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Summary:

These are the companies, startups and giants alike, that are changing or could potentially change the mobile landscape in the most profound ways.

The-mobile-15-logo

Nest

CEO: Tony Fadell

Number of employees: 120

The business:

Nest has created an Internet-connected thermostat that uses algorithms to reduce the amount of energy your heating and cooling system uses by 20 to 30 percent.

The backstory:

Former Apple designer Tony Fadell – who led the design of versions of the iPod and iPhone – decided he wanted to focus his design innovations on an entirely new sector: the boring and lowly thermostat. His team spent months crafting a beautiful and simple thermostat design, raised money from venture capitalists like Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, and Al Gore’s Investment Group, and launched their thermostat to much fanfare.

The innovation:

Most thermostat makers create and sell a brain-dead — and ugly — device that controls a home’s heating and cooling. Usually that means the homeowner doesn’t ever really engage with the gadget and typically the device is sold through a utility or other third-party distribution partner.

Because consumers don’t think much about their thermostats, they tend to use them inefficiently. The Nest team’s thesis is if they could make a device that looked cool, it would be as coveted as an iPhone, and consumers would buy it directly from big box retailers, and actively engage with it in their homes. The device cuts down on energy bills by learning its owner’s habits and then reducing energy around those habits. If you like the A/C cranked at night, it may either find ways to reduce your consumption during other times of day, or at night, have you crank up more slowly than you normally would, to save some energy there.

The plan:

Nest doesn’t disclose how many thermostats it has sold, but when it first launched in October 2011, it nearly sold out immediately, with a small, initial production run. Nest thermostats are more available these days — they’re now sold at Apple stores, Amazon, Best Buys and Lowe’s, among other retail outlets. The company has received enough attention that one of the world’s largest thermostat makers has taken notice and delivered Nest a patent infringement lawsuit earlier this year. (Nest is fighting the suit.)

Beyond consumers, Nest wants utilities use Nest thermostats to collectively reduce their customers’ grid loads. Here’s how that would work: Picture a hot summer day, and the grid is getting dangerously overloaded with all that air conditioning. A utility could send a signal to, say, the 10,000 Nest thermostats connected to its residential network and ask them to turn down their HVAC systems by a couple degrees.

—Katie Fehrenbacher

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  1. Tapit were Winners @ 2012 AIMIA for Best New Service in innovation – NFC

    http://www.mobileawards.com. au/MA2012/entry_details.asp? ID=10757&Category_ID=4852)

  2. Check out this slide deck titled “A Catalog of Mobile Device Innovations”

    http://www.slideshare.net/timhigg/catalog-of-mobile-device-innovations-92012

  3. Surya Narayanan Tuesday, September 18, 2012

    Sadly you have not looked at the emerging markets hard enough. You would have found very interesting examples including Safaricom’s m-pesa which is by the larger than Western Union Money Transfer. Please look to create a more inclusive list..

    1. It would have been good to consider the social impact of innovations. There are so many innovative mobile companies out there, but if they don’t make people’s lives better then do they really answer the “so what?” test. M-PESA is a great example of a mobile innovation that has changed millions of people’s lives and is helping to create a vibrant mobile ecosystem. Its influence can be seen in every mobile wallet/banking/payments initiative the world over.
      If you don’t know M-PESA, read this: http://mobithinking.com/country-guides-home/guide-mobile-web-kenya

  4. all of your links to the “Mobile 15″ are broken

    1. Thanks, this is fixed.

  5. Alcatel – Lucent and Nokia? You’ve got to be kidding me…Why not add RIM and MySpace too..

  6. With Windows 8 just around the corner its bizarre that Microsoft didn’t make the list.

  7. Have you ever heard of republic wireless?

  8. I did not realize GigiOm was this desperate for money

  9. Including Nokia and **not** Qualcomm renders your list laughable, and from the entire staff to boot ? No need reading any further and further questions the value of anything Gigaom.com?

    Jim M

  10. Great innovation! Glad to see Thinfilm on the short list!

  11. What an amazing story. I had the luck to meet all of the team yesterday, and today at #SEMICONEuropa http://twitter.com/SEMICONEuropa here in Dresden, Germany

  12. Amazing folks – currently in Dresden at http://Twitter.com/SEMICONEuropa – had the pleasure to talk to them, and learn more about this amazing product. Well deserved!!!

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