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Summary:

The two thermostat systems won’t be clashing head-on anytime soon, as Nest only works in North America and Tado in Europe. But the newer system, from Germany, also offers an interestingly different approach to smart energy control.

The Tado system

The last couple of years have seen pretty rapid development in the smart thermostat space. That’s not surprising – the technology offers a clear way to go greener, while saving some cash in the long run too. It’s kind of a poster child use case for the internet of things.

The current darling in this market is Nest, the $249 circular screen that can provide a stylish and efficient replacement for boring old thermostats. Despite its legal troubles with Honeywell, Nest has been successful enough to enter a second generation, which it did last month. Trouble is, Nest is only really practical for those in the U.S. and Canada, due to its wiring requirements.

Enter Tado, a new rival out of Germany that’s shifting today from private to public beta. First off, you can use it across Europe, which is a good start. But there’s more to it than that.

Control of Tado takes place almost entirely in its smartphone apps for iOS and Android. The minimalistic white box on the wall doesn’t even have a screen, nor does it have sensors. So, for example, while Nest knows its owners have left the apartment because it can’t sense movement, Tado knows because each occupant has the app on their phone, and it can track their location.

There are at least two advantages to this approach – it should be quicker to tell that they’re gone (by default, Nest waits two hours before turning down the heating), and it also lets Tado’s systems automatically turn the heating back up when the occupant is heading home.

“Our idea is to bring a brain to heating and cooling systems, to make them more adaptive and to make it possible to control energy in a smarter way,” co-founder Christian Deilmann told me. “Tado is your assistant who takes care and knows when you’re leaving and turns it down for you… It learns how your specific home reacts to solar radiation, but also how fast it can heat up and how much energy it uses. All this information is taken into account.”

(I also asked what happens if you have your smartphoneless grandmother over to stay and you head off to work. The button on the side of the wall box overrides to manual, apparently, which is also handy if you forget your smartphone at work.)

Nest uses Wi-Fi to have the thermostat talk to the home router, but Tado opts instead for the mesh-network-friendly 6LoWPAN protocol, which requires a dongle to be stuck into one of the router’s USB ports.

Tado’s also going with a somewhat different business model to that employed by Nest and others such as Ecobee. While those rivals charge an upfront amount for the hardware, Tado opts for a €99 ($126) annual subscription fee for the associated services – during the beta phase, the first 1,000 customers will get the hardware for free, and Deilmann says that strategy might continue in the future if it proves successful.

There’s a psychological factor at play here. Even though a consumer may know in their heart that smarter thermostats can help save money, they may be turned off by a significant cost at the start. It’s true that Tado’s route would probably turn out more costly in the longer run, but Tado’s hoping that those services – which handily include a monthly report telling the user how much the system is saving them – will keep them hooked.

The company quietly raised $2m in venture capital earlier this year from Target Partners and Shortcut Ventures. The launch will first take in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but Tado also plans to move into other European countries sooner rather than later.

“We are very interested in the Scandinavian market and also the UK and France,” Deilmann said. “It’ll probably be in September next year that we will be delivering in these countries.”

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  1. $126 annually seems a bit pricey to me, and I’m not a big fan of all these other protocols. Someone tell me why we aren’t just using Wi-Fi across the board?

  2. Christian Deilmann Wednesday, November 14, 2012

    Hey Dave,
    tado° is using end-to-end IP communication. All the devices in our mesh network run on IPv6. The reason why we use 868/915 Mhz based on 6LoWPAN is 1) significantly improved range 2) ultra low power 3) no pairing necessary 4) open standard specified by IETF (same as http, UDP, IPv4, IPv6, etc.).

    It just makes it super convenient for the user: plug in the tado° gateway into the LAN port of your router. Install the tado° Box where your thermostat used to be. – no configuration, no pairing, no entering of keys.

    Regarding the price: the intelligent control of tado° is able to save you a lot more on your energy bill than it costs. -Year after year. We will launch the calculater on our website soon. Check it out and see what tado° can do for your energy bill.

    Christian (tado°)

  3. The price is outrageous. Nest is far cheaper and offers almost the same functionality. Plus nest has a better design overall. Two thumbs down.

  4. “Nest uses Wi-Fi to have the thermostat talk to the home router, but Tado opts instead for the mesh-network-friendly 6LoWPAN protocol, which requires a dongle to be stuck into one of the router’s USB ports.”

