Many a Hollywood comedy scene has been written around fake smoke, an automatic sprinkler system and a screeching fire alarm that doesn’t stop till it is given two firm whacks with a broom handle. Frustrated by the lack of intelligent options for something as basic as smoke alarms and other domestic appliances, Matt Rogers (L) and Tony Fadell started Nest Labs in 2010. 

The Palo Alto-based firm now designs and creates WiFi-enabled smart thermostats and smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. Aided by sensors, the thermostats strive to conserve energy by monitoring your usage pattern and presence. Not only do they start adapting to the room they are installed in, the thermostats sense the hours of the day that the house is empty and accordingly modify the heating and air-conditioning cycles. The smoke and CO detectors are much smarter — instead of shrieking at the slightest hint of smoke, they are able to discern the difference between steam and other misleading vapours.

Also, once triggered, the device calmly issues voice warnings in a pre-recorded human voice instead of insufferable metallic clanging. In case of a false alarm, users can simply turn the alarm off with a wave of their hand. Given that a vast majority of homeowners make the fatal mistake of switching smoke detectors off due to their nuisance value, Nest products represent a necessary innovation. 

A recent $80 million funding boost has helped get the firm, which ships 40,000-50,000 units a month, an $800 million valuation. With its devices ranging in price from $129 for a smoke detector to $249 for a thermostat, the Valley-based innovation lab is already raking in revenue of around $119 million a year. 


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