Connected thermostats just became an inevitability. Honeywell today announced Lyric, a $279 device that lets consumers fiddle with their home’s temperature from their iPhone, make automatic changes based on their location, and check the weather forecast, all from one app.
The device is an obvious response to the Nest thermostat, which prompted Google to acquire its creator for $3.2 billion in January, and Honeywell hasn’t even tried to hide its influence. But that doesn’t matter to the consumers to whom the company will try to sell Lyric — all that matters is the fact that an established company is now committing to the connected home.
Nest has always been an outlier. It was marketed towards people who trusted a startup enough to install a new thermostat even though their homes probably hadn’t received an update in a few decades. Now it’s marketed towards people willing to bring a Google-owned company into their homes, which is even more terrifying, so it’s a fringe device in an antiquated market.
Honeywell doesn’t have that problem. Its products are installed in homes around the world, and anyone who has glanced at their faded thermostat in the last decade is familiar with its brand. Now it’s going to use that clout to make the connected home a reality — starting with this thermostat, of course — whether consumers are looking for “smart” products or not.
Products can be thrust upon unwilling consumers. It doesn’t matter if you want to purchase a rotary phone; nobody is making them anymore, and you’re probably going to end up buying a smartphone instead. (No, I don’t want links to companies that are still making rotary phones to capitalize on irony or nostalgia.) If Honeywell stops making “dumb” thermostats and makes products like the Lyric instead, people will eventually have to embrace their connected future.
Nest couldn’t force that shift from the thermostat market’s fringes. Honeywell can, and based on today’s announcement, it plans to. In a few years — or decades, if existing thermostats keep working like they’re supposed to — “smart” thermostats won’t be unique, they’ll be the norm.
Reactions from around the Web
The Verge details Honeywell’s plans for the connected home market:
Honeywell is keen to build out as many spokes of its connected home hub as it can. ‘We’ll extend Lyric into all of the other product families where Honeywell plays today,’ says Wozniak. That list of product families is extensive — beyond heating and cooling, Honeywell builds a variety of home security systems, video surveillance cameras, door chimes, lighting, and more. Leveraging that vast product lineup will be a key part of its strategy, but Honeywell isn’t only relying on its own products. ‘Having said that, we’ll also include some partners, so there will be others that will fit into piece of mind, comfort, and other areas that make sense to be part of the Lyric platform,’ Wozniak explains.
Gigaom explains the differences between Lyric and the Nest thermostat:
While the Lyric thermostat is easily pegged as Honeywell’s answer to the Nest thermostat, which launched in 2011 and saw its parent company bought earlier this year by Google for $3.2 billion, it is a bit different. The thermostat doesn’t aim to “learn” a home inhabitants’ habits in order to set the temperature, as the Nest does. Instead it uses geo-fencing to set the temps. When someone is home as judged by the person’s cell phone, it optimizes for comfort, and when people leave the house, it optimizes for energy savings.
Pando weighs in
The final group that loses out with the Google-Nest acquisition is the biggest: the consumer. As many have pointed out the privacy concerns of this development are huge. Nest products track detailed information about their users’ movements, in addition to things like a user’s WiFi IP address, and whether the specific address is a home or a business. At the moment, that information is stored in Nest’s cloud servers.
Google has not been the bastion of user privacy rights. If tweets are any sign, Nest consumers are already concerned about the acquisition. After all, Google access to Nest data essentially puts the web giant’s eyes directly into the homes of the users.
On Nest co-founder Tony Fadell’s limited influence on the Internet of Things:
Fadell’s claim to be just a humble hardware maker and attempt to disassociate himself with the Internet of Things seem like an acknowledgement of just how much a new ecosystem has set itself in place without Nest. Listening to Fadell talk yesterday, he was light on vision and big on cryptic hints. Nest was maybe investigating security, maybe looking at health and safety, or water conservation. He name dropped Elon Musk’s rethink of the electric motor for how Nest might go after “unloved categories in the home.”
Tony Fadell is a hardware visionary. He helped spawn the iPod and then started Nest. But creating a great thermostat doesn’t make him the oracle of the Internet of Things.
On the downsides of relying on a “we build everything” approach to the Internet of Things:
Apple and SmartThings make a powerful business case. There are so many connected devices already, the Internet of Things-deal is exploding so quickly, that creating a means for all of these remote powers to be bought together seamlessly, a universal remote, has the potential to get real market traction.
The open platform allows consumers to utilize the smorgasbord of connected tools that exists currently. If the idea takes off, it is bad news for the Nest’s and August’s of this world. Trends don’t wait. By trying to set the parameters of what consumers might need, and slowly too, they might find themselves going from trying to reinvent the home, to being a single plaything in another company’s domain.