Google’s about to get the plumbers in. Earlier this week, it bought Nest, a business that’s trying to create a "smart" home thermostat management system that learns your home heating routine.
We can tell you, it’s not that hard. If it’s cold, you turn it on. When you get warm enough or you’ve already spent hundreds on gas or electric in any given month, you turn it off again and start doing star jumps to stay warm. It’s a thing that doesn’t really need automating.
Does this mean Google’s about to start harvesting data on how warm we like the lounge? Will it be able to grass us up when we secretly put the heating on? Or is it something more complex to do with the "connected home" and internet fridges and fax washing machines and SMS-enabled cookers and all that interconnected rubbish no one really cares about?
As far as the commenters on the internet are concerned, it’s clearly some sort of cynical move to encroach upon our lives and monitor our pathetic existences in greater detail. Then tell the NSA all about it.
Perhaps the ultimate reason for the acquisition was uncovered by Techcrunch reader Rashad Abdul-Salaam, who piped up with: "Must have Google+ account to install and use."
A little further down the same thread reader Dan Nunn said, equally cynically: "…we’d have to look to the Motorola acquisition to see what dramatic benefits the backing of Google can bring Nest. Within two years, maybe we will be able to custom-order a Nest with a coloured backplate and laser etch your name into it."
The heat is on
The award for the quickest descent into paranoid commentary about the NSA was won by Wired reader Introbulus, who seems to think the reason for Google’s purchase is because they want to spy on him in the shower.
Responding to a comment about how credit card information gathered by banks for decades is much more personal and valuable than data that could be harvested by a bloody heater, he said: "Signing and accepting a contract for payment by electronic exchange is one thing. Putting a listening device in your house to gather data on your habits for business moguls is… it’s basically what everyone gets upset at the NSA for doing."
A few saner people then pointed out that Nest thermostats don’t come with HAL-like eyes and directional mics on them and that, maybe, he ought to calm down a bit. Calm down or go to live in a shed the woods on his own with a nice collection of guns instead.
Even on CNN, where you’d think people might be a bit more adult about it, everyone thinks Google’s leading us all into a dramatised real-world version of George Orwell’s 1984.
Reader Andrew seems to think the planet is a couple of years away from becoming one enormous North Korea ruled over by Eric "Kim Jong" Schmidt and his Google+ membership enforcement death squads, saying: "No one is out to protect you now because no one is going to listen about privacy complaints when their pockets are getting filled with money. Whether it’s the corporations or even the government. We are heading into an era of absolutely ‘No Privacy’ whatsoever, which leads to Totalitarianism."
Dude, it’s just a thermostat. A little thing that makes the radiators warm when you’ve been sitting still for too long and your feet have gone cold. You’d think people would be embracing our new, house-warming robot overlords.
And in response, reader Stephen told us a little too much about his personal paranoia threat levels. He’s basically in a safe room right now with a gun and 1,000 tins of beans, waiting for the apocalypse, saying: "Security? I got two big dogs. Heat? I got a 600lb plate steel wood stove, that doesn’t need any electricity. Food? I got mason jars in the pantry, filled with processed, home-grown tomatoes, potatoes and green beans. Rather than make life more complicated, with these new fangled gadgets, I choose to simplify my life."
What are you going to burn when Google buys all the trees, Steve?
In a quite ridiculous, sprawling, 700+ comment thread about how having to create accounts to run connected cloud services is basically like selling your soul to Satan in order to be able to run an app on your phone, readers on The Verge engaged in numerous battles about the rights and wrongs of giving data to corporations.
Reader DeV14nt suggested the whole shambles is "…making privacy nuts look nuts," adding: "Oh no, they know I like the colour green! And my house at 70 degrees!" That’s extremely valuable information for the staff at your local hardware store, though, Dev.
The best joke of the week came from The Register reader Anonymous Coward, who said: "At least it’s not Amazon, otherwise we’d get bombarded with emails along the lines of ‘Other people with homes at the same temperature as yours have looked at these woolly jumpers’."
- Want more cutting comments? Then check out more Inflame – TechRadar’s weekly dive beyond the internet fold