Lots of thermostats are programmable and digital, but the ecobee works through registered online accounts, allowing users to see what their own systems are doing and make changes remotely. The smart gadget also facilitates easy access to web-based data like weather forecasts, which can provide useful input as to what the most appropriate settings are at any given time.
The personal accounts provide specific, visually-based information to help homeowners read trends in their usage and adjust accordingly. Much like monitoring mileage in a hybrid car, this type of program aims to create user-friendly, simple ways for average people to understand their consumption levels.
Because ecobee is online, users can also compare and communicate with other users across the network. You can also easily track the payback on the upfront investment through the financial savings that result from automating home systems. While smart technology does require the consumer to be smart enough to give it a try, most of the responsibility lies with the computer's brain, leaving the user to think about other things.
When not working in design, Sarah Rich writes, talks and forecasts about food and consumer culture.