technology

Problems with Nest Thermostat 4.0

Are you having trouble with your Nest Thermostat? You're not alone. My company has a dozen of them, and they've been great so far. We've cut our energy bills substantially and they were really easy to install. We'd never had an issue with them until today.

A few people complained that their offices were cold, so I went to home.nest.com to check out our thermostats. Six of them were offline, a mixture of both 1st and 2nd generation products. I saw three different behaviors when I walked to each unit.

Nest Sick Bay

  1. The Nest was working normally, but it couldn't see any WiFi network.
  2. The Nest was very unresponsive. I'm talking about a 3-5 second delay between turning the Nest dial and any on-screen response. When the Nest did respond, it stuttered badly. These units also saw no WiFi networks.
  3. The Nest had a black scree and would not respond.

I grabbed a multimeter and verified a proper 24 VAC across R and C. No issues there. So, I looked up a few articles on Nest's support site (which is now down). Nothing helped, so I called support. After a two hour hold–far longer than any call to Nest before–I was connected to a very cheerful support representative.

She told me that Nest pushed out a software update over the holiday weekend, and that "some" Nest thermostats drained their batteries because of that update. She told me to remove my thermostats from the wall and charge them with a micro-USB cable for an hour.

That's what I'm doing now, and I'll update this post with the results. Take note, 1st generation and 2nd generation Nests use different connectors. I'm guessing this issue is pretty widespread based on the long hold times, and the failure of their support site.

Of course I have a half dozen extra USB chargers.

UPDATE: After about 20 minutes of charging, two of my units are now connected to WiFI, even though they are on the floor and not connected to an AC unit. That's a good sign.

UPDATE 2: Wall charging only fixed two of our thermostats. A "forced reboot" was required to get the other four working again. To perform a forced reboot, take the Nest of its base, hold it with the screen facing the ceiling, and then press the screen and back so it clicks for 15 seconds. Finally, put the Nest back on its base.

A huge Kudos to both Nest support people I spoke with today. Despite what is obviously really high call volume, they were courteous, patient, and knowledgeable. Few things can maintain good product sentiment like fantastics support.

The Power of Focus

Do you read Asymco?  It's one of my favorite blogs.  Horace Dediu applies deep data analysis to the tech world and produces some pretty amazing insights.  Almost every post brings me new perspective and understand on the forces at play in today's technology market.

The most recent post "Think Small" is one of the best pieces I've read.  It's based on comments from Tim Cook about Apple's product strategy.  He mentions that Apple's entire product strategy can fit on a table, and from that small line-up Apple produces incredible revenue, thick profits and rapid growth.

Transient

How many organizations need to learn this lesson: there is power in doing less.  There is this tendency to believe we need to offer more products, at more prices or more services to cover more markets in order to gain share.  All the while it is the specialists who win.  Apple is  great example.  Valve is another.  Instead of trying to be like EA or Activision with titles for every demographic, Valve focuses on a few franchises they can do extremely well.  When, like Apple, they decided it was important to control their customer experience they moved into digital distribution by launching Steam.  Steam is focused.

Think about the companies that are dominating today's markets.  They all do few things well and say no to anything outside their core mission.

In your next meeting, planning session or strategy summit think about what your organization stands for.  Ask yourself what you can do with extreme excellence–what you can do better than any other firm.  Say no to everything else.

This is MyNyte

These three guys had an idea.  There are so many social networks that let you tell your social graph where you've been, and what you did.  Then, there was a new crop of social networks and apps that let you share where you are now via a check-in.  None of these networks made it easy to use your social graph to decide what you were doing next.

Facebook can let everyone you know find out how great last night was.  Foursquare pioneered the idea of sharing presence as it happened, and encouraged people to flock to each other.  The simple fact was that getting a group together to go out was a pain.  It was a ball of texting, calling, emailing, Facebooking and just generally herding cats.  There has to be a better way, right?

Why can't you use your social graph to organize everyone easily?  Further more, how do you know what place is worth hitting tonight?  No one wants to show up to an empty club.  What about those people in your social graph who you just don't want to be around, like ex-girlfriends or guys who are just a little too interested?  Why can't your social graph help you avoid them?

Enter MyNyte.  The idea is so simple, and yet very powerful.  Building an Entourage and assigning Wingmen take the pain out of organizing a small or large group.  Bumps allow MyNyte users to say when they are planning to attend, on their way to, at or leaving a venue–which lets groups of friends move together with a single action.  When that data is aggregated across all of MyNyte, we'll be able to see what venues will be busy before it happens.  That's right, there's now a future's market for night life and the currency is Plans.  Finally, the Frenemy feature will alert you when your activity will intersect with someone who you'd really rather not be bothered with.

Those three guys talked to this guy.  Out of that meeting the idea turned into a company, and my crew was brought in to help.  I became a part of Team MyNyte.

What a team it is!

It's not the first time I've worked on an iOS app.  It's not the first time I've been a part of ground breaking technology.  It's not the first time I've worked in social networking.  It's not the first time I've helped build dynamic, scalable infrastructure to support lots of users.  It's not the first time I've worked with several large, independent code bases that form a single project and mission.

It is the first time I've done all of these things at once while working with people who are the best in the world at what they do.

MyNyte is available for the world to use now.  There's an iPhone app, and a website made just for mobile devices like Android phones.

The long road to launch is just the beginning.  We've got teething pains, bug fixes and a product roadmap that stretches far beyond the horizon.

It's a journey I'm happy to be a part of.