Google’s bottom line depends on advertisements, and its all-consuming quest for revenue might one day drive it to serve up ads on everything from car dashboards to thermostats, according to a letter the company submitted last year to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
“We expect the definition of ‘mobile’ to continue to evolve as more and more ‘smart’ devices gain traction in the market,” reads an excerpt from the letter, which was originally submitted to the SEC in December but only unveiled to the broader public this week. “For example, a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.” (Hat tip to The Wall Street Journal for the link.)
Soon after Google tendered that letter, it acquired Nest, which builds ultra-sleek Web-connected appliances, for $3.2 billion in cash. In a statement at the time, Google CEO Larry Page suggested that his company would use its marketing and manufacturing muscle to expand Nest’s reach around the world. “[Nest is] already delivering amazing products you can buy right now,” he wrote. “Thermostats that save energy and smoke/CO alarms that can help keep your family safe. We are excited to bring great experiences to more homes in more countries and fulfill their dreams.”
Nest offers products such as the Nest Protect ($190), which includes an embedded system-on-a-chip, sensors, and the ability to connect with nearby devices via wireless. The outer casing boasts an Apple-like sleekness; the company’s stated goal is to create an emotional bond between owner and device, similar to the one that exists between more than one Apple-phile and their iPhone or iPad.
But will those owners tolerate a smoke detector, or a car dashboard, or any other connected device displaying advertisements? Any company that can figure out a way to layer ads into the “Internet of Things” in a way that doesn’t spark explosive blowback from consumers could profit greatly; but with many users already ambivalent about the presence of advertising on the Web, it could prove a difficult challenge to convince them that an ad spot on your thermostat is a fantastic idea.
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