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Can innovation still be affordable?

A mark of innovation is when a new product offers a feature that most consumers never knew they wanted until they tried it. The Nest thermostat—recently purchased by Google—is one such example.

Though many homeowners may be perfectly satisfied with their current thermostats, some will certainly admit that there are flaws that need to be addressed. It can be difficult to set precise temperatures on some older models, and then there is the issue of adjusting the heat when no one is home. As a "smart thermostat," Nest seeks to solve these problems by offering users a way to control the heat remotely via a smartphone or tablet app. In addition, the thermostat can be easily programmed to adjust itself according to a specific schedule.

If used properly, this device should help owners realize significant savings on their heating bills. But, as Slate columnist Matt Yglesias points out, Nest is emblematic of a larger problem due to its high cost.

Nest costs $250, which is significantly more expensive that most traditional thermostats. Yglesias notes that, since wages for most Americans have stagnated, much of the discussion of this device has revolved around its high price.

This is an important point to consider. No matter how impressive a product is, it won't gain much traction if few consumers can justify the price. Innovators must keep this important factor in mind when they complete their designs.

At Sozo Design, we are mindful of the market demand for affordable consumer electronics. We certainly consider this when developing products for our clients. One cost saving example is the Orbit Trackball we developed with Kensington technology group. For this product, final parts come straight off the molds for lower production costs. We were thoughtful to develop a product that would not need secondary finishing and painting.

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