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The new Google Nest thermostat hits the FCC, possibly with aerial gesture controls

Promotional image of a hand adjusting a digital thermostat.

The third-generation Nest thermostat from 2015.

A new Google Nest thermostat has reached the FCC. Droid-Life was the first to spot this list on the government website. The list is in confidential mode, so it̵

7;s sparse on details, but the details we have are a little weird. We think it has aerial gesture controls.

First, the RF exposure report lists the device as a “thermostat” and says it has 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which all seems pretty normal. Then, it lists the device with a “60GHz transmitter”, which was not on a previous Nest thermostat. One possible use for a 60GHz transmitter is “WiGig”, a form of 60GHz Wi-Fi that can reach 7Gbps. High-speed data transfers don’t really seem appropriate for a thermostat, so the other most likely possibility is Project Soli, Google’s aerial gesture system that was first marketed late last year on the Pixel 4. .

Project Soli is an aerial gesture system that Google has been developing for some time. It’s a compact on-chip radar system and Google has FCC approval to use Soli in the 57 to 64 GHz frequency band. Soli’s original launch was that by blasting your hand with 60Ghz and capturing the return signal, Soli it could detect “sub-millimeter finger movements”, which would allow very fine gesture control. It was possible to pinch the thumb and forefinger together to press a button or rub the two fingers together to rotate a dial. Soli was originally intended for devices without large touchscreens, such as speakers or smartwatches. A Nest thermostat would likely fit that description, since it doesn’t have a touchscreen and instead relies on a swivel scroll wheel that doubles as the thermostat’s outer body.

Of course, the Pixel 4 version of Project Soli was a disaster, and shrinking the experimental chip to fit a smartphone meant doing away with much of the “sub-millimeter” accuracy that had been promised. Instead of moving your fingers, the Pixel 4 needed large gestures waving their arms to detect anything and the functionality was very redundant considering a smartphone already has a huge touchscreen on the front. Perhaps a thermostat, which is much thicker than a smartphone and doesn’t have to worry about battery life, can use a larger, more accurate chip.

To date, Google has never really made a decision in designing a Nest thermostat. Google bought Nest in 2014 for $ 3.2 billion, but Nest spent several years being run as an independent company under the umbrella of Google (and later Alphabet). The current flagship thermostat, the third-generation Nest, was released in 2015, and the cheaper Nest E was launched in 2017. Nest stopped being a standalone company and merged with Google in 2018. With Google I / O 2019, the Nest company was indeed dead and “Nest” became a sub-brand of Google. Nest and Google still have a lot of confusing overlaps, like competing smart home apps, and it looks like all Nest products will eventually need to be replaced by Google’s versions.

Google may be in charge now, but there’s rarely a good reason to release an updated version of a thermostat. It’s just a thermostat! It never needs faster processors or upgraded connectivity, so you have to have some other excuse to boot a new piece of hardware. Using Google logic, Project Soli’s aerial gestures seem like reason enough to create a Google version of the Nest thermostat. I’m not sure if anyone actually wants to wave their hand around a thermostat, but we’ll see what Google’s eventual sales pitch will be.

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