Smart Home Week in Review for Sep 6, 2014: Nest 2.0, IControl, Sonos, Savant, Reemo

This is the smart home week in review for the week ending September 6, 2014!

The week started slow as folks recovered from Labor day weekend and shuttled kids back to school, but it finished strong. 

You can listen to the podcast where we discuss the week that was in smart home, or if you're the TLDL (Too Long, Didn't Listen) type, just read the wrap up below.  I am going to try and do a written flash-analysis of the news every week, so if you want to get notified, subscribe to the NextMarket newsletter and you'll get an email each time we publish a wrapup. Also, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast as well. 

This week's guest on the podcast is Aaron Cohen, long-time serial entrepreneur, smart home enthusiast and all around smart guy. We get deep on some of market dynamics and business models, so if that's your thing, enjoy this episode!

The stories:

Savant gets investment from KKR

Last week Julie Jacobson noticed Savant seemed to be preparing for some sort of equity event, and while it wasn't an IPO like she predicted, they did announce this week an investment by private equity firm KKR.  KKR is a pretty storied firm and one of the most famous private equity firms (there's a book and movie about their buyout of RJR Nabisco), but perhaps more interesting to smart home folks is the company's interest in the premium brands in the connected home in recent years, most notably with Sonos, whom they invested in 2012.

Savant, like many other traditionally higher-end brands, sees the dual trends of higher valuations and increased competition in the smart home, so this move makes sense to me as they look to expand down-market to try to capitalize on the heat in DIY.

Icontrol launches Open Home Labs, partners with Indiegogo.  

I wrote this up over at Forbes, but the gist is this: Icontrol is looking to open up its OpenHome platform to interesting smart home startups through the creation of OpenHome Labs, where they will shepherd these companies to market and help them get aligned with their service provider partners such as Comcast, Time Warner, ADT.

A related announcement from the company was their partnership with Indieogogo, a crowdfunding site that is home to many of the interesting smart home startups like Korner.  The two companies said that smart home startups coming up through Indiegogo would have access to Icontrol's OpenHome Labs at no cost.  Again, see Forbes piece for more detailed analysis.

Reemo, from Playtabase, launches crowdfunding campaign. 

Playtabase, which is one of the first three companies into the Icontrol OpenHome Labs, launched their crowdfunding campaign for their motion-sensing smart home control wearable.  The device uses Bluetooth LE to detect and sense motion.   The company doesn't say much more about the technology and it won't ship until mid-2015 (if they indeed hit their promised targets), but an interesting concept nonetheless.

Sonos disrupts self, ditches bridge.

Years ago Sonos recognized that its proprietary hardware control interfaces were going to be killed by the iPad, and they were one of the first CE company - and probably the first successful CE company - to get rid of a proprietary controller and develop an iPhone and iPad apps. 

This week (though they announced the move months ago) they did something similar by moving beyond their proprietary hardware bridge, which up to this point was required to install and use a Sonos wireless home audio system.  I think this was largely due to the growing popularity of competing systems as well as Bluetooth speakers, but as the company has shown, they don't stand still and this will allow users to get into Sonos for even lower prices. 

Greenpeak gets vertical: Launches senior-care platform

When markets get a little frothy, you start to see companies leave their core business to try and capitalize.  During the first dot-com boom, I remember Intel started selling MP3 players and home networking gear (and now it sounds like they might be getting a bit adventuresome again), and so when I saw this news about Greenpeak, it reminded me a bit of those days.  

The gist: Greenpeak is a big supplier of 802.15.4 silicon, which to date has primarily been Zigbee chipsets. This week they announced "a family of new, ground-breaking sensor and cloud based intelligent systems for Family Lifestyle integrated with Social Media". 

The solution, which the company indicates will first be targeted at the senior and aging-in-place vertical, is a combination of on-premise technology with a  hub and Zigbee-based sensors and a cloud management solution (no indication yet if they partnered or built-their-own).  The senior-monitoring solution will have be tailored to create rules-based indicators (like "mom gets up at this time and moves into this zone") that will enable alerts to be sent via various consumer-facing apps (not sure why Facebook or social nets in general would be integrated here, unless its just for the messaging function). 

Bottom line: I do believe aging-in-place is a big opportunity for smart home, and Greenpeak indicates they are already working with service providers in Germany and China, but again, the move is a bit of a surprise for a chip-company. 

Amazon's "home automation" top 5 shows its really a "connected home" store

Amazon's home automation store is a year old, and looking at the top 5 products, it becomes clear that the store sells more than just home automation. In reality, the store is a "connected home" store with a heavy dose of smart home and home automation products. Aaron and I discuss the hierarchy of terms here in the podcast, if you want to get nerdy on these distinctions.

Nest launches Nest Protect 2.0 software

Earlier this year, Nest had a rare stumble with the recall of the Nest Protect due to the "wave to dismiss" feature the company felt could cause the alarm to not work properly in the case of an actual emergency. 

And when the company announced its latest rev of Nest Protect software this week, they decided to keep this feature on potentially permanent hiatus. In its place they did offer some new and interesting features, including the ability to discern between steam and smoke, as well as these other features:

  • Light pathways showing route to safety
  • Shows level of carbon monoxide
  • Last 10 days of safety history
  • Improved emergency planning capabilties

Nest is showing that their device has plenty of packed-in power (this is the first time they've enabled the humidity sensor to my knowledge) and that they will continue to unpack features through software-based field upgrades.

That's it for this week. Again, feel free to subscribe to the newsletter and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.