Environmental conservation is a lot easier when you don't have to think about it, and Ecobee is hoping that its new Smart SI thermostat will help you reduce your carbon footprint and your utility bill with minimal fiddling on your part. Like the Nest we reviewed last year, the Smart SI has Wi-Fi connectivity and corresponding web browser, Android, iOS, and Blackberry apps. The device combines a learning algorithm that keeps track of central air performance over time and current weather conditions to maximize energy savings.

The Smart SI has a different philosophy and design language than the Nest. Whereas the Nest has users interact via a natural, tactile rotating ring, the Smart SI focuses more on its smartphone apps instead of encouraging people to use the thermostat directly. One other area where the two differ is the method of installation — the Nest can be ordered online and installed simply by hooking up the right wires, whereas the Smart SI will usually be installed by a contractor. We talked with CEO and founder Stuart Lombard and he said the decision to distribute the Smart SI through contractors came down to customer satisfaction — he wants every Smart SI to work perfectly. That being said, he did tell us that enterprising do-it-yourselfers can find distributors that will sell the bare hardware for a little bit more than $200.

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The Smart SI unit has a color LCD screen, 400mhz ARM9 processor, and 256MB of ROM and RAM. Running an embedded version of linux, the Smart SI will be updateable over-the-air through the 802.11n Wi-Fi module. Lombard also told us that an upcoming API will allow developers to create their own apps that leverage the HVAC performance metrics that the units collects over time.

While Ecobee's original Smart thermostat is still available and offers serious home automation enthusiasts more connectivity, the new Smart SI is more affordable and the company hopes it will reach a broader audience. The Smart SI will start shipping at the end of this month, and users can look up contractors that will install the device on Ecobee's websites.

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