While programmable thermostats are nothing uncommon these days, many users adjust the temperature manually utilizing the thermostat's basic feature only. On the other hand, it's certainly difficult to develop an appropriate program corresponding to the volatility of daily life. Designed by a team led by ex-Apple engineer Tony Fadell, the Nest Learning Thermostat offers a new take on automatic temperature adjustment. Featuring a simple knob-based design, the unit is capable of self-programming itself via a combination of its user's habits, activity sensors and Internet-gathered weather information, thus increasing energy savings without much effort on the user's part.

Heating costs are usually 50 percent of an average household's energy bill. A properly programmed thermostat, however, can cut energy costs by 20 percent, Silicon Valley-based startup Nest indicates. Still, according to a 2011 study by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, 90 percent of thermostat users do not program their thermostats at all, sticking to the manual operation only.

It reportedly takes seven days for the Nest Learning Thermostat to come up with an initial personalized schedule for the user and bring noticeable energy savings. After installing the unit on the wall, users are required to answer a few questions about their household. The only thing that needs to be done in terms of operation, is setting the temperature reasonably by turning the brushed steel ring. A timer indicates how long it will take to reach the desired temperature.

Utilizing 150-degree activity sensors, the Auto-Away feature adjusts the temperature depending on whether someone is at home or not, while a WiFi connection takes the current weather and forecasts into account. A "Nest leaf" icon on the display indicates when the energy is being saved and after some time, the energy spending history becomes available.

The Nest is optimized for ease of use - operation is done via the knob, with the unit's front surface acting as a button. A proximity sensor automatically brightens the screen when the user approaches. Provided the device is connected to WiFi, settings can also be managed online, or via the Nest Mobile smartphone app for iOS and Android.

The Nest Learning Thermostat comes with three separate temperature sensors, AES-128, SSL/TLS, WEP and WPA/WPA2 encryption support for security, and the capability to pair multiple Nest thermostats, for simultaneously managing the temperature in multiple locations. Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the unit displays its data via a 320 x 320-pixel 1.75-inch display with 24 bit color.

The Nest Learning Thermostat will be available by mid-November, priced at US$249.

Take a look at the following video explaining the self-programming feature:

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