Google announced yesterday that it would acquire thermostat and smoke alarm device maker Nest for $3.2 billion. While the valuation raised eyebrows around the corners of the internet, we at Continuum were not surprised. Nest integrates cutting-edge technology into a well-designed, human-oriented product – it’s no wonder that Google shelled out a pretty penny for it.
On a higher-level, what this purchase solidifies is the concept that physical objects are not going away. Despite our increasingly networked world, devices will always play a fundamental role in how we live. What will be essential, and what Google’s purchase of Nest reaffirms, is that products must have a strong human element to succeed. Cutting edge technology is only half the battle.
Nest certainly isn’t the only one doing this. There is a renaissance in product development right now, centered on the humanization of everyday items – from smoke detectors, to telephones, even refrigerators. These shifts are occurring because businesses are thinking about products as experiences; objects have relationships, play an appropriate role in people’s lives, and represent a brand through interaction. Here are some great examples:
- Nest Protect is a carbon monoxide detector that respects and owns its role in the household as a guardian against airborne dangers, but adds the human elements of responsiveness, communication and caring. The product glows when someone passes it in the dark, acting like a butler carrying a candlestick as he guides you through the dark corridor. Another Nest product, the thermostat, learns your schedule, programs itself and can be controlled from your phone.
- The Kohler DTV Shower System essentially acts as a personal spa assistant. It brings together controls for water, sound, light and steam for a seamless and completely customizable shower. The system creates the ideal showering experience for each individual.
- iRobot Roomba takes the place of a maid. You simply set it up and forget about it. It’s the ideal cleaning service – out of sight and out of mind.
- Twine is the canary in a coal mine we all wish we had. This is a little box with an array of sensors, a WiFi antenna, and a battery that lasts three months. Put this anywhere and get live information pushed to you about what’s going on in your home – like if your basement is flooding.
- The Goji Smart Lock is the high-tech version of a security guard. It takes pictures of who is at your door and automatically sends alerts to you with real-time information on who is accessing your home.
- The Withings Smart Body Analyzer elevates the lowly scale from an object of dread to a health coach. It measures weight, body composition, heart rate, and air quality. It works in conjunction with more than 100 apps to help users reach their health goals.
- Tile App is a chip you can attach to your keys, backpack, or anything you need to keep track of. The small card can hook onto essentially any appliance, then be tracked on a user’s smartphone.
Image from Nest.com.