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Can a Nest smoke detector be as exciting as the iPod?Nest Labs, founded by the man dubbed the "father of the iPod," has found a way to get into your home in addition to its thermostat: a $129 smoke and carbon monoxide detector called Nest Protect. CNET's Paul Sloan sat down with Nest CEO Tony Fadell to...
-Why smoke detectors? Why not smoke detectors? That's really the case. Why hasn't there been any innovation since the 70s in smoke detectors as far as I can tell? They look basically the same. They do basically the same thing. And they annoy you the same as they did in the 70s when I was growing up. You know, they beep at night. They'll beep when they and go off when you're cooking or maybe when you're taking a shower. When you look at these things in a product that's mandated by in every single state in the union, and you have to have three or four of these per home, at least minimally, why hasn't there been more innovation in this area? Why hasn't there been something that doesn't wake you up in the middle of the night when the battery is low? -Okay. -It just seemed totally obvious to us. -Can you talk about your demographics or where the customers are you have now? -Well, it's what-- -How many have-- -where we have now? So, our customers today are in all 50 states. They're in Canada, every province. There are actually in 90 countries where we don't even sell. They're less-- Nest Learning Thermostat. So, people, either come to the US and take them somewhere into their home country or they actually go on eBay and find some grey marketer who does that. So, it reminds me a lot of like the iPod days and the iPhone days, the early days. When they weren't available in those countries, people came and sought out the technology and brought them to their home country. -You brought up the comparison to the iPod. Is it really-- I mean, it's just still a little bit unimaginable to me to compare such a device. Is it that-- Is it that exciting to you? -Absolutely. Look, we're talking about revolutionizing yet another category that you interact with at some point in your life or is part of your life. And so, for me, we are passionate. We are passionate about, crazy enough to be said, thermostats and we're passionate about smoke and CO detectors. Why? -Uh-huh. -That's what it takes to reinvent categories. You need to have the passion. This isn't just about business. This is about changing our lives and changing your lives to make it better. -Are there other-- Again, without divulging your roadmap, when you look around your house, are there other things that frustrate you that you think? I mean, where do-- where do you-- where do you see this connected world going? -Well, I don't think everything that could be connected should be connected. So, you know, we have to look at key needs inside the home and where key touch points are. A lot of people are creating new things. Like, oh, we're gonna put a tablet on a refrigerator. -Uh-huh. -To me, that makes absolutely no sense. You have a great interface with you at all times in your phone or your tablet you take with you. Why put another one on a refrigerator that you have to maintain a software update. It doesn't make much sense to me. So, I think that you're gonna see other products, get this connectivity for energy data, for convenience data, but it was not gonna all have displays in your face-- -Uh-huh. -They're-- just like Nest Protect. There's not a display there. It's about ambient information and bringing that information and combining it into an app like the Nest app. I think you're gonna see many more products inside the home, getting better technologies, not necessarily in your face. -Heads up, there's smoke in the dining room. -Here's a weird one. How did you pick the voice? -We didn't just pick one voice. We picked five different voices. We picked American English, American Spanish. We picked French Canadian. We picked Canadian English. And we picked British English. -Smoke alarm hush. -What was really important was to make sure we had a mother tongue version of the language. -Uh-huh. -If there is an emergency, studies have shown that kids are more likely to wake up through a mother's voice instead of a horn sound of a smoke alarm. So, what we wanna do is bring that mother's voice on that local-- in that local tonality to the product. -Emergency. There's smoke. -Are there things from Apple that you've carried over to Nest or things like culturally or ways you come up with ideas or things that you've taken from iPad time-- iPod times that you can show me? -Well, you know, Apple was an amazing experience and many of the people here are from there and the biggest thing-- lesson that we learned is about experience, right? It's all about creating experience, not just the product experience but the sales experience. How do you learn about the brand experience, about how people communicate the experience they have to their friends and family? At Apple, how you sell it, how you package it, how you unbox it? All of those things were all key to the experience and what we believe we're doing here at Nest. We want our customers not to just look at our products singularly, but we want them, if they buy multiple products, multiple categories of products that we want them to work even better together. And so, in the case of the CO detector and the thermostat, what happens is the number one cause of CO leaks in home are due to faulty furnaces. Something is broken in the furnace and CO is leaking into the home. So, what Nest Protect does is if it detects a CO leak, it tells a Nest thermostat in the same home to turn off. So, hopefully, we get the number one leak source of the leak in the home shut off right away. So, these are the kind of things that we can do better when they're all engineered and designed under one roof.