Who would have thought that thermostats could be so interesting?
First there was the Nest learning thermostat designed for iPod-like simplicity (and now embroiled in a lawsuit), and soon to come is EverSense from Allure Energy that automates changes in your home’s climate based on your proximity—and includes features such as music streaming, weather and video tips on energy efficiency.
We glimpsed EverSense at the Consumer Electronics Show, and got a chance recently to talk in-depth about it with Allure Energy’s vice president of business development Jim Mills, who has been testing the system in his home with his wife, dog, and five kids. The product becomes available in second quarter for $349, in both wall-mounted and tabletop versions (the tabletop as a controller for other EverSense thermostats). The thermostat has a 4-inch video touchscreen and two speakers on each side, though specs on them were unavailable.
Although Allure is marketing a thermostat with some, dare I say, sexy technology like music streaming and proximity sensing, it’s bucking some trends as well. There’s no cloud service, no subscription fee, no learning your habits like the Nest thermostat is supposed to, no web portal.
But what is does have is proximity sensing, which is designed to take the hassle out of using a programmable thermostat to save energy. Download Allure’s Mobile app to an iPhone or Android-based phone, and it uses the smartphone’s GPS to know how far from home you are and when to turn up or down the thermostat. This is done with preset preferences. You decide what temps you want in the house when away and home, and how far from home you are when you want the heating or cooling to kick into gear and make the place comfy.
For example, Mills says he changes the temperature in his house about 6 degrees Fahrenheit, starting about 20 miles from home on his commute. If another member of his family with Allure’s smartphone app is even closer, the thermostat obeys his or her preferences.
The app uses an algorithm to calculate how it will bring the temperature up or down to in stages, Mills says. And your GPS location is not broadcast. That stays in the phone. Only the command is sent from the phone to the EverSense thermostat via the Internet and in-home Wi-Fi.
Proximity and Streaming Music
“In the end, we think people want to have interaction with their homes be automatic and easy,” says Mills. “We looked into learning thermostats, but what I did last week doesn’t adapt to what I’m doing today. What the kids did last week doesn’t relate to my travel schedule this week.” So the idea of proximity sensing was born.
“We also don’t want people to have to go online and actively manage their thermostats,” Mills adds. So no web portal. No cloud services to eliminate latency. No subscription fee like those charged by connectivity/security providers like ADT, Comcast, Verizon, Vivint, et al.
Let there be streaming music instead, although Allure did not take a direct route there. “We looked at a lot of trends and wanted to educate consumers. We thought people would want energy updates and energy saving tips,” Mills says. So there will be animated video tips available on the 4-inch EverSense screens to give information on how to save energy. That requires the capability for the unit to play video and music. “We realized we can put really nice sound quality, photos, and since you’re using a smartphone, why not have music streaming from your phone?”
“We can offer a lot of additional value with music,” Mills says.
One gets the feeling that Allure will go a lot further with EverSense, once it’s been introduced and working for a while. EcoFactor’s advanced software that automatically makes many micro-adjustments to the home’s temperature, while keeping a family comfortable, could be a great match for a thermostat like EverSense.
“We see this as the beginning of a home environment system. Not just a rich multimedia experience, but there are other ways to grow,” Mills says. “Any technology meant to make your life easier has to be done automatically. People have very busy lives and they’d love to be eco-friendly and save money, but I don’t think they’re going to log onto their computers and change their thermostats.”
Indeed, thermostats are becoming automation devices that can save you money on the biggest energy user in your home: heating and cooling.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates