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Nest Learning Thermostat: temperature control for the iPhone crowd

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(Read caption) This publicity photo shows the second-generation Nest Learning Thermostat, available in stores later this month. Programmable from a smartphone, the Nest will "learn" your heating and cooling habits.

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If the iPhone were round, wall-mounted and able to control the temperature of your house, it would look something like this.

The Nest Learning Thermostat, a slick, energy-saving thermostat for the era of big data and green everything, was released for the first time last year.

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Tuesday, the Palo Alto, California-based Nest company released an updated version of the space-age thermostat that promises to be compatible with 95 percent of low voltage heating and cooling systems.

This isn’t your grandfather’s thermostat. Nest takes the notion of a “programmable” heating and cooling system and launches it firmly into the 21st century. The silver and black hockey puck-shaped device functions like most thermostats—you turn it up when you’re cold and down when you’re hot—but it also “learns.” By tracking when and by how much you adjust the temperature, the Nest builds a customized, highly optimized schedule for you, according to its makers.

Orwellian? Maybe. But certainly convenient.

And what modern device would be complete without a handsomely designed, flashy online portal that delivers monthly reports with personalized energy-saving tips? Nest has that too. 

What about an app that lets you control the thermostat from your smartphone? Nest’s got it.

But are all these bells and whistles really necessary for something as mundane and ubiquitous as a thermostat?

“We didn’t think thermostats mattered either,” the company’s website reads. “Until we found out they control half of your home’s energy. That’s more than appliances, lighting, TVs, computers and stereos combined.”

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The fancy technology behind the simple, user-friendly facade is designed to reduce your energy consumption and save you money—up to 20 percent on your heating and cooling bills, according to the makers.

While people may not be lining up out the door days in advance of Nest’s release just yet, the thermostat looks poised to capture the hearts of the iPhone generation when (or if) they start settling down and buying houses.

The Nest doesn’t start shipping until October 15, but for $249 you can preorder it at The thermostat will also be available at Lowe’s, Amazon and, appropriately, the Apple Store.