The smart home … from lighting to thermostats, door bells and home fitness

August 25, 2016

Nest, the brand of cool thermostats seeking to do for the home, what the iPod did for music recognises the emotion associated with making the home a smarter, better place to love …

“We love home. It’s the best place in the world. But not everything inside our homes is lovable. There are things that beep at us; fail without warning; keep us in the dark. There are things we’ve learned to ignore. We think they should do more.  Nest is focused on making simple, human, delightful things. That’s how we’re creating the thoughtful home: A home that takes care of the people inside it and the world around it”.

It almost sounds like Apple, but then Nest founder Tony Fadell is the man who created the iPod back in his days alongside Steve Jobs. Of course the Nest Labs, maker of the learning thermometer, smoke detectors and security systems, was acquired by Google for $3.2bn in 2014, and has since gone on to create a wide range of home tech devices.

Startups are transforming homes with products such as smart locks, doorbells, lighting, along with products to kit out homes for pets and babies, and much more.

My friends at CB Insights have a particular interest in the amount of start-up activity, and investment, focused on the smart home. This includes companies producing consumer-facing products that replace or augment existing home products such as appliances, with the requirement that they be connected to a smartphone or the internet, or integrate sensors and digital interfaces. Here is their map:

smarthome_8-9-2016-01-1

The map explores innovators in the following categories:

  • Appliances & Audio Devices: These include household products that function as a conventional appliance or device, yet offer advantages through connectivity, such as Sectorqube‘s MAID Oven and Sonos‘ smart home speakers. Sonos is the most well-funded smart home startup in terms of equity financing.
  • Device Controllers: While most startups produce individual smart home products, these companies produce the devices controlling them. Examples are Peel‘s universal remote and Ivee‘s personal voice assistant, advertised as “Siri for the home.” Both of these companies have received VC funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Foundry Group. Most of these products are able to control smart home products from other companies such as Philips and Nest.
  • Energy & Utilities: These are companies that utilize sensors, monitoring tech, and data to conserve water and energy. Ecobee and Rachio, for instance, develop products that monitor and control AC and water sprinkler systems respectively, to help make consumption more efficient. Interestingly, several startups in this category have received funding from corporations and corporate venture capital firms, such as Carrier Corporation, which backed Ecobee, and Amazon’s Alexa Fund, which backed Rachio.
  • Gardening: These companies focus on producing smart products for watering and monitoring household yards, gardens, and plants. This is one of the smaller categories in terms of number of companies. The most well-funded startup in this category is Edyn, which recently raised a $2M Series A round.
  • General Smart Home Solutions: Instead of producing a single smart gadget, these companies build or distribute multi-device systems that automate several parts of your home, such as ecoVent‘s custom vent/sensor system or Vivint‘s third-party device bundles. Vivint, specifically, has secured $145M in equity funding — second in smart homes only to Sonos.
  • Health & Wellness: These are products that assist home occupants in maintaining their health and lifestyle, such as MedMinder Systems‘ smart medicine containers and Beddit‘s under-the-bed health sensor. A notable deal in this category is Hello‘s $40M Series A round last year, which made it the most well-funded smart home startup in health & wellness, with over $50M in equity funding.
  • Home Robots: This category is home to companies that produce robots specifically for maintenance and assistance in a home environment. These include robotic assistant Jibo, whose total equity funding is currently at $52M, and home cleaning robot Neato.
  • Lighting: Taking cues from products such as the Philips Hue, companies like Sequioa Capital-backed LIFX are coming up with their own app-controlled lightbulbs. Others such as Switchmate are going beyond the bulb and building app-controllable light switches.
  • Pet/Baby Monitors: These companies focus on producing video monitors and sensors to monitor pets and babies through the comfort of a smartphone. Most startups in this space, such as Y Combinator alumni Lully and Petcube, are young and still in their early stages of funding.
  • Safety & Security: These companies utilize the internet and home automation technologies to help protect you and your home with monitors, internet-enabled locks, smart smoke detectors, and more. This is one of the larger and more well-funded categories, as companies in this space include RingSimplisafeAugust Home, and Canary, which have all received over $40M in equity funding.
  • Miscellaneous: Startups in this category have particularly unique offerings, such as Electric Objects‘ dynamic art display, Kamarq‘s sound table, and Notion‘s universal sensor.

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