Nest Labs, Inc. and Bould Design
The Nest Learning Thermostat
Nest Labs, Inc.
The Nest Learning Thermostat
The jury recognised how nest exploits the “tip of the interaction iceberg” design conundrum by hugely simplifying the physical interface to encourage use and to enable the creation of a much more seductive looking object that would stay visible and accessible in the home rather than be hidden away (encouraging more use). Putting the complexity behind phone and tablet screens that are more able to handle these dynamic requirements makes a whole lot of sense. As a sign of what’s to come in the internet of things, Nest provides some compelling lessons in packaging and integration.
The Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning Thermostat frees you from the hassle of programming a thermostat while providing the conservation benefits of a programmed device. It learns about you and your home to develop a customized temperature schedule that will keep you comfortable while also conserving energy. It automatically shuts down when you are away and encourages energy conservation when you are home.
What comes in the box?
-backplate, attaches to the wall and connects to hvac wires
-head unit, attaches to the backplate and is the main user interface
-screwdriver, used for installation
-trim plates and screws
In the U.S., thermostats control approximately 50% of the average home’s energy consumption. A programmable thermostat can reduce a typical annual energy bill as much as 20%, yet just ten percent of thermostats are properly programmed to save energy.
The challenge for this project was very simple. Nest wanted to change the way people think about home energy conservation by creating a user experience without equal in the thermostat industry. They had developed an extraordinarily compelling circular user interface and needed an Industrial Design that would preserve and enhance the purity of this vision. As designers, the challenge was to do justice to this vision with a compelling form factor, peerless usability, precise mechanical function and seamless technology integration.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
The intent was to provide the best user experience imaginable. We were given a mandate to delve into every single facet of form and function, to leave no stone unturned. This included everything from installation to intermittent temperature adjustment to how it is perceived when it is not doing anything. Could we address the users needs at every single turn? This project was an amazing challenge and an even more amazing opportunity.
What if you took the same care, sweat and resources that would go into a sophisticated cell phone project and applied them to a thermostat project? It might get people truly excited about a product that conserves energy. We felt this was possible.
Our point of view was that projects like this are rare and that we had to pull out all the stops to create a design that would match the opportunity.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Rigor. That is a good word to describe this project. The design process was based on iterative cycles of exploration, definition, prototyping and testing. Prototypes and models were made to test alternatives for every single facet of the design.
Plausible solutions for a particular element, whether it was cmf, ergonomic or formal, would be realized in prototype form, evaluated against one another and then the best solution would become part of the design. This process was employed from the macro level down to the almost microscopic.
It was an intense process. A lot of material ended up on the cutting room floor, but we could move forward knowing that we had tested all of the options along the way and had hopefully made the right editorial decisions. It is not often that designers enjoy this kind of support and dedication to doing good design.
Our focus was entirely user-centric. Of course, the product had to be manufactured and distributed but we compromised very little in terms of how the product looked, felt and functioned. The final product has a very high degree of fidelity to the design vision.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
This is an easy question to answer. The Nest Learning Thermostat literally does earn its keep. It saves you energy and money while keeping you comfortable and helping you develop good conservation habits. Within eighteen months it could easily have paid for itself.
However, it’s not just about money. The Nest Learning Thermostat engages you in your energy consumption and conservation. It gives you immediate feedback on your energy decision making. For example, if you wanted to turn the heat up to 72 degrees (pretty warm) it might tell you that it will take 20 minutes to get there. If you decide that you can live with 68 degrees, it will tell you that it will take 12 minutes to get there, a 40% savings in furnace on time. Multiply that decision by the number of heating and cooling days per year and the number of households and you start to see the potential of Nest thinking. If every household in the US had a learning thermostat, it could make a significant dent in our need for energy resources.