The Nest… Cooler Than You

Growing up in Texas, I can tell you that many of the conceptions about the Lone Star state range from the completely false (everyone rides horses and owns guns…err…maybe just rides horses), to the begrudgingly true (for PR sake, let’s go with everyone drives pickup trucks). The one aspect of the great state of Texas that is undeniable, however, is the intense, blinding heat that they get in the summer. Anywhere from 100 to 110 is considered pretty standard, and you’re pretty much forced to deal with it as complaining about the heat is a surefire way to get a “Hot enough for ya?” out of even the most scholarly of natives.

However, from stocking up on Walmart shorts (what a deal!) to raiding the local HEB for some good ole Blue Bell Ice Cream (sorry, getting nostalgic here), every Texan still desperately looks for ways to try to beat the heat. The most popular answer to this question has long been a good central AC unit, because as they said in “Dogma”:

Yet since my time back home, the one innovation in this field I seemed to miss out on is The Nest. Developed by the ex-senior vice president in charge of the iPod group, Tony Fadell, and former iPod software engineer Matt Rogers, the Nest is a smart thermometer that is capable of learning your heating and cooling needs while providing input on when you are able to save on energy costs via a handy leaf icon that lets you know when you are at an optimal setting. You can also use your smartphone or computer to change the temperature setting while you’re away to adjust for inclimate weather, and also view a readout of your energy settings to learn how your settings effects your energy bill and how you can modify it accordingly to save in the future. And of course, since it was developed by former Apple employees, it’s incredibly sleek. Its look is straight out of a sci-fi movie and has the appearance of the kind of invention a James Bond villain would use to cool down his volcano lair.

The design of The Nest isn’t just for eye candy, but rather is meant to alert you to the fact that while other lesser thermostats may have similar features, the Nest really is the complete package. Texas-based energy company Reliant Energy has apparently realized this also as they recently announced their plans to stock the Nest thermostat and offer it to anyone who signs up for the Reliant Learn and Conserve Two-Year Plan.

While The Nest is available at Lowes, Home Depot, Apple stores and Amazon, there’s no denying the major boost that a direct partnership with one of the nation’s leading energy companies can have for the company, especially one that’s based in one of the most prime markets for central air units.

Also, the fact is that the more you see of The Nest, the more you realize you need one. Sure, it’s another accessory that’s bringing us closer to the Cyberdyne world of machines running everything, but with glowing reviews from publications like The Wall Street Journal (“Suddenly, I can’t imagine my home without a Nest”), to CNET (“The thermostat of the future can restart an industry”), I’ll accept my fate at the hands of technological overlords as long as my last days are spent at an intelligent (and cost-cutting) level of temperate comfort.


Microsoft’s New Tech Toys Are Not the Coolest Gadgets for This Summer

So, I know that there is a lot of talk going on right now about Microsoft’s big announcements concerning their new tablet and the Windows 8 phone. And why not? They’re both beautiful new machines that are set to not only eat some large holes in wallets worldwide, but maybe even eat the hearts of some Apple owners in the process (though probably not).

In fact, I was ready to add another entry into the hype machine with this article. There I was at my computer going from page to page, report to report, spec listing to spec listing, absorbing every detail along the way and furiously typing up my findings. Then, something quite embarrassing happened. I looked at my shirt and noticed that even in my moderately cool (temperature wise) apartment, I had worked up a case of the sweats. I was so flustered, in fact, that I modified my search to “rapid ways to cool off.”

That’s when I found it. The coolest invention for the summer. And as you may have guessed by the headline, it isn’t the Windows 8 phone. No, instead it comes to us from the island of Japan and is manufactured by a company called Kuchofuku. What does Kuchofuku translate to? Air-conditioned clothing, and that’s what they’re all about. Their bread and butter item is the air conditioned work shirt.

It’s actually been around for a couple of years now, so before anyone else says it, yes, this is old news. However, considering it’s currently 91 degrees in the evening in New York, I think it’s starting to feel surprisingly relevant again. There’s not much to the shirt really. It’s just a couple of AA battery powered (with optional USB charge) fans attached to the back of the shirt that pumps cool air around you while you wear it. It’s made of polyester, comes in a few different colors and sizes, and gives me some very fond memories of Marty Mcfly’s self-drying jacket from “Back to the Future 2.”

Kuchofuku isn’t just a one trick pony, though. That shirt is just one of the offerings in their diverse product line. They also offer a less than stylish air conditioned coat, and the most surprisingly practical item in their arsenal, an air conditioned bed cover that pumps cool air throughout while you sleep and costs a meager 24 cents a month to power for 8 hours a day.

These items aren’t just novelty devices either. ABC News reported that, following the Japanese tsunami disaster, these air conditioned clothes and accessories saw a tremendous spike in sales from citizens left without power who needed to stay cool during the blistering summer months. Not only that, but major companies like Toyota  started ordering these shirts for their employees to stay comfortable at work with, all while cutting down on cooling costs.

Now, there is the slight problem concerning the cost of the clothes. That shirt, for instance, retails for about $183, while the bed cover is going to set you back around $352. However, if you are one of the millions considering spending hundreds of dollars on a new Microsoft product just to look cool, why not take a part of that money and buy some clothes that will actually make you be cool. And if you don’t want to take my word for it (couldn’t blame you), here’s an actual quote from Kuchofuku founder and former Sony engineer Hiroshi Ichigaya on his product:

“People ask me, why would I want to wear a jacket when it’s so hot… I tell them, because it’s cooler than being naked.”