By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that Google dropped a whopping $3.2 billion on next-generation thermostat manufacturer Nest Labs Inc. In case you missed that announcement, flip back to the cover of this magazine for all the juicy details.

From its inception, Nest’s next-generation thermostat has been embraced by net-savvy Gen Y’ers who flocked to its appealing look and smart attributes. Users were drawn to the device’s simplicity, and cherished the ability to set or alter their thermostat from a smartphone or tablet device. Users also rejoiced at the subsequent energy savings, which Nest was quick to report to homeowners through its app. The device also extended operators the option to adjust their thermostat while on vacation, preheat their home as they left the office, and much more.

But, perhaps most importantly to Google, the device boasted the ability to learn and initiate a homeowner’s comfort preferences based on previous user activity. The device knew to turn the heat up or down without the homeowner ever having to touch a button.

Internet of Things

The emerging trend of our devices interacting with our lifestyles without us ever having to touch a button has been termed, “the Internet of Things,” or the “Thingernet.”

The concept places humans in an open network in which auto-organized or intelligent entities or virtual objects will be interoperable and able to act independently depending on the context, circumstances, or environments. Or at least that is what Wikipedia says.

What a fascinating concept. Think about it. When we wake up in the morning, without ever pushing a button, the Thingernet could trigger the brewing of that first cup of joe, turn on our living room lights, crank up the heat, warm up our cars, let the dog out, etc.

But, aside from its convenience, the true genius of the Internet of Things is its ability to collect, process, and make factual conclusions based upon a massive amount of data, collected 24/7 year-round. This innovation will certainly make our lives more efficient, at every step.

Intelligent Homes

Smart homes and the home automation sector stand to benefit immensely from this concept. Home security, energy efficiency, IAQ, and indoor temperature all stand to benefit from collected and computed data. And, now we can add Google’s massive data army to the list of home automation networkers including Insteon, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-Wave, and others.

Many American homeowners have already dipped their toe into these waters through smart televisions and home networks, but just imagine if each of your gadgets and appliances were able to connect and communicate with one another. Consider a baby monitor that instantly alerts a sleeping mother through her alarm clock when a baby opens her eyes. Contemplate the convenience of turning the heat up from bed by just thinking about it or saying it. Are television remotes a thing of the past? Will we soon be able to simply summon our favorite boob-tube channels?

These concepts are certain to appeal to consumers — meaning they will sell. Intel predicts that more than 31 billion devices will be connected to the Web by the year 2020.

In the HVACR realm, the options are limitless. Imagine the Internet of Things’ influence on structural monitoring, air leakage, static pressure, smart lighting, air pollution, furnace performance, energy consumption, and more. As a contractor, data on any of these topics — cited specifically within the structure you are working in — could translate to a wealth of opportunity. In 2014 and beyond, this is certainly a concept you’ll want to stay closely connected to.

Publication date: 1/27/2014 

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