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Google Buys Nest – Say, What’s In Your Underwear Drawer?

At last week’s AESP National Conference in San Diego, Meg Matt, AESP CEO, joked in her opening remarks that AESP was acquired by Google.  Others at the conference asked that with the purchase of Nest, is Google getting into the energy efficiency business?  At the risk of cliché, my answer is literally, “I don’t think so.”

After the acquisition announcement, I opined to a couple colleagues that Google is the new Microsoft, and that when it came to Google’s SWOT[1], Google just buys all the WOT.  This doesn’t always go well.  Google purchased Motorola to battle Apple’s dominance in software plus hardware iPhone.  This bombed, and Google is looking to offload Motorola for a song to Chinese buyer, Lenovo.

Google’s motto is, or was, “do no evil”.  Ha.  They seek to know everything about consumer actions – where you browse, where you travel, where you walk, how often you walk, how fast you walk, what you do for entertainment, what you eat, where you go to the movies, purchase gasoline, buy coffee….. and not only that, what you think.

I joked to others at our AESP lunch table that I’m surprised Google hasn’t purchased Fitbit, the personal exercise and wellness doohickey.  Fitbit tracks how well users sleep, how many steps they take, and stuff like that.  My “joke” was that Google would monitor dreams to sell into users’ desires, weaknesses, and fears.  Now that I think about it more, I guarantee Google will buy Fitbit because users can track what they eat including using bar-code scanners for nutritional information of packaged food.  This deal may be done between now (Saturday 2/1) and the time you read this.

Whether seeking to learn everything about consumers, including what’s in their “underwear drawer”, is evil or not is for you to decide.

In case you’re not aware, Google seeks to know everything about you to maximize its advertising revenue and profit.  The Nest acquisition, I am quite sure, is the next level of knowing everything about consumers because the Nest could be a gateway to everything they do and control in their homes.

Google first perfected ad selling for internet shoppers.  With Android and the smart phone, and all it’s free apps, it monitors everything you do while you are using that stuff.  If this sounds creepy, that’s your problem.  That’s the price of free.  The Nest will give them access to the last refuge of their prying “do no evil” conquest – what you do in your home.

I don’t think they give a damn about how you use energy, unless they can sell ads to a utility to get you to switch, in the case you live in an “unregulated” market.  I guarantee if you do live in an unregulated market, suddenly while reading your favorite online newspaper, blog, Facebook, or anywhere banner ads appear, you will have the greener side of the fence tempting you to switch utilities.  If you are the current electricity provider in these markets, congratulations!  You now have another front to defend against and pay Google to keep your customers.

The whole scheme comes down to putting ads or any information buyers will pay for in front of consumers – with the most opportune and cost effective manner and with laser precision.  Google will triangulate to know where you shop, when you shop, how often you use this or that product, and when you need to make your next purchase.

Is your beer supply running low?  Maybe you’re a Heinie drinker.  When Google knows when and where you bought the last 12 pack, suddenly ads for Stella Artois will appear during your favorite reality show, owned by Google – because it knows when you watch TV via the control provided by Nest.  It knows what radio station you listen to while you do the laundry at your normally scheduled 3:00 PM Saturday afternoon.  Running low on fabric softener?  Let “do no evil” help you with that.  Is this an exaggeration?  Not much.

You see, Nest has already opened itself up to outside app developers as Android does.  Who knows what app developers will generate to control things in your home?  It’s all free, including possibly even Nest itself, in exchange for practically watching what you do in your home, 24/7.  Nest also sells Protect, a smoke alarm.  That thing will probably smell what you cook and determine what brand of bathroom cleaner you use.  If you burn the toast too often, toaster and fire extinguisher ads will suddenly stalk you.

Yes, I believe our tiny little $12 billion cottage industry of service providers is of no interest to Google, although I’m sure if they could they would run us over and provide it all for free if they could make money selling ads in the process.  Regulators will not look fondly on this, so I am not concerned.  What they really want is to gain access to people and what they do and consume 24/7.

Apple haters, take comfort that Google is watching your every move and resistance is futile.

[1] SWOT = [company] strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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