Nest Thermostat

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Nest Thermostat
Nest logo.png
Nest Thermostat Appliance
Type Smart device, Thermostat
Launch Date 2011
Status Active
Product Line Smart Thermostat
Platform Nest Labs
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he Nest Learning Thermostat is an electronic, smart thermostat. It is Wi-Fi-connected, programmable, and by learning its owner’s temperature habits and routines, the Nest Thermostat works to save the owner energy costs. The thermostat can be controlled either by interacting with the device’s touch screen or through the smartphone app. It is a product of Nest Labs, a manufacturer of smart home devices. It serves an ethical good by saving its owner money, and the world energy; however, due to the thermostat’s connectivity to the internet, there are ethical concerns.


Nest Labs was created by Tony Fadell, who used to work for Apple, and played a role in creating the iPod and iPhone. [1] The Nest Thermostat (first version) was the first product made by Nest Labs in 2011. The first version of the thermostat was slightly bulkier than the current version. Its features included an auto schedule of the heating and cooling of the house, sensing when the home was empty, saving an energy history, and showing when the temperature settings were energy efficient. Since then, the thermostats have gained even more functionality. They now are able to automatically turn on features that will save you energy, send you reminders, [2] be better at sensing when you are around, and can control the boiler. [3]

Since the release of the first thermostat, the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors have also been released by Nest Labs. [4] These work in conjecture with the thermostat. If smoke is detected it will tell the thermostat to turn the fans off; or if carbon monoxide is detected, the thermostat will turn the heat off. [5] Nest Labs is working on making almost all of a home’s controls automated with the thermostat at the center of it all.


The Nest is built on an operating system that allows user interaction with the thermostat via spinning and clicking of its control wheel. The user interface allows the user to easily navigate between heating and cooling, customize temperature settings, view the system energy history, and customize temperature scheduling (for example, set the system to a cooler temperature during the day when the user is out of the house and back to a comfortable temperature when they return). By connecting to the Internet, the thermostat can receive updates to fix bugs, improve performance and add additional features. However, to automatically update, the thermostat has to have at least a 3.7 V charge in the battery and be connected to Wi-Fi. The operating system it is running on is based on Linux 2.6.37. Since its release, the Nest thermostat has had several software updates. A particularly helpful update is the addition of two factor authentication. This provides the user with another layer of security, ensuring that no one else can access and alter the Nest settings without their permission by having the user sign in using two distinct methods (i.e. passcode and device push notification). [6]

How it Works

The Nest works with most HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) systems, and is installed in place of an existing thermostat. [7] The Nest Thermostat is round with slightly domed glass over its display. [8] It has a touch interface that lights up as it is approached and an outer ring that controls the temperature. After the Nest is installed it monitors the owner’s habits for the first week. After it has learned the owner’s habits it will schedule the HVAC based on the owner’s routine and wants to best save energy. [9] It updates itself automatically as updates are released by its parent company, Nest Labs. [10]

Beyond the thermostat’s hardware are sensors and algorithms that make it work; this is what Nest Labs refers to as Next Sense. Nest Sense pulls information from 4 different sources: 3 temperature sensors, a humidity sensor, motion/light sensors, and a Wi-Fi connection to get information on your nearby weather. Using these sources, the thermostat is able to set your heating and cooling to more optimal energy saving settings and schedule for when you are away. [11]

Ubiquitous User Interface

Using the nest thermostat in conjunction with one or more additional nest products can lead to a kind of "smart home". Nest devices are built as ubiquitous interfaces, meaning that they primarily operate using sensors rather than user input. Most forms of technology wait for user input to perform some action, but Nest products and other ubiquitous technologies carry out functionality when prompted to do so by the surrounding physical environment. For example, the Nest thermostat will run your furnace when its sensor finds the temperature in your home to be too low. Using all the Nest devices in your home can create a "Ubiquitous Computing" environment -- a concept that entails computing occurring everywhere and at all times, having a kind of pervasive intelligence surrounding you.

Other Nest Products


  • Security cameras: Nest cameras can distinguish between people and other moving objects, and can alert you when there is a possible intruder at or around your home -- whether or not you are on the premises.
  • Pet cameras: Nest cameras allow talk and listening functionality, so you can hear and reassure your pet when you're away.
  • Family cameras: Nest cameras have functionality which allows for the identification of familiar faces, so you are notified when your child or family member returns home safe.
  • Home monitors: Nest cameras have "super sight" which allows for close up tracking of objects -- so you can check if you left the oven on when you left the house!
  • Nest aware: All nest cameras have the capability to be "nest aware". This allows for 24/7 recording and complete history logs to look back through footage if need be. It also allows for the creation of "activity zones" so you can keep an eye on worrying areas.

