Palo Alto, Calif.-based Nest Labs has already revolutionized the thermostat, turning an easy-to-ignore home gadget into a product that is wildly popular, simple, efficient, and dare I say sexy. The question is: Can Nest do the same thing with the smoke detector?

According to Jessica Lessin, former reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal, Nest Labs plans to develop a high-tech smoke detector that could go on sale as soon as later this year.

The Nest smoke detector may have a few neat features including a subscription monitoring service that would alert you if smoke or fire is detected. One source suggested the new device would communicate with the Nest thermostat, eliminating the need for its own battery-draining Wi-Fi chip, leading to longer battery life.

Rumor has it the Nest smoke detector will also be able to detect carbon monoxide and may include a hands-free silencing option, which works with just the wave of a hand.

Traditional smoke detectors are almost offensive in their design. Their round, clunky, exterior masks a device that most people don’t even know how to use. A smoke alarm’s aggressive beeping usually leads to it being manually ripped off the wall and tossed under a nearby couch cushion with the batteries removed. I know I am not alone in this way.

The irony is that while traditional smoke detectors may be a nuisance, they do save lives. According to the National Fire Protection Association, almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms, and an estimated 20 percent of U.S. homes do not have working smoke alarms, primarily because of missing or dead batteries.

Not only are smoke detectors important to your safety they are also required by law. Most states require smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors be installed on every floor of a residence, including the basement.

The smoke alarm is in desperate need of a makeover and Nest just might be the company to do it.

Applying Lessons From The Thermostat

Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, two men behind the original iPod team, unveiled the $249 Nest thermostat nearly two years ago. They were the first to successfully bring outdated home technology into the smartphone era with their critically acclaimed almost Apple-esque design.

The Nest thermostat made it fun and easy to monitor the heating and cooling of your home while also conserving electricity and saving money. It can also be conveniently controlled remotely by a specially designed iOS and Android app.

The idea for the thermostat came about when Fadell was trying to build a ‘green home’ but was having trouble finding a good thermostat. Rogers saw this gap in the market as an opportunity, telling Fadell, “We can build one of these things! If we can build the iPod we can build this.”

At the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Matt Rogers gave me a personal demo of the Nest thermostat. His knowledge and enthusiasm was palpable. He knew Nest was on the verge of something huge, but the thermostat was just the beginning.

In August, Rogers told TechCrunch the company wants to redesign “all the other unloved white plastic crap in your home,” which makes the smoke detector an obvious next choice for Nest.

For the smoke detector, Nest will likely implement many of the design facets that made the thermostat so successful -- the design, easy to use programming, and functionality being chief among them -- but the newly-rumored project would have one indispensable benefit: It can save lives.

There’s no word yet on just what the Nest smoke detector will be called, how much it will cost, or when it will go on sale, but the safety advantages alone could make the Nest smoke detector a hugely profitable and popular device.

Nest Labs has so far declined to comment.