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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