Venstar, a thermostat and energy management system supplier, announced this week that it has added a built-in JSON REST API to its ColorTouch touch screen residential and commercial thermostats.
Using the API, developers can build applications that access a thermostat's sensors, and retrieve data reports and alert states generated by the thermostat. In addition, Venstar's API provides command and control functionality, enabling applications to change a thermostat's settings, such as its schedule. Documentation and code samples for the API are available publicly on the Venstar Developers website.
Applications serving multiple thermometers on a network can identify those thermometers using the Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP). Customers must explicitly enable the command and control functionality, and the API respects device security settings by requiring a PIN when the thermometer's screen has been locked.
One company that has already integrated with the Venstar API is Remote Technologies Incorporated (RTI), a manufacturer of control systems for professionally-installed residential and commercial electronics systems. RTI customers using Venstar ColorTouch thermometers can manage those thermometers, along with all of their other home electronics, through their RTI controllers or RTI's mobile apps.
The Nest effect
Venstar's announcement comes on the heels of Google's $3.2bn purchase of Nest Labs, which makes a smart thermostat and smoke detector. Google's acquisition of Nest raised eyebrows not just because of the ten-figure purchase price, but because of the potential implications.
Some suggested that if the acquisition is to prove successful, Nest's API would play a crucial role. As Roberto Medrano, EVP, SOA Software, noted, the "Nest API, combined with Google’s heavily secured application Platform, makes it rather simple for users. Invisible to them is the API working in the background to connect their thermostat and home environment data to their Gmail account, Android app, or any other piece of the Google product powerhouse. The API is the little nugget that will drive whatever success comes out of this acquisition."
Given just how big a role Google's products play in the digital lives of so many consumers, it would seem to be incredibly well-positioned to capitalize on the burgeoning "internet of things," but Venstar's launch of an API demonstrates that established companies aren't necessarily behind the curve either. Businesses of all shapes, sizes and ages increasingly recognize the importance of APIs and, most importantly, many are developing and executing their own API strategies.
In the smart device market, if companies like Venstar, which are well-established lucrative high-end and commercial markets, quickly add well-designed and easy-to-integrate APIs to their products, consumer-focused upstarts like Nest may be far less disruptive going forward when they come to market.
With that in mind, as APIs find their way into more and more devices, companies would be wise to prepare for the day when an API is more likely to be a standard feature customers expect than it is to be a billion-dollar differentiator.