Reinventing the Wheel

A former Apple exec builds a better thermostat

NEST

In 1953 legendary industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss created the T-86 Round, the iconic Honeywell thermostat that wound up in tens of millions of postwar homes. Dreyfuss, whose many projects included the Bell System's Princess telephone and Polaroid's SX-70 camera, knew how to create products that consumers would notice, even covet.

So does Tony Fadell, the former Apple executive who shepherded the original iPod to market in 2001 and spent years guiding its world-changing success. After stepping down as head of the iPod division in 2008, Fadell started building a green home for his family near Lake Tahoe. While working on the...