From the Desk of Patrick Ward…
Just when we thought CES had overdone the Internet of Things meme, Google goes and buys Nest for a mere $3.2 billion. Ho-hum…
The Clean Tech guys are jumping up and down, clamoring about the disservice 60 Minutes did to their industry a week ago Sunday, and rightly so. That was an unfair portrayal of the contribution clean tech will make and is making in many places. (And it’s another blow to that storied journalism franchise that must have poor Don Hewitt turning in his grave.) And now they will point to this acquisition as a validation of Clean Tech.
But the real story here is about the Internet of Things, which was one of the major themes in Las Vegas last week. At a sub-exposition at CES, called Mommy Tech – which Jolie O’Dell at VentureBeat rightly points out is really more like FamilyTech – I attended an interesting – if under-executed – panel discussion on “Future Moms.” The panel discussion diverted pretty quickly into the Internet of Things. A representative from Whirlpool extolled the virtues of connected appliances, and DropCam and Canary both showed how their devices could monitor movement in the home for security or just for serendipitous awareness.
The question arose when would Whirlpool talk to DropCam and to Canary, so your dishwasher knows when you go up to bed and starts then. Or once you walk in from work, that’s when the oven starts pre-heating for dinner. Or whatever… the possibly are boundless.
Well, hang on. Not really. So Google just bought Nest which means I bet in a bit I’ll be able to email my house and tell it to turn on the heat. Cool. But I want to be able to email my washing machine or my TV. Or even better, have my TV remote email my fridge or whatever. But I want what I want. And I don’t want to be constrained by brand or platform. The Whirlpool fridge doesn’t talk to my Kenmore oven, does it?
Technology history is replete with silo plays. My technology doesn’t talk to your technology. That was fine for a while in the enterprise until service-oriented architectures laid it to waste. But it won’t make any sense in the home. No one buys all their home appliances at once, unless you’re building a new house. So we need a standard that all these vendors can write to and one that will open up a new software eco-system among the Internet of Things.
Now Qualcomm claims to have a solution and so does AT&T – you’ve seen the commercials where the guy cleans up his kids’ mess with his iPhone from his porch. But those are still closed environments. An open environment will invite a new generation of applications and vendors that will accelerate the Internet of Things and make this vision of a fully conscious home a reality. Now, I bet that is the point here, and Google is making a play to be the OS of the Home. That would be very smart and Android has proven an adept and developer-friendly operating system. That’s a major step towards an open environment, but the guys in Cupertino may disagree.