Nest Doorbell: The Nest doorbell functions as a normal doorbell, but also allows for 24/7 recording so you can monitor activity on your doorstep at all times. It also alerts you when visitors are detected, and lets you know if the visitors are familiar faces or not.

Nest Secure Alarm System

  • Nest Guard: The Nest guard is an alarm with a motion sensor and Google Assistant built in.
  • Nest Detect: Small sensors that provide input to the Nest guard. They can be placed at any point of entry (door or window), they beep when an entryway is opened at a permitted time -- otherwise they set off the Nest guard, and their volume settings can be adjusted.
  • Nest Tag: The Nest tag acts as a key for the Nest guard. It can be given to any visitor to the house when the owners are not on the premises, to allow family members or house sitters entry into the house without setting off the alarm.

Nest Door Lock: The Nest door lock allows for the use of digital key codes rather than a physical key to enter the home. It allows for the remote locking and unlocking of the door from the Nest app, and if tampered with sets off the Nest alarm system.

Nest Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm: This Nest alarm alerts you to potential danger in your home without the added inconvenience of annoying chirps whenever the battery dies. It also alerts you to where in the home the potential danger is, lights up to help you find your way to the issue, and never mistakes steam for smoke.[12]

Ethical Implications

Energy Savings

Three studies have been conducted to measure the amount of energy the thermostat actually saves. Two were done independently and one was completed by Nest Labs. They measured users’ energy use before and after using the Nest Thermostat across 41 states. In the Energy Savings White Paper released by Nest Labs, they stated that all the results showed the Nest Learning Thermostat saving the home owners “about 10%-12% of heating usage and electric savings equal to about 15% of cooling usage in homes with central air conditioning.” [13]

Security Ethics and Precautions

From what is known, a new Nest Thermostat is not vulnerable to an attacker attempting remote access to the device. Devices purchased from second-hand websites such as Ebay run the risk of exploitation.

The Nest's operating system is susceptible to exploitation by an attacker injecting software into the USB port upon powering up. An attacker loads malware onto a Nest device before it is installed in a home to create a backdoor into the system. The compromised Nest will transmit un-encrypted data about Wi-Fi credentials, information regarding if residents are currently home, and connect to other devices on the same local area network as the Nest[14]. Through the thermometer an attacker can potentially control the home’s computer, baby monitors, other Internet of Things’ devices, and more.

This risk of this exploitation raises ethical questions about whether devices have strong enough protection. It would be unethical for the designers of Nest to ignore this vulnerability and have customers' data privacy at risk.

Combating These Concerns

The Nest Thermometers’ security has never been compromised remotely because of the security Nest Labs has installed in it. It is only susceptible with physical access, which is also true to mostly every other hardware device. Nest Lab’s thermostats have not yet been able to come up with a way to prevent these attacks from occurring through the device, because its vulnerability is directly in its hardware. However, if the device does get compromised it will be known as soon as Nest pushes an update to the thermometer, and they see that it is not working properly. [14]

See Also


  1. Levy, Steven. "Nest Gives the Lowly Smoke Detector a Brain" 8, October 2013. Retrieved on 16, March 2017
  2. "Nest Learning Thermostat 1st vs. 2nd Generation Compare Review" 2015. Retrieved on 16, March 2017
  3. Sinclair, Patrick. "Our Nest Gen 2 vs Gen 3 Comparison - What are the Differences Between Them" 2, March 2017. Retrieved on 16, March 2017
  4. Patel, Nilay "Fire Drill: Can Tony Fadell and Nest Build a Better Smoke Detector" 8, October 2013. Retrieved 16, March 2017
  5. "Meet the Nest Thermostat Retrieved 16, March 2017
  7. Crawford, Stephanie; Johnson Bernadette. "How the Nest Thermostat Works - Page 3" 6, March 2016. Retrieved 16, March 2017.
  8. Pogue, David "A Thermostat That's Clever, Not Clunky" 30, November 2011. Retrieved 16, March 2017
  9. Crawford, Stephanie; Johnson Bernadette. "How the Nest Thermostat Works - Page 4" 6, March 2016. Retrieved 16, March 2017.
  10. "How to keep your Nest product and the Nest app up to date" Retrieved 16, March 2017
  11. Crawford, Stephanie; Johnson Bernadette. "How the Nest Thermostat Works - Page 5" 6, March 2016. Retrieved 16, March 2017.
  12. Nest. “Create a Connected Home.” Nest, Nest Labs, Inc.
  13. Nest White Paper "Energy Savings from the Nest Learning Thermostat: Energy Bill Analysis Results" February 2015. Retrieved 16, March 2017
  14. 14.0 14.1 Tilley, Aaron "How Hackers Could Use A Nest Thermostat As An Entry Point Into Your Home" 6, March 2015. Retrieved 16, March 2017