherwise known as a customer base.

The consumerization of environmentalism is Nest’s boldest achievement. 

Keep Reading

Most Popular

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

AGI is just chatter for now concept
AGI is just chatter for now concept

The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it

Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.

Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI
Hoan Ton-That, CEO of Clearview AI

The walls are closing in on Clearview AI

The controversial face recognition company was just fined $10 million for scraping UK faces from the web. That might not be the end of it.

spaceman on a horse generated by DALL-E
spaceman on a horse generated by DALL-E

This horse-riding astronaut is a milestone in AI’s journey to make sense of the world

OpenAI’s latest picture-making AI is amazing—but raises questions about what we mean by intelligence.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.