Google, Nest and the Internet of Things: welcome to your future

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Nest Labs Inc.

Who does not know Google? It’s a brand that is etched into the consciousness of almost everybody who has touched a computer, smartphone, or tablet, in recent days. To bring the internet to as many people on the planet as they possibly can, Google has floated balloons across the sky allowing access to the internet in deep rural areas, along with many other initiatives. The Mountain View company has largely succeeded in blanketing the world with search, and it seems the sky is not the limit for its ambitions.

A new term is also entering the consciousness of the connected, that of the internet of everything, according to Cisco, or the Internet of Things, if you listen to Intel. Loosely defined, the internet of everything includes all things, or objects, connecting to the internet and sharing data. The spider sitting at the middle of the new emerging, and all enveloping internet, is Google. Google hit the news early in 2014 by buying a small company called Nest. Nest is a brand, little known outside of the developed world. In fact pretty much everywhere outside of the US of A.

Nest is part of the internet of everything, a term I so prefer, that explains why this purchase is so significant. Google’s track record in buying companies that sell consumer focused technologies is spotty at best. The last high level purchase, that of Motorola Mobile, has yet to hit home. Motorola was a dominant and leading mobile brand, which imploded into obscurity in a few short years. All Google’s money and resources have done little, as yet, to change that situation.

Nest, on the other hand, was a vastly smaller investment. Motorola cost US$12.5-billion, Nest a mere US$3.2-billion. The impact of Nest however will be far greater. Nest currently only sells two products: a thermostat, and a smoke detector. Hardly the pinnacle of high-tech. In many parts of the world, thermostats and smoke detectors are the very last thing anyone thinks of for the home. In less clement climates, heating and cooling is big money, and big business, dominated by historically industrial age based companies such as Honeywell.

Along came a small bunch of ex-Apple entrepreneurs, and they have reinvented the category. The key is ease of use, cool functionality and looks, but most importantly is all Nest products are connected to the internet. Nest promotes itself as a home automation company, not simply a product company. Its products to date took the mundane into new territory and made it cool. Their products have apps, and are wired to the web. Saving users money, and being more cost and energy-efficient, along with the global drive to a greener planet, did not hurt one little bit.

In swoops Google. The main money-making activity of Google is advertising. The more people search, share, and engage with Google services, and increasingly now products, the more Google can learn and use this data, in order to sell more accurate and targeted advertising. Huge data centres located across the globe, increasingly connect, inform, and now predict what people are going to do. The power in this vast collection of data and unprecedented processing power is unimaginable.

The Internet of Things and the internet of everything will fast emerge to connect the most mundane items of our life to the most high-tech. High tech includes our phones, and tablets, and according to Intel’s Mooly Eden, General manager of Intel’s Perceptual Computing group, to the technology that will soon reside inside all of us. Forget wearables, think embeddable technology, coming to all of us in a few short years.

On a really serious note, the concept of a Sky net or huge network of connected everything, from the washing machine to the road you drive on, is no longer science fiction. This all-pervasive connected world is emerging right now and is coming to a home near you. Companies such as IBM, Ericsson, and many others are involved in its creating and integration into everyday lives and things.

Artificial intelligence and smart everything will follow thereafter, and will, in most likelihood, come in our lifetime. A little known fact is that Google has purchased eight companies focused on Robotics in the past year alone. The latest purchase is called Boston Dynamics. Boston Dynamics makes robots for the US military, and is widely known for its robot called Big Dog, which can run, climb, and mimic a real animal, right now.

The purchase of Nest, a consumer focused Product Company, with all the right cool credentials, is another step by Google to become the company of everything, both feeding off, and creating the Internet of things. Sounds scary, but actually all this data and connected power can be unbelievable in terms of making the world a better place.

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