Ecobee, a Toronto-based smart thermostat maker, described how it wants to beat Nest in the thermostat market, in an interview with CNET. “Our vision is of this helpful home that listens, learns and responds to your every need,” said Stuart Lombard, co-founder and CEO of Ecobee.
He said a smart home is working like a honey bee colony, where the home’s mind is composed of a smart thermostat, temperature sensors, light switches and reams of data.
Ecobee, a 370-employees company, has focused on making thermostats for smart homes. Google’s Nest, its major competitor, has stepped into other categories like security systems, smart doorbells and smart cameras. Ecobee on the other hand insists on pouring its resources into one product category and making it more innovative than its competitors.
Ecobee needs to know its customers better than its competitors – to understand when to cool down or to heat up the house according to homeowners’ habits. The company is fighting on this aspect with tech giants like Google, Amazon and Samsung.
Ecobee released the first ever Wi-Fi-connected thermostat in 2009, which has a touchscreen and can be controlled from a smartphone. However, the product’s US$385 price and similar look to traditional thermostats made it less competitive in the market.
In 2011 Nest introduced the Nest Learning Thermostat for US$250 with a circular design and learning capability. It then drew the market’s attention.
When Ecobee released the Ecobee3 to match Nest’s price in 2014, Google announced it would acquire Nest for US$3.2 billion.
The Ecobee4, released last year, doubles as an Amazon Alexa smart speaker, which is a feature that Nest devices lack. Ecobee has also sold temperature sensors to help adjust temperatures in each room in the house since 2014. Nest just started to provide similar solutions this year. According to CNET’s gadget review, the Ecobee4 is “the smartest thermostat we’ve ever reviewed.”
“The key for us is not to try and out-Google Google. Our strategy is really built around focus and innovation. And I think if you look at the thermostat specifically, we’re delivering more innovations to the market faster,” said Lombard.
Currently Nest gets 73% of the dollars spent on smart thermostats in the U.S. market, according to market research firm NPD. Ecobee gets 17% and Honeywell has less than 10%.
Ecobee concentrates on thermostat innovation and saving homeowners’ utility bills. The device is said to save up to 23% in energy costs for each home. To achieve the “helpful home” vision, Ecobee also released a smart light switch this year with Alexa built-in. Lombard didn’t reveal Ecobee’s next step in the interview.
It’s worth seeing how Ecobee will realize its vision as well as how it will further competes with Nest.