Tenom And the Intelligent Home

A new intelligent thermostat is making waves, heralded for its gorgeous design and intelligence.

It’s going to fail miserably. It will sell in limited numbers to the few looking for something new and interesting — a conversation piece to bore guests with — but it’s a partial solution searching for a problem.

People who have difficulties with programmable thermostats don’t care about learning thermostats. The claimed energy advantages are almost certainly overblown, as they generally are with energy efficiency products: A modern insulated home has temperature
inertia that sees limited benefit from anything short of vacation mode, and certainly sees no benefit over the hypothetically miniscule advantage this might provide over a standard “business day/night cycle” pre-baked programmable thermostat cycle.

Add that people who have the sort of schedule it could learn are exactly the sort of people that a bog standard programmable thermostat, of the hundreds commercially available, caters to perfectly. The people who don’t aren’t served by this product.

But it’s a very interesting initiative, and the brains behind it will hopefully evolve into more interesting and more commercially viable solutions.

These are the offshoot benefits of the smartphone war: Displays, processors, RAM…it is astonishing how inexpensive incredibly powerful solutions are now, coupled with a low power draw that makes them viable and embeddable in everything. I have derelict
smartphones stashed away in drawers that would demolish the expensive embedded solutions we used to drive critical systems just over a decade ago.

Years back a peer and I did the initial steps of a “startup” in exactly this space. We contrived the name “tenom”, with our imagined logo being Monet’s signature rearranged (not sure of the legality of such a repurposing), the second idea being the bar code representation of ten Ω (get it tenom…ten ohm I was so proud of myself). We were in the embedded computing market and it was obvious that the home as it was lacked
intelligence. We wanted to give it some IQ. Our imagined solution included occupancy sensors, switched ducts with area HVAC control, and integrated security. We spoke with some builders and it was fairly obvious that it wasn’t going anywhere: the markup on a home to implement the solution had a baseline in the tens of thousands of dollars, but worse most buyers simply didn’t care.

Technology has come a long way since then. Now your HVAC controller can actively monitor current and coming weather conditions to, essentially, “prepare” (flush the home with exterior air during a cool night and then seal it up as the sun rises, or vice versa). Rather than rudimentary light and proximity sensors, it could know where every member of the household is simply by the fact that many carry a smartphone nowadays.

It could monitor our calendars, hook into our Google Latitude accounts, all to proactively prepare for ideal conditions the moment the first of us arrives home.

And of course people are doing things just like this right now with homegrown solutions. Embedded control boards are a pittance now.

The future is wild. Inexpensive, fantastic quality displays/touchscrens and high performance but miniscule power processors ensure that it will be a rich experience.