An Open-Source, Nest-Like Thermostat, Built In One Day

No longer do you need millions of dollars to build connected hardware.

With Nest scooped up by Google for $3.2 billion, one company believes there's room for another sleek smart thermostat.

Spark wanted to show it could create an open-source Nest-like thermostat using Spark Core, its Arduino-compatible development platform for building Internet-connected hardware. The result isn't an exact duplicate, but it's not a bad approximation for a day's worth of work. For example, instead of a glass and aluminum enclosure, which Nest uses, Spark opted for acrylic and wood for its prototype. The company put up step-by-step directions for people to build their own learning thermostats in a blog post published Friday.

Founder and CEO Zach Suppalla said the project's intention wasn't to say that a $3.2 billion company could be built in a day, but rather that getting there is easier than ever before. "A lot has changed in the last few years to get more entrepreneurs in this space," Suppalla told Fast Company. "Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and crowdfunding tools make it possible to do that as well as Spark Core." Such resources help entrepreneurs get products to market faster—without $20 million budgets for prototyping, as Nest had, he added.

Though he admits Spark's version is "definitely not anywhere close" to Nest, he said the prototype worked well for a single room. "But you know, I think if you had tried to get to the same point a couple years ago, it could've taken months to get a basic sort of working prototype rather than just a day," he noted.

[Image: Spark]

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3 Comments

  • It isn't how nice the hardware looks. These things don't even need to be placed somewhere where they are visible since I only use my phone to management my thermostat since it has wifi. I don't care about learning bullshit or some motion sensor in a room I might never go in. Since these devices are wireless, the most obvious solution is polling your wireless network to see if you are home. I wrote a Ruby script to do just that and posted it here http://blog.ericwoodruff.me/2013/08/radio-thermostat-auto-away-script.html but this function should run on the device itself.

  • This ignores the complexity of supply chain, tooling, industrialization or a manufacturing line, and the backend data platform Nest has built.

    It is quite easy to build one of anything. It is quite hard to build 1 million of something in a repeatable and quality manner. That is why hardware is hard. This really tells us nothing. It's. Nice demo, but different problem.

  • I think you haven't given the creators of spark their due credit... they've created a product that is of high quality, and repeatable. They've also built a supply chain and manufacturing process around it, complete with quality assurance testing. (All in less than one year I might add...)

    That aside, the product that they've made... allows ME to make a one off nest like product in one day. That's the point of this article, and of the spark core. I can then move their product to a different project and control my weather station... my brewing process, or the robot I've been working on. Its a tool that enables, not the end product.

    I encourage you to visit their community: www.spark.io and buy one for yourself. I agree hardware is hard... and they've done a good job making it that much easier.