    They’ve already narrowed their market to a ridiculously low fraction of owners with wireless routers.

    1. Joshua, I guess by “they” you refer to Nest. The really brilliant thing about tado° is that it works with any router.

  5. €99 a year subscription – thats a no from me then.

  6. Found this article whilst looking for a NEST alternative that would work in the UK. Was all excited until I realised an annual subscription was required. Total deal-breaker for me and having chatted with friends, not one was willing to pay that. Good luck; you’ll need it.

    1. Same as jdennehy … Looking for a nest alternative, but no way am I paying for a thermostat on the never never. I’ll buy one up front and don’t mind paying , but at 100 a year , in 10 years that’s a ludicrous amount for a thermostat. Nest are saying they will launch in the UK soon, so I’ll hang on for them

      1. I agree that subscriptions are not always well received in the UK, but as the rest of Europe is being involved as well, then you will be surprised just how well this will work. I moved out of the UK 2 years ago, and was horrified to see the charges i would have to pay for spending MY money from MY account, banks aren’t supposed to charge unless you go overdrawn, but this is normal practice everywhere but the UK. And it works. Much like this will work… The UK is so behind in many things, and this will be another…

      2. It is not UK specific, that this continuing payments will be a huge problem for the business side of the Tado. Also here in Germany! Another point is that Tado assumes that everybody wants to control their homes from their gadgets (I want, but I know a ton of people who don´t) and everybody owns such a device.
        So without a device you can´t even change the temperature. I think the Nest people have done a very good market analysis and we will see. But the Tado business plan doesn´t seem very well thought.
        Kevin: I don´t really get your points here. Spending money from your accounts costs you extra money?? Well, change your bank!

  7. Hi, I have installed 2 NEST’s in Ireland (same heating systems as the UK) and they both work brilliantly. The 2 NEST’s are in separate houses and replaced the typical 7 day programmable timers.

    The immediate benefit is the consistent heating in the houses rather than fluctuating temperatures dependant on time of year and weather.

    The only bugbear is the requirement for a ZIP code when setting up the NEST to link the house to a US timezone and weather. I’m currently working on the hack that intercepts the call to NEST for the weather a location services (see hack-a-day)

    The good news is that NEST will be launching in the UK soon (according to recent reports from their CEO)

    The Tado solution is interesting but I love the look of the Nest and I’m more than happy to pay $250 once off for the product rather than a hefty yearly charge. (NEST also provides energy reports based on usage)

    I’m sure the debate will continue!

    1. redmantech im looking at this stat and cant figure out the wiring at the back i know its 24v and all that but cant figure out where the 24v plus and minus go or if its ac where the L/N go i also live in ireland and fit heating systems day in day out and this seems like the best thing to come out since the wheel :-)

      1. Hi Vinny

        I’m not a heating systems expert at all my field is in IT but thanks to some close friends that are sparks we got them installed.

        Firstly you need a relay and a 24v AC adapter (reliable do them)

        Secondly the wiring depends on the type of boiler you have. one the 2 I installed, 1 just had a CH switch and the second had CH and HW.

        You don’t need a neg on the nest as it can charge its self from the relay (may cause a buzz which can be rectified with a diode)

        If you send me more details I can tell you what i did to wire mine but I can’t advise you as I’m not a electrician or plumber!!

        Where in IE are you?

  8. Why does this company think everyone has a smartphone. In my family only two out of four have smartphones. I would prefer the addition of a display and temp adjustment buttons at the very least. And the crazy annual sub will just cause this device not to sell. If Nest release a version for the UK then even though its quite expensive, i will go for that.

  9. I use a Heatmiser WIFi thermostat in conjunction with the iPhone app and it works well, all the settings can be accessed via the touch screen or the iPhone/iPad app and it works great remotely as well. It costs £135 up front, no subscription. I am having a hard time getting my head around paying a yearly subscription for a thermostat no matter how clever it is.

  10. Peter Whittaker Wednesday, January 23, 2013

    What happens when the Todo app on your phone is terminated by the phone OS in the background? AFAIK, Todo can’t guarantee that their app will be running all the time, and thus be unable to track phone’s movement all day long.

    And does it mean that the Todo app will be pinging the phone’s GPS all the time, or does it use a different method for tracking your location (e.g. visibility of Wifi networks)?

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