For consumers the idea is simple. You start connecting stuff in your home to the Internet. To the world of AI, machine learning and potentially some benefit managing your home.
For me all this happened by accident. My old Honeywell combi boiler controller just stopped displaying properly from time to time. It was a wireless thermostat that required programming and adjusting periodically. It was pretty good 11 years ago when it was fitted but was getting old.
To replace this old technology would cost about £130. To get a new thermostat that connected to the Internet about £200. However, the latter option did include "learning" about me and having an idea about the outside temperature.
I chose a learning thermostat from Nest. The pack you buy includes a connector for your boiler. You need a professional installer to help with this. My gas fitter was left alone for 30 minutes and got it done. There are basically two wireless connections running. One is from the boiler controller "heatlink" to your thermostat and the other is the wifi link from your thermostat to your wifi router.
You can program a schedule of on and off via the website and via an app on your phone. You tell the device what temperature you want, where it is located, what times you want it to work. Off it goes.
So far it keeps track of how long your heating works for. It keeps track of the outside temperature via the Internet. It also is quite easy to adjust. The termostat can also work with voice assistants like the Amazon Alexa device and the Google Assistant.
My first realisation that this was different was waking up early, leaning over the bed, picking up my phone and switching on the heating with an app. When I actually got out of bed it was warm.
This is very much a "first world" technology problem. My main hope is that the new device will control the efficiency of my home heating to save money and maybe even reduce my impact on the planet's resources through controlling my gas consumption.
One obvious issue is that every Internet connected device can be hacked. I am not sure if a smart thermostat is significant target. People could just have a laugh by increasing the heat or switching it off. I haven't yet investigated whether it can be controlled enough to allow access to other device. Its a concern.
So far so good. I think over time the "smart thermostat" will just become the thermostat everyone has. For now it's a bit of a novelty and something I am watching closely.