Smarthome taps growing consumer acceptance of home automation
By Janet Pinkerton
"Let's not talk about 'home automation,'" says Rajeev Kaur, vice president of sales and marketing at Smarthome.
"Let's talk about 'electronic home improvement.'"
Why the change in phraseology? Kaur posits that in most consumers' minds, "home automation" means "robots all over your house" and lots of alienating technology. Instead, he suggests "focusing on improving the value of the home" by adding smart lighting, security and home control. Just as remodeling a bathroom or kitchen will increase a home's value, Kaur says, "these products pay for themselves."
The home automation market isn't new, notes Kaur, but the attention it's received from consumers recently is.
"We see this home automation space as being one very much like the PC space was 10 to 12 years ago," he says. Citing ABI Research's prediction of 17-percent compound annual growth rates for the home automation market, Kaur says Smarthome is actually growing "a little bit faster than that."
To capture that growth, Smarthome employs a multi-faceted strategy that involves direct-to-consumer retail, distribution to dealers and proprietary product development and technology design.
Its consumer e-commerce site, www.smarthome.com, has operated since 1995. It caters largely to the do-it-yourself homeowner, offering everything from home control components to glass break sensors to pet drinking fountains and electronic dog doors and IP thermostats. In 2004, www.smarthome.com became a merchant partner with Amazon.com.
Smarthome is also a distributor, using its catalog and www.smarthomepro.com site to offer 5,000 SKUs at wholesale prices to more than 20,000 dealers, installers and contractors. Smarthome has operated the dealer site for about three years; it has no minimum buys.
Smarthome.com and smarthomepro.com are brand- and technology-agnostic, but Smarthome Design, the company's R&D arm, manufactures X10 products and develops Insteon, a technology due for release in June that can be used to set up redundant powerline and RF control networks within a home (see sidebar).