Google Parlays Nest into Local HVAC Bookings

This is the latest in Localogy’s Skate To Where the Puck is Going series. Running semi-weekly, it examines the moves and motivations of tech giants as leading indicators for where markets are moving. Check out the entire series here, and its origin here

The Internet of things continues to chug along. In the sector’s first decade, there were lots of egregious use cases imagined. Do I need my refrigerator to tell me that the milk has gone bad? Chemistry (and expirations labels) already do a good enough job in alerting that seminal event.

But there are also lots of useful integrations like smart locks, digital lighting systems and the smart doorbell movement (recent privacy missteps aside). These continue to find a place in digitizing various homeowner activities. And that sometimes has implications for local service professionals.

The latest move in that regard comes from Google’s Nest division. The next-generation home heating management system alerts you to potential HVAC issues. More importantly, it now takes the next step towards a prescriptive solution by booking an HVAC pro within the same workflow.

This happens through a partnership with on-demand local services startup Handy. The way it works from a user perspective is that an automatic email is generated to the account on file. That email notifies the user of the HVAC issue, along with a direct Handy link to book an appointment.

Alerts will be triggered by unusual activity in heating and cooling patterns. For example if the heater is working in overdrive, that could signal an issue with your home’s insulation (or someone left the door open). Reportedly, the system takes into account natural occurrences like unseasonable temperatures.

This is a logical tie-in, but one wonders if wrapping the workflow in email delivery is the right move. We’d hope to see future integrations that involve direct app alerts and push notifications, as opposed to having to drill down into one’s inbox — mobile or desktop — where things get buried quickly.

Nest users were already able to sign up for the Nest Home Report which contains a monthly summary of energy use, product updates, and other fare. The same opt-in email list is used for the new alerts, so perhaps this approach is meant to build on existing user comfort in getting Nest material to your inbox.

Delivery vessel aside, this is a logical integration from a product-development and user-experience standpoint. It’s also logical given Google’s position in local search, not to mention its ongoing conquest of end-to-end service bookings (e.g SERP direct bookings). In that way, it’s surprising this didn’t already exist.

In fairness, Alphabet’s divisions are somewhat siloed and it’s a very horizontally-oriented company. That’s good in some ways, given that it engenders autonomy to innovate and accountability to succeed. But those same silos make it so that integrations like this happen later than you’d think.

For the same reasons, this could evolve into more direct integrations of Google properties. Partnering with Handy makes sense to step into the system with a best-of-breed partner for on-demand service fulfillment. We wonder if more direct GMB integrations might better serve Google in the long term.

We’ll be watching for that. Until then, the HVAC alerts are available in 20 cities as it stress tests the system.

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