In most visions of the future, everything is automated. Our cars drive themselves, our household appliances monitor our food intake, and various robots do our bidding. Some of those science-fiction ideas have become reality; others still seem a long way off. Nest Labs is working on bringing more automation into our daily lives, and its intelligent home appliances were smart enough to catch Google's eye: the tech giant just shelled out $3.2 billion to acquire the start-up. Let's take a look at why ...

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In 2010, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers were working for Apple. Fadell was the man responsible for coming up with the idea for the first iPod; Rogers designed the software that made it work, and he'd also worked on the first versions of the iPhone and iPad. These were smart, talented guys with years of experience in the technology industry and lots of ideas for new products. And while they probably could have stayed at Apple (it's a pretty good place to work, we hear), they decided that they'd take the risky decision to strike out alone.

Their big idea was a smart thermostat. Wi-Fi enabled and capable of learning from patterns of use, the Nest Learning Thermostat would be able to save users energy (and money) by figuring out when they were likely to be at home and automatically adjusting the heating to meet their probable demands. Having developed a prototype for the device, Fadell and Rogers set about raising funds for their business and managed to attract several investors - including Google Ventures.

Nest released its first commercial product in late 2011, and within about a year it had developed a successor, hired around 200 employees, and was shipping thousands of the thermostats to customers in the US and Canada. The product launch wasn't without controversy, as first Honeywell then Allure Energy claimed that the Nest Learning Thermostat infringed on their patents, but Nest rejected their claims and fought back. Meanwhile, even more iterations of the thermostat were developed and marketed, each generation adding more intelligent features.

A second product, the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector, followed late last year. It, too, was packed with smart features, including a motion detector that let it turn on a dim light when someone walked past it at night, and a linked app that lets users check out whether an alarm had been triggered even if they weren't at home. The really clever bitt The Protect can pair up with the Nest Thermostat, so that if, for instance, it detects a gas leak, it can tell the thermostat to turn the boiler off. A smoke detector that might actually stop your house burning down is a pretty brilliant idea, and Google clearly agreed.

Having been a supporter of Nest right from the beginning, Google announced that it was acquiring the smaller company in January 2014. After Motorola Mobility, the $3.2 billion deal is the biggest acquisition in Google's history, so it clearly sees an amazing future for Nest. With Google's clout behind it, who knows what Nest might be able to do to our homes in future? Exciting stuff. Robot butlers, here we come.
At A Glance
Founded: 2010
Founders: Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers
Based in: Palo Alto, California
Known for: Home automation technologies
Annual turnover: N/A
Staff: 200
Website: www.nest.com