Among the earliest building climate thermostats ever pioneered was the bi-metal coiled thermostat made by Warren Johnson. Its main function was to sense changes in room temperature and alert building maintenance that the furnace heat damper in the basement of Johnson’s academic building needed opening or closing. The unifying idea between this ingenious prototype and most thermostat products on the market today is that life is easier lived if a machine can monitor and manage internal building environments so that its occupants don’t have to.
As technology advanced from Johnson’s day, so did the sophistication, with the expansion of user control a prominent priority. Digitalization of user control led to the emergence of the class of products known today as smart thermostats.
Simply being more advanced than previous generations of technology is hardly a high bar, however, so how are the smartest smart thermostats separating themselves from their past, present and future competition? The answer is not necessarily by being smarter, but rather by being more thoughtful.
Expanded Control Paired with a Reduction in Responsibility
Responsiveness is a key differentiator across all types of top thermostats. The most obvious way a thermostat demonstrates its responsiveness is by successfully performing the climate control tasks a user asks it to perform. Smart thermostats elevate their responsiveness by diversifying the range of commands they can execute and the range of ways a user can give those commands.
The smartest thermostats recognize that a true demonstration of responsiveness is not just doing what is asked but in learning tendencies and preempting asks entirely.
For most modern thermostats, this means allowing users to adjust temperature and humidity settings, either on the device itself or from their phones, in real-time or on a schedule. User control of smart thermostats has grown impressively comprehensive in recent years, but the ranges of commands a thermostat can execute and the range of ways a user can give those commands have expanded past the point of diminishing marginal returns.
In addition to growing the ability for users to do more and more, today’s smartest pro-install thermostats also allow their users and their integrators to do less and less. This connects back to what Warren Johnson was originally looking for when designing his “electric tele-thermoscope” contraption: a reduction in his own effort. Johnson, a professor, was simply tired of having to interrupt his lectures for to regulate his rooms’ temperatures.
Similarly, what today’s smart thermostat users need is not always more ability but rather less responsibility. The smartest thermostats recognize that a true demonstration of responsiveness is not just doing what is asked but in learning tendencies and preempting asks entirely. This materializes both in design and operation of a pro-install smart thermostat’s hardware as well as the processing power and interoperability of its software.
More Thoughtful Features Mean Fewer Pain Points
There are a variety of pain points the most thoughtfully designed pro-install thermostats preclude their users and integrators from having to deal with. For homeowners, sleepy residents don’t want to have to fumble around a dark room for a thermostat, so thoughtful thermostats include proximity sensors to awake the device screen when approached. Similar sensors throughout the home can also be used to determine when a room fills with people, prompting a reduction in temperature to offset the rise from the crowd’s collective body heat.
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While DIY smart thermostats are often battery-powered, the smartest thermostats on the market are professionally wired to eliminate the risk of a dead battery resulting in a freezing or sweltering home. The smartest thermostats will also learn habits over time and act on their learnings. For example, if homeowners are consistently ticking down temperature settings from their scheduled levels around midday, the smartest thermostats will internalize that data and make those adjustments on their own moving forward.
Homeowners want a streamlined product that hardly needs their attention at all. Integrators want much of the same, so the most thoughtful smart thermostats have integrators’ experiences in mind as well.
For one thing, configurations on the best thermostats are savable, meaning integrators won’t need to redo the same tedious tasks from job to job. They also integrate natively into smart home ecosystems and pair natively with the other products within those ecosystems like smart shades or lights. This saves integrators the hassle of troubleshooting connections. Flexible wiring eases install processes and allow for entry into builds at a variety of stages, while designer-friendly form factors help them fit aesthetically in a variety of spaces.
Climate control is of course the central utility of a smart thermostat, but anticipating and avoiding eventualities where a user or integrator might be frustrated is the true differentiating factor for the most thoughtfully designed smart thermostats. Smart thermostats do live in the home after all – that’s why the smartest ones act like it.
About the Author: As the Director of Marketing for the Residential and Marine sectors globally, Michael Short is responsible for the strategic direction and implementation of all marketing activities that span both the dealer channel and end consumer. His role includes working in complete alignment with product development, sales and the wider marketing team to drive areas such as product marketing, campaign development and execution, creative direction and consumer demand generation.
Prior to working at Crestron, Michael spent 2 years at a leading LED lighting manufacturer where he was Head of Marketing and his earlier career included marketing roles within financial services and luxury automotive. Michael is a member of The Chartered Institute of Marketing and studied Economic and Social Policy at the University of Sheffield, UK and he recently was awarded the Dealerscope 40 Under 40 award within the AV industry for his marketing achievements at Crestron.