UPDATE

Google issued this statement to TechCrunch after news of their SEC filing hit today:

We are in contact with the SEC to clarify the language in this 2013 filing, which does not reflect Google’s product roadmap.  Nest, which we acquired after this filing was made, does not have an ads-based model and has never had any such plans.”

Needless to say, it seems that Google isn’t too interested in having people think that they’ll be getting ad-filled Nest thermostats. So there’s that.

Original Story

When Google announced its plans to acquire Nest, the company behind the smart-thermostat, jokes abounded about the inevitable addition of advertisements to the gadget’s display. But despite assurances from Nest that it’ll protect user data, Google has gone on record as saying that advertisements may eventually wind up on smart devices throughout people’s homes – including smart-thermostats.

A report from the Wall Street Journal says that a letter sent by Google to the Securities and Exchange Commission in December explained that its ads may start appearing on various smart-home devices at some point in the future. The letter, published today, was sent to defend Google’s decision not to disclose the specific revenue the company earns via mobile devices, opting instead to disclose all ad-based revenue as a whole. Because the definition of “mobile device” will continue to evolve, says Google, it’s impossible to disclose that kind of revenue data, and doing so “could be misleading and confusing to investors.”

Says the letter:

“In a short period of time, the meaning of ‘mobile’ at Google has shifted dramatically to ‘handset’ from ‘tablet + handset.’ We expect the definition of ‘mobile’ to continue to evolve as more and more ‘smart’ devices gain traction in the market. For example, a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.”

Of course, it should be noted that this is far from a confirmation of Google’s specific plans to start pumping ads into your house. Moreover, one has to wonder how well a thermostat-based advertisement would even work. Could you navigate to a webpage or make a purchase by clicking on a tiny thermostat display? Is there even a web browser on the Nest?

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It’s possible that Google and Nest are working together to create a more all-inclusive device that can control smart-devices in your home. That platform – not a tablet, not a smartphone, but definitely somewhat “mobile” – could certainly be an avenue for delivering advertising.

As annoying as it may be to have to deal with targeted advertisements that Google puts in front of your eyeballs, it’s also good to remember a very important factor here: most of Google’s services are completely free of monetary cost. Gmail is one of the most widely used web-based email services in the world, and it doesn’t cost you a nickel. So too is Google’s search engine, Google’s productivity software and apps (Drive, Docs, etc.), Maps, Keep, its ever-evolving translation services…

The point is, Google is all about transforming people’s lives in pretty significant ways. The company likes to generate revenue while doing it, and as such, packs a few easy-to-ignore advertisements into its services. Is the idea that it might want to do the same as it connects your home to the web really that hard to deal with? After all, television that’s piped right into your living room – even cable television, which you pay money for already – is bundled with advertisements. We seem to have no trouble accepting those ads…why is it such a stretch that Google might want to do the same in return for the services they provide at no cost?

[Source: Wall Street Journal]


  • Changing the temperature of my house is not “a service they provide at no cost”. It’s not even a service. I bought a piece of hardware to perform a rudimentary function in my house. I never invited Google into my house, nor will I ever explicitly allow them to place ads on my thermostat.
    Hate to overract to this story, but this is what happens when a company sells peoples’ eyeballs as their product in lieu of actual goods/services.


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