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For heating up the dream of a smart home.

Nest's home thermostat learns its users’ patterns—when they get home from work, their preferred sleep-time temperature, and so forth—and adjusts to save energy. And it’s now both smarter and even more stylish. The first version, released in 2011, helped chop users’ energy bills by an average of $173 a year. The second generation, released last fall, is now 20% thinner and will work in 95% of U.S. homes (up from 75%). A groundbreaking deal with the utility Texas Reliant, which offered a free Nest to users who signed up for service, may be the thermostat business’s equivalent of the AT&T-iPhone deal that spurred smartphone sales. This year’s plan: more utility deals, more retail presence, and expansion into Europe.

Illustration by Romualdo Faura