iPod inventor's next revolutionary device? The thermostat

You would think the inventor of the iPod's next gadget creation might be some new consumer electronics gadget that will revolutionize the world once more. What if I told you Tony Fadell's latest creation is a new twist on something far, far less revolutionary -- the thermostat?

Fadell's new venture, Nest Labs, aims to create greener technologies. While it may seem somewhat odd for the company's work to begin with the thermostat, it actually makes sense. In our quest to stay comfortable in our homes, constantly fiddling with the thermostat actually wastes a lot of energy.

Take for example keeping the heat or cooling on overnight, or pushing the thermostat up sky high or low to heat or cool our houses faster. How about your heater or air conditioner running while nobody's home? All of these scenarios are adding to our home heating bills, and heating and cooling makes up about half of the single family home's $2,200 annual energy bill.

"Together with the team, Co-Founder Matt Rogers and I set out to reinvent the thermostat using advanced technologies, high-quality manufacturing processes and the thoughtful design elements the iPhone generation has come to expect," Fadell says. "We hope it will not only save money and energy, but that it will teach and inspire people to think more about how they can reduce home-energy consumption."

For a thermostat, Nest's creation is about as revolutionary as it comes. First, the device learns your heating and cooling patterns, and soon will adjust the temperature of the house on its own in a way that best conserves energy. It also guides you to use less energy by warning you when your temperature setting is outside of what will require excessive energy use to attain.

When you're not at home, the device uses sensors to detect that the house is empty, and will automatically turn off the heater or air conditioner until your return. Integrated WiFi allows for automatic updates, and allows for remote monitoring and temperature adjustment via a website or mobile app.

Apple's influence on Fadell shows in the design of the thermostat itself -- the metal finish and glass casing will remind users of Apple's line of iPhone devices. Apple has nothing to do with the product though: Fadell left the company back in 2008.

The biggest question is whether Fadell and his company will be able to convince the public to fork over $249 for something as basic as the thermostat when it begins shipping November 14. Does the cost benefit outweigh the initial investment? For those of us trying to save money on our heating bills in these rough times or those of us dreaming of the "smart home," it just might be.

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