Review: Nest Learning Thermostat

The version 2.0 of the Nest Learning Thermostat has been out for a bit now, and it’s been in the vanguard of the connected home. Nest was started by some former Apple people, and it shows in the simplicity of the device.

Andrew, one of our colleagues at the radio station, recently installed one, and we wanted to know what he likes best about it. He remarked that the best thing about it was that it learns your schedule, and would turn on about an hour before he got home to warm the house. He noted that with the recent cold snap, that was particularly appreciated.

Nest has a YouTube video on how to install it yourself, but you have to be at least a little handy. If you have the normal forced air furnace plus air conditioning, it should be pretty straightforward. If you’re not handy, or have a more complex system, Nest’s website will direct you to a local HVAC contractor who will put it in for a hundred bucks additional. The Nest itself is $249.

Nest also has a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm…the Next Protect. If you’re not crazy about gadgets from former Apple people, you should know that Google is also testing a web connected thermostat, according to slashdot.


An Uptick ‘Surfacing’ At Microsoft

With the turmoil over replacing Steve Ballmer as CEO and people still not upgrading to the latest version of Windows 8, Microsoft could use some good news. Computerworld.com says they may be about to get it. The iPad still crushes all comers in the tablet market with 72% of people saying they plan to buy it when they buy a tablet, with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab at 9%, tied with the Google Nexus. The Microsoft Surface is now at 8%.

Why is this good news? Samsung and Google have dropped from 12 and 13% respectively. The iPad and Surface are the only tablets showing growth since August in the percentage of people planning to buy. It’s probably not a fluke… the Windows RT Surface beat the iPad in purchases at Best Buy on Black Friday. Even though many of those were older models sold at a discount, The Surface is showing some signs of life, and that’s good news for Microsoft.


Google and the Next Generation of Robots

Amazon has gotten a lot of buzz about their delivery drones the last week, and we’ve heard that both FedEx and UPS are also working on time. Meanwhile, over at the Google Skunkworks, the ‘don’t be evil’ company is working on revolutionizing robotics for industry. Since summer, Google has bought up 7 tech companies in their quest to build the next generation of robots. These machines would be geared to electronics assembly lines and supply chains, so don’t expect Terminator type ‘bots. Businessinsider.com says Google’s robotics division will be based in Palo Alto, with a satellite office in Japan.


Review: E La Carte

E La Carte has signed a deal with Applebee’s Restaurants, the country’s largest casual dining chain. Techcrunch.com says they plan to have100,000 tableside tablets in all US locations by the end of 2014. Some stores already have them. I had the opportunity to check out E La Carte at the Applebee’s in the Fairfield Mall. You can order appetizers, drinks, and desserts from it, as well as pay your tab. We used the tablet to order drinks, which went flawlessly, but were too full for dessert!

While E La Carte might seem at first blush to be threatening to servers, actually it has a great feature for them and math challenged diners…when you pay from the E La Carte tablet, it suggests different tip options based on percentages…like New York taxis. Instead of figuring the percentage on your smartphone in your lap, just select one of the choices, or you can write in your own amount.

To pay, just swipe your card, and sign. Note: this is the one funky part of E La Carte…there’s no stylus, you sign your name with your fingertip…not the most elegant way to leave your signature! In a nod to the past, Applebee’s may add control of the music, like tabletop jukebox controls of yesteryear. I think most people will find E La Carte easy to use, and even fun!