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Google, Nest and the Internet of Things: Big Brother in the making?

 Does Google really want to make the world a warmer and greener place for users, or does the company have something else in mind?

Internet of Things

Earlier this week, Google and Nest announced the planned $3.2 billion acquisition of the thermostat maker, to date one of the biggest acquisitions that Google has made. Nest aims to make power consumption more efficient by automatically controlling room temperatures depending on context.

For homeowners, power savings can be realized as the heat is only turned up when the users are expected to be at home. For Google, with its dozens of data centers around the world, an automated system for climate control would also result in cost-savings.

The bigger benefit, however, would be in terms of connectivity across devices: machines talking to machines. Here’s where the concept of the Internet of Things comes into place. Nest is just the beginning, but it gives Google better access to a device that has motion detectors that track movement inside one’s home — one that is already available in the market. Couple this with Android smartphones and handsets, plus Google’s involvement in the Open Automotive Alliance. Google can now track our whereabouts whether we are at home, in our car, at the office or on the go.

According to Nest, the extent of its data gathering is only for purposes of “providing and improving Nest’s products and services.” But once Google comes into the picture, there’s no telling how the search company can take advantage of any data collected from households in its advertising business.

Google has already been hit with privacy complaints, particularly with Google Glass‘ potentially intrusive camera and microphone, email sending via Google+, and Street View, among others. Google’s Nest acquisition is just another addition to a series of technologies that Google can use to impose its ubiquity in our lives — and willingly for our part, at that.

The tradeoff between convenience and security has been a long-standing one. Consumers are made to believe that easier is better, and that we want less trouble, lower transactional friction, minimal key presses and the easiest interactions. Your smartphone telling your connected thermostat to warm up the house to livable temperatures when we’re only 20 minutes away from arriving is certainly better than having to manually turn up the heat or keeping the heat up all day.

But in exchange, your thermostat, smartphone and car might already be telling Google where you are, what route you are taking, and perhaps even where you will be shopping or eating out. Are you ready to give up some of your privacy in exchange for conveniences, deals and discounts?

Image credit: Silicon Labs

J. Angelo Racoma
J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise applications and services. He is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team.

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