Nest retinkers its learning thermostat for overseas

Nest Learning Thermostat is packing its bags and heading to the UK. However, the process was stalled due to different energy needs in a new market. What does this mean for the Google-backed company going global?

By , Staff Writer

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    The Nest thermostat adjusts the temperature when you're away from your home to conserve energy. Nest is launching in the UK Tuesday.
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Nest developers realize that people in the United States aren’t the only citizens of the world with high energy bills. Now with Google backing the company, Nest is looking to go global.

The first step? Nest’s learning thermostat is being released in the UK Wednesday on the brink of the company “aggressively expanding” in other European markets. Though the device is unofficially available in more than 120 countries, officially launching in new countries gives Nest a chance to show off its ability to localize hardware. This could aid in Nest’s quick expansion.

Previously the Nest was only available in the US and Canada, which have relatively similar energy and electric standards. The UK version’s release, however, was stalled due to the addition of a Heat Link, which connects UK customer’s boiler via a wire or wireless connection. Nest also encourages UK customers to hire one of its certified electricians to do the installation, just to ensure that it is done correctly. This addition upped the price: £179 ($298) or £249 ($414) with the recommended installation.

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The UK Office of Gas and Electricity Markets estimates that UK residents spend on average about £1,342 ($2231) per year on energy, 60 percent of which is heating. This is a higher proportion than most US customers, which highlights the need for a more efficient heating and cooling system. The Nest device for the UK has to operate on a higher voltage than in the US and work with a system that typically uses gas rather than air.

“Nest Learning Thermostat customers in the US experience savings of approximately 20 percent on average off their heating and cooling bill and we’re looking forward to helping customers in the UK save as well,” says Lionel Paillet, general manager for Nest Europe, who was hired just two months ago from Apple, in a release.

So how has Nest adapted to these new conditions? The Heat Link will provide the converter for gas-oriented homes, and the device has been upgraded to deal with the different voltage needs. The cooling feature of the US Nest thermostat is also gone on the UK version, as there is rarely a need to cool UK homes, according to Tech Crunch. The Nest will also combine the thermostat and programmer in one device (usually UK homes have a separate programmer for boilers), and there is also the option for a stand, instead of a wall-mounted unit. This is a feature unique to UK markets.

Expanding Nest to new regions provides an interesting case study in whether Nest can make unlovable devices loveable in countries outside North America. Nest hasn’t announced what its roll out will look like in other European countries, but keep an eye on the continent as Nest debuts in the UK.

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