Control & Automation

Advice from Expert: Builders Don’t Want DIY Home Automation

Tim Costello of the home-builder marketing firm BDX warns that homebuilders want built-in smart-home technologies to encourage consumers to buy new homes.

Advice from Expert: Builders Don’t Want DIY Home Automation
When pitching to production home builders, entice them with solutions that can't be easily retrofitted into existing homes, says Tim Costello of BDX.

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I had an interesting chat last week at the Azione Unlimited conference with Dan Quigley from Amazon (Alexa) and Tim Costello from BDX, a marketing firm for the home-building industry.

Quigley, who is principal technical product manager of Alexa Whole Home at Amazon, attended the conference because “Amazon cares about the channel.”

As he tells it, integrators serve the most discriminating clients and only the pros can ensure a stellar experience around voice control and the smart home -- the likes of which generate buzz in the most important social circles.

"These are the experiences people talk about," Quigley says.

At the same time, Quigley says he’s hearing from production builders who want “small, medium and large” smart-home options for their new communities.

This is when Costello butted in, saying DIY home-automation “isn’t useful for us.”

He likens it to “putting a Crate & Barrel couch in a new home.”

Instead, he says, “We need things that you can’t do in an old home. Our mission is to sell new homes.”

So Costello suggests, instead of pitching something like Amazon Alexa packages, pitch a package that includes microphones embedded in the walls.

“Conceptualize the building from the ground up,” he suggests. "Make a new home such an obvious choice" versus a used home.

One thing builders are looking for these days is a "Wi-Fi" certified home, whatever that means. They want assurances that wireless works all over, Costello says, "because people don't blame anything on Wi-Fi, they blame it on products."

And when representatives from a homebuilding company do come to you with requests for good/better/best?

“That’s purchasing talking,” Costello says, “not the ‘builder.’”


And there was this on-stage exchange:

Julie: Own the VUI (voice user interface), own the home?

Quigley: I don't think so

Costello [doing his best Trojan horse impression]: Says the big wooden horse.

[pics anyone?]




  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Automation · Business · News · Blogs · Azione · BDX · Echo · Homebuilders · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by mhealthtalk on March 31, 2017

PLEASE, don’t put technology into new homes that will go obsolete before the home itself. Doing that would be like designing the living room with a big hole in it for the 35-in direct-view TV, not knowing that future TVs would be thin and wall-hung. Another example that I’ve written about before is the Smart Refrigerator (http://www.mhealthtalk.com/smart-refrigerator/). A fridge would normally last 10-15 years, except that the electronics and touch technology will become obsolete much sooner.

Rapid advancements in computer, networking and storage technology enable new features at lower cost each year, making older products seem obsolete. An example of that is buying a $4,000-$9,000 fridge from LG or Samsung with a proprietary built-in touch screen on the front. In the article I showed how I made my existing fridge even smarter, for less than $30. Spending $4,000 would have been a waste, and spending hundreds of thousands more for a smart home would be worse if it means the home can’t keep up with technology.

What will happen with the future voice interface? Will Apple users who prefer Siri even be interested in the new Alexa-enabled home? Will they need to know one set of voice commands for the home and a different set for the car or phone? What voice technology will be in that new Mercedes? Or Toyota? When the home is eventually sold, will the new owners be forced to rip out one set of technology and replace it with another, based on a different platform? Will older buyers replace smart thermostats and light switches with old-style on/off versions for simplicity, like I’ve seen them do.

This is why, in a continuing education class I participated in for real estate appraisers, I recommended adding little value for the technology, except for things like structured wiring and in-wall speakers. Even those features may have little value except for audiophiles and movie buffs still clinging to their Marantz amps, direct-drive turntables, and 7.1 home theater systems. The trend for most new buyers is the convenience of mobility; and smartphones, tablets, compressed digital audio, wireless headbuds, and Bluetooth speakers now offer an experience that’s “good enough” for many of them. That includes the millennials who no longer even watch TV programming on a large screen, or own a TV.

Posted by CLK3RD on March 27, 2017

There’s a big problem with the “technology advancement curve” compared to a house investment. For most people their biggest expenditure will be a house and they expect that purchase to be a one time cost with worst case upgrades and repairs made after 20 or so years. All of this technology has a lifespan of 5 years at best. So you have to have a bit of extra cash to spend on a 5 year product life cycle. A hardwood floor or kitchen cabinets can last one heck of a long time.  If you bought a cell phone or the first iPad it is now pretty much a worthless brick. When most people are stretched to simply acquire a home extra features with a limited life are not high-priorities. Also, technology gets better and better every month. We’ve installed home automations systems and the infrastructure used a few years back can’t compare with what;s out today at a lesser cost. I expect in a few months Amazon Echo will be doing our billing. Hey, Alexa, send that invoice to Ajax Industries.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 27, 2017

DIFY Tech—I think you misread the article. Tim absolutely believes in the merits of DIY solutions. He was referring specifically to new-home builders. Their competition isn’t other new homes. It’s the 125 million existing homes. They want stuff that will encourage buyers to purchase a NEW home because they can’t get the stuff (easily) in a used home.

