Cisco Canada Blog

My Thermostat and the Internet of Everything

January 14, 2014

My family and I were heading up to Wiarton, the home of the infamous weather predicting groundhog “Wiarton Willie”, and the wheels started churning in my head about what my next Cisco Champions post would be about. My youngest daughter was listening to her music on her iPhone and my wife was having a nap. Driving can be boring especially when you’ve got no one to talk to!


We’d recently purchased a Fiat 500M, for my wife (she calls it the Tardis for those of you who are Dr. Who fans) so we were still familiarizing ourselves with it. I noticed on the dashboard a small digital screen right smack in the middle of the various dials that showed speed, engine temperature and RPMs. This small screen provided me with highly relevant and useful data including current speed, outside temperature, number of kilometes and current road conditions. This dashboard also will tell me how many more kilometres I can squeeze out of remaining gas in the tank. There’s other data that I’d like to see on the dashboard including estimated arrival time, for trips, and kilometres traveled per litre of gas but one can’t have everything at their fingertips can they?

This intelligent dashboard got me thinking about my thermostat at home. It’s pretty safe to assume that most readers are familiar with Smart Meters and the information they are providing energy suppliers. utilities, distributors and exchanges. I must confess that the promise of smart meters is lost on me at the present time. As a consumer of energy I’m not seeing the value of smart meters at all. Ontario now has 4.5M smart meters connected to the grid but I am not seeing any benefit that these connected devices are having on my energy consumption habits and my bank account.

My thoughts turned back to the Fiat digital dashboard and I thought to myself that the most important “device” for me in my home when it comes to energy is my thermostat. Aha! I need a smart thermostat to go with my smart meter! The data being gathered in real-time needs to be converted and translated into actionable information and presented on my thermostat.

The current and fairly new thermostat in our home is relatively dumb in my opinion. Sure it’s got a cool touchscreen interface but its a very simple upgrade to the previous analog version. But it could be so much more! To start, I’d like to be able to program how much money I have budgeted to spend per month on energy. If for example my monthly budget is $175 my thermostat should display data telling me whether I’m going to be over budget or not. In Ontario, the IESO, sets the pricing of energy in real-time and smart meter data is intended to better monitor supply and demand for various reasons including more accurately setting energy prices. It stands to reason that the current market price for energy, or a near real-time price, could be used by my themostat to predict whether I would spend more than I budgeted.

To me the Internet of Everything means that I can use the data from smart meters to understand my energy consumption habits and costs and take action, if I wish, to change them.

The great news is, smart thermostats are already here, Cisco Canada’s Bill McGowan has the details.

Author: Chris Herbert

Chris Herbert is the founder of Mi6 Agency. Mi6 is a B2B (Business to Business) marketing and business development agency dedicated to helping companies create content, customers, networks & markets. He is the founder of ProductCamp Toronto and the Hi-tech community Silicon Halton. He tweets under the handle @B2Bspecialist.

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  1. Totally agree Chris that there is no reason why all devices in the home should not be smarter. However I disagree that the ‘smart’ thermostats being touted by Bill – the Nest – is in fact ‘smarter’ than many learning thermostats on the market today. The Nest does not learn in the sense that if I say I want my house at 72c by 6:15, and it generally takes 30 minutes to get there, to turn my heating on at 5:45. It is eye candy for sure, with a pretty interface, like on the ‘tardis’ 🙂 but not as smart as it should be.

    Plus, there are many examples during the power outage where the Nest battery runs down because it can’t connect to wifi and keeps on trying (much like smart phones) but can’t recharge because the power is off – and then went AWOL when the power returned.

    Point is, if we are going to have better, internet connected devices in the home, they need to do the basics well. It should learn, it should not go AWOL during power outages (particularly in cold climates) it shouldn’t require extra work to set the temperature points, they shouldn’t get lost during a software upgrade that you cannot control, it should handle DST or at least only require you to adjust the clock, not all your settings and so on.

    I love the look of the Nest but took a pass after so many friends had problems with theirs.

    So back to the premise above. I totally agree that we need smarter devices that truly help with understanding energy consumption which would help us ultimately save money – just mustn’t get attracted to the outward beauty over the core functionality. Wonder how many using Nests away from home during the power outage are now paying to replace burst pipes?