A new Google Nest thermostat collides with the FCC. Droid-Life was the first to see this listing on the government site. The listing is in confidential mode, so it is sparse on the details, but the details we have are strange. We think it has air gesture controls.
First, the RF exposure report lists the device as a “thermostat” and states that it has 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, all of which seem very generic. Then, it lists the device with a “60GHz transmitter”, which was not on the previous Nest thermostat. One possible use for a 60GHz transmitter is “WiGig,” a 60GHz form of Wi-Fi that can hit 7Gbps. High-speed data transfer doesn’t really seem appropriate for a thermostat, however, the other more likely possibility is Project Soli, Google’s air gesture system first commercialized on the Pixel 4 late last year.
Project Soli is an air gesture system that Google has been developing for some time. It is a compact radar system-on-a-chip, and Google has FCC approval to use Soli in the 64 to 64-GHz frequency band. The original sales pitch for Soli was that by destroying his hand with 60Ghz and capturing the returning signal, Soli could detect “sub-millimeter motions of his fingers”, which would enable great gesture control . It is possible to rub the two fingers together to press the button or spin the dial. The Soli was originally conceived for devices without large touchscreens such as speakers or smartwatches. A Nest thermostat would likely fit that description, as it does not have a touchscreen and instead relies on a spin-capable scroll wheel that doubles as the thermostat’s outer body.
Of course, the Pixel 4 version of Project Soli was a mess, and to shrink the experimental chip to fit it into a smartphone meant hitting a lot of the “sub-millimeter” precision that was promised. Instead of moving its fingers around, the Pixel 4 required large, hand-waving gestures to detect anything, and the functionality was pretty redundant, given that the smartphone already had a large front-end Touchscreen. Perhaps a thermostat, which is much thicker than a smartphone and doesn’t have to worry about battery life, could use a larger, more accurate chip.
To date, Google has never taken a swing to design the Nest Thermostat. Google bought Nest in 3.2 billion in 2014, but Nest operated as an independent company under the umbrella of Google (and later Alphabet) for several years. The current flagship thermostat, the 3-gen Nest, was released in 2015, and the Cheap Nest E launched in 2017. Nest ceased to be a standalone company and merged with Google in 2018. By Google I / O 2019, the Nest Company was indeed. Dead, and “Nest” became a Google sub-brand. Nest and Google still have a lot of confusing overlaps, such as competing smart home apps, and it seems that all Nest products will eventually have to be replaced by Google Editions.
Google may be in charge right now, but there is hardly a good reason to release the updated version of the thermostat. This is just a thermostat! It never requires a fast processor or advanced connectivity, so you’ve got another excuse for spinning a new piece of hardware. Using Google Logic, Project Soli air gestures seem like a good enough reason to build the Google version of the Nest Thermostat. I’m not sure if anyone really wants to wave their hand at the thermostat, but we’ll see what Google’s final sales pitch is.