By Adam Lotia and Martha Vazquez
The US housing market new starts grew by 20% and new home building permits increased by 10% in the last month, proving that the economy is starting to rebound (American Public Media via US Census Dept.). New and old homes on the market are being enhanced or built with “smart” home devices, making the home “smarter.” But in reality, we are still far from having a home that will talk back to us like the sheriffs’ house in the show “Eureka”. However, companies like Notion are starting to make this fiction a reality; Notion raised $2M in the latest round of funding, which reflects the quickly growing interest in the connected home market.
Notion is a smart sensor company for the house and is largely being deployed as a security solution, but the sensor can be placed on a washer to let one know when to put one’s clothes in the dryer. The sensors can keep an eye on the grill over the summer months to let you know when it’s time to refill the propane tank. That being said, we don’t think that people will know how or that you can to use more than the security functions for a while.
Ultimately, Notion wants the sensors combined with the IFTTT engine, Nest’s platform, Apple’s Home Kit, and various other rules engines where the sensors would provide the solution for a conscious smart house. Many solutions and devices can be created, but if the end consumer is just using the basic functions it’s like having a Swiss Army Knife for just your knife and not using the can opener or the corkscrew functions.
As the housing business booms, investors will certainly be swayed towards investing in devices such as home sensors. In addition, we see major companies, like Vivint and AT&T, becoming interested in the connected building market and we expect to see more companies take better aim at the connected consumer housing market. Recently, Nest bought the smart hub company Revolv. Nest as a singular device needs to communicate with the rest of the sensors through out the house to make the house smart. Only not all of the sensors speak on the same radios. Revolv solved the problem with 7 radios in one box allowing everything to talk to each other. Nest’s decision was not to continue the hub but discontinue the product, which forced everything to connect with the Nest product. This may solve the issue to unify everyone on the same radio, in reality no one has chosen a singular radio to communicate with. Not all of the devices are using the same radio; some are on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, and ZigBee complicating matters across the device spectrum. Something needs to be able to bridge all the various sensors and devices together to break the silos and make a smart system Revolv, Logitech, and other hubs are the solution to this. With Nest stopping production and one of the better products in the market, it took the market backwards for consumers and is only making the market more lost. A hub at this moment is a necessary bridge. Open platforms are great: it’s a matter of making it easier to use for the average consumer that is still getting to everyone and seems only large integrators are the winners right now.
While there are investment opportunities in this market, there is still a lack of education and understanding in the mass market. We often forget that besides us nerds, the mass population never figured out how to program the clock on their VCR they’re not going to figure out the house. However, one day soon, your house will be in tune with your needs and may even start predicting them, fully surpassing the Nest and truly enhancing the connected home experience.