He also takes some aesthetic pleasure in the devices. "The
platform, the screen is fantastic," he said, showing off the Nest
digital interface, which he described as "iPod-like" (a natural
analogy: Tony Fadell, Nest's founder, built the iPod).
A few of the device apps drain his battery, and one, from
Kumostat, was glitchy, refusing to shut off the heat. The August
lock, a metallic gray orb that sits on the door, is not his
favorite. "Aesthetically, it's beautifully designed," he said, "but
it's big and bulky." He is confident it will get sleeker.
His greatest joy is that the devices converse. After I unlocked
the door, the August app asked if I would like to go into "stay"
mode. I clicked, and the Nest thermostats came to life. "They can
all talk to each other," Mr. Butler explained.
How long they will is a matter of debate. For now, the Internet
of Things market is infused with a rare convivial spirit. Samsung's
SmartThings is open-source, working with products from Apple,
Google and others. Apple and Google are doing the same. At some
point, that could end, as the silos favored by tech companies
Those at the forefront of the smart market insist they
"There's not one smart-home platform that is going to win," Mr.
Hawkinson said. "Human interests are so diverse; there will be a
million different smart homes."
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CORRECTION: An earlier
version of this story referred to Mr. Butler's agency as Roundarch
Isobar. The agency is now known as Isobar U.S.