Turning Gadget Lust Into Energy Efficiency

Nest is an awesome gadget that will over time pay for itself.

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal in conversation with industry entrepreneurs shaping our future. See full coverage

It would be hard to come up with any single area of energy that is less sexy than efficiency. Efficiency is the realm of window panes and insulation. The most widely adopted thing to come along for consumers who want to buy efficient stuff has been a special kind of light bulb  Think about that.

Meanwhile, our gadgets are just about the coolest things in the consumer world. They are what people buy each other for the holidays and they are what teenagers want to own. There is a reason that Apple is worth more than a hundred billion dollars more than Exxon these days. People really, really like buying gadgets.

Nest is the love child of efficiency and gadgets. Co-founded by Tony Fadell and other Apple veterans, the company has somehow created a craveable thermostat, something you want to own because it's cool. "It's a thermostat!" I yelled at myself when I purchased one of the $250 gadgets. But then some other part of my brain responded, "No, it's an awesome gadget that will eventually pay for itself." And that's a pretty compelling proposition.

In a series of videos this week, the company's VP of Technology, Yoky Matsuoka, will explain how the Nest learns to save you money. And why someone like her, a specialist in artificial intelligence who ran a robotics laboratory at the University of Washington, ended up working for a thermostat company. The one at the top of this post kicks off the series.

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