Google EnergySense smart thermostat trial tipped underway

Google is secretly testing a smart thermostat that would better track and manage home energy usage, it's reported, with a project dubbed EnergySense seeing the company dogfooding internet-connected HVAC controllers. Although similar on the surface to smart home darling Nest, Google EnergySense would actually be intended to more broadly tackle power use, according to sources speaking to The Information, picking up on the axed Google PowerMeter project killed in 2011.

Then, Google was flirting with the idea of digging into the electricity grid and trying to help consumers and businesses to better understand their power use through monitoring systems and a web-based "dashboard" hub. Google Energy even got permission from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to buy and sell electricity in bulk, much like any other utility company.

Issues in adoption saw PowerMeter axed, however, though Google returned to the smart home arena in early 2012 with the equally ill-fated Android@Home concept. Despite the setbacks, it seems Google's ambitions for getting a hook into the lucrative home data space haven't been diluted, hence this new trial of EnergySense.

According to the sources, Google isn't developing the thermostat hardware itself, instead turning to off-the-shelf products from Ecobee. That's being tested both by Google staff and trusted third-party users in select regions, it's said.

Whereas Nest is intended to make HVAC more intelligent in when it comes on, how it's adjusted, and how it reacts to the evolving use of the home, Google EnergySense supposedly takes a different approach. The search giant's goal, sources indicate, is to use the thermostat as a gateway to energy monitoring more broadly in the home, recognizing that an increasing number of devices are wireless-enabled in some way.

That includes lighting, entertainment devices like streaming audio players and smart TVs, web-connected appliances, and other hardware; right now there's no single player in the space controlling it, though some projects, such as Revolv and Staples Connect have made moves toward attempting that.

There's no word on when – or indeed if – Google could launch EnergySense commercially, and of course the company could simply opt to end the trial without making anything public.