Nest or Comcast for Your Smart Thermostat?

Nest vs Comcast smart thermostat

The tech world went a little crazy when the Nest thermostat launched. However, we haven’t seen quite the same level of excitement for the home automation services making their way to market from the cable and telco providers. And those services are growing by the day. Comcast has launched Xfinity Home to about one third of its customers, and plans to cover almost its entire footprint by the end of the year. Time Warner Cable also said in a recent earnings report that it plans to extend its home automation service to more markets in 2012. And Verizon is quite likely to do the same, having debuted its home control service back in October.

Of course, the MSOs are offering something quite a bit different from Nest. The full Xfinity Home package, for example, includes thermostat control, home security, door and window sensors, motion detectors, smoke detectors, lighting control and a glass-break sensor. Nest is just a smart thermostat. But the beauty of Nest is that it offers something simple, and you only have to buy it once – no subscription fee required.

The operators are betting big that home automation will give them another value-added service to keep margins up and avoid the dumb pipe scenario. However, I have to wonder if subscribers are willing to fatten up the cable/telco monthly bill even more. Home security is its own business, and perhaps the operators can chip away at ADT’s market share. But adding on a regular fee for thermostat or lighting control strikes me as a hard sell. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is like the DVR, and only when the cable/telco industry jumps on board will the market really take off. But personally, if I decide to spent money on temperature control, I’ll pick up the Nest device. It sure is prettier. 

Motorola homesight wireless thermostat

One final note – this is not the first time operators have tried to get into home automation. Back in 2004 Motorola tried to latch on to MSO interest by launching its own set of “smart” devices. Here’s a bonus pic of the company’s wireless thermostat from eight years ago. The product didn’t last long.

6 thoughts on “Nest or Comcast for Your Smart Thermostat?”

  1. That xfinity stat in the picture is nothing more than a rebadged 3M filtrete 3m-50 Wifi enabled thermostat. Actually made and maintained by Radio Thermostat of America. It can be purchased for about $100 at Home Depot.

  2. And Verizon resells Trane. But for many people and households, they prefer the safety net of a service provider along with perhaps additional features. At least that’s what companies Comcast, Verizon, and ADT are hoping. But it’s a bit convoluted – at least with Verizon, as you hire your own installer if you need help. ADT is probably the best positioned to pull this off as a service.

  3. The bigger issue in my mind is that I don’t trust the cable company with critical (or semi-critical) services like HVAC, fire detection and security. Internet service was their first branch-out from basic television, and their reliability and, especially, customer service, in that realm hasn’t been very impressive to me. What reason do I have to believe that their service will be better in areas that are even further from their core competency? Combine that with the fact that those things are even more important to me than TV and Internet (as hard as that is to believe), and there’s virtually no chance I’m going to bite.

  4. There are other “choices” right now as well. I’m part of a pilot program from NStar, one of the Boston-area power companies where the came in and installed a few in-home devices, one is a display of my power usage, one is a device which talks to the power meter outside of my house but another is a connected thermostat. The thermostat is a “Standard” programmable thermostat but also can be adjusted via a (flash based) web site. It also will allow the power company to “suggest” an override of a/c settings in cases of high power demand. This was all free to me (and my impression was that they are planning on rolling this out to a much larger part of their customer base).

  5. This seems similar to the Trane Z-Wave thermostat we installed last year. Using the Vera system we can control our thermostat from anywhere. I guess our system was more complicated to set up, but no extra costs after buying the system and we do all the managing.

  6. Comcast has been advertising the Home Security service quite heavily here in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area recently. As I’m already in bed with Comcast pretty heavily (Internet, Phone, Cable TV) I know that they sometimes make the bundling a deal that is hard to resist.

    I already have a monitored security system (offered through a local power utility from a neighboring area) at a decent price, so I don’t think I’ll be switching.

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