Nest, The iPod Of Smart Home Tech, Preps Consumers For The Future

Nest is doing very well. The company that makes the eponymous smart thermostat just closed on an $80 million round of funding, according to GigaOm. It's now shipping 40,000 to 50,000 thermostats every month, which is apparently enough to win the confidence of Google Ventures and Venrock

Call it the iPod of smart home technology. And not just because the Nest was literally conceived by the man who led the iPod team at Apple for several years. Like the iPod, the Nest thermostat is a disruptive technology planting itself into the lives of everyday, non-techie consumers, where it will slowly sprout into something much bigger. With the iPod, Apple popularized the digital music players among the masses and paved the way for a series of other, even more important devices. The Nest is about to do the same thing. 

For those who aren't familiar with it, the Nest is an Internet-connected thermostat that purports to learn its owners habits and configure the house's cooling and heating patterns more intelligently. The result is a more energy efficient home and, as the company proudly proclaims, lower utility bills. It's not the first smart energy management product to hit the market, but it is among the sleekiest and easiest for everyday consumers to understand and use. Sound familiar? 

Home automation. Wi-Fi-connected appliances. The Internet of things. These tech industry buzz concepts can get the crowd going at conferences like Le Web and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but ask your mother or a random colleague what they think about them. Normal people don't even know what this stuff is. But soon they will. 

Plenty of startups, cable companies and telcos are gearing up for the smart home revolution, prepping their own remote lighting control, video security and energy automation features. Communications companies from Comcast to Verizon have begun offering these services as an add-on to customers' existing cable and phone bills. 

As cool as smart thermostats, security cams and remote controlled door locks are, they're only the beginning. The list of Wi-Fi connected household appliances keeps growing. An Internet-capable toaster or washing machine might seem silly, but the super-connected homes of the future will be much more energy efficient, easier to manage and secure. Soon we'll move onto automated cat feeders and plant watering systems - and from there we'll graduate to Jetsons-style domestic robots.

If any one product is poised to popularize smart home tech, it's the Nest. Its clean design, easy installation and availability from big retailers give it a prime position from which to plant a ticking, hyper-futuristic time bomb.