Posted by avidcasey on March 23, 2017

Builders are the connection to the home owner, build the relationship with them, they will resist, last thing they want is another contractor to deal with. Join up, don’t give up, have something to offer them, they have 1 chance to make money from there customer.

Posted by DIFY TECH on March 22, 2017

Tim, my brother…. Thank you for telling everyone at The Azione to look the other way. Don’t mind the gorilla, the elephant and the giant lions in the room. DIFY Tech (Do It For You Technology by Do It For You Technologist) is here and it’s going to devour the old way of doing business.

Check the forecast. Globally by 2020, 6 Billion cellular phones and at least 50 Billion IOT connected devices! Amazon didn’t give details on exact numbers of the Alexa units sold this holiday, but I think it was around the 9 million units. In one holiday season!  Nest is currently moving 100,000 units per month! I can’t find numbers on other integration darlings for IOT like Sonos, Lutron, Logitech Harmony, Rachio, Roku, DishNetwork but I bet, for most of them, they were huuuuuge.

The clients, realtors, architects, designers and builders that we have been communicating with have been eating up these new affordable, reliable and easy to use solutions. They are tired of being hammered by the “luxury” pricing. It’s tech, here today, new tomorrow and it’s gonna cost you only $30,000 to upgrade. Let’s be fair, that’s all we have had to offer, until now. Luxury is all we sold for many years. I’m not hatin’, I’m just sayin’. Look, less wire to run, no racks, less time overall in a clients home, user interfaces that are professionally designed by the manufacture, very low service issues (go backs), low buy in / big value return, no rocket scientist needed = happy, happy, happy for all.

Let me keep kicking. Crate & Barrel sells nice stuff. It’s not custom, or reinvented every time or one of a kind master piece. But it is designed for the mid market and above clientele. It’s affordable, looks great and works. It doesn’t take weeks or months for C&B to figure out a glitch in their production. They don’t have to cut the leg off of a table to add a few screws. If the bed breaks, the client doesn’t have to sleep on the floor for weeks while the it’s being repaired and stuck with a nice bill once it’s finally back in place.

I can’t walk the bridge of understanding of how builders feel that they are selling a used home with the latest and greatest in new technology solutions. 

DIFY Tech is kinda like rap at a wedding. Some might not get it, but most are tapping their foot, shaking some tail and enjoying vibe. It’s here to stay and it ain’t going nowhere.

I want to be like McDonald’s, over a billion served. With 50 billion + DIFY Tech solutions coming online, we have a chance.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 22, 2017

Thanks for sharing, Adroit. Was this a recent installation? I’d love to learn more. [email protected]

Posted by Adroit1 on March 22, 2017

It is interesting that microphones in the walls was one of the options for a new home. While using microphones may sound like an idea for very expensive homes, I actually installed them in an old house. The microphones were part of a PERS system to keep an elderly woman in her own home. It would have been MUCH easier to install them in a new home. And, no, this was not an expensive home. Along with voice recognition software (that was the expensive part) the microphones acted as a whole house life alert system. As an aging in place option for a production builder, it makes marketing sense. Persons in their 50’s and 60’s would not find said microphones to be a very desirable option with the plan of living out the rest of their years in their new home.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 22, 2017

Chris, he was referring to mainstream production builders. They’re not competing with other builders, they’re competing with existing home sales. So his point was to sell them stuff that will make buyers want a NEW home. Mics in the walls was just an example.

Posted by Chris dePaola on March 22, 2017

Of course this is what builder want, what they want isn’t my concern. My concern is what home owners want and what they can afford.  Outside the custom luxury market, home 1 million plus, your not going to sell microphones in walls. 

The luxury market is awesome, but I’ll take the much larger middle class working families.

Posted by Chris dePaola on March 22, 2017

Of course this is what builder want, what they want isn’t my concern. My concern is what home owners want and what they can afford.  Outside the custom luxury market, home 1 million plus, your not going to sell microphones in walls. 

The luxury market is awesome, but I’ll take the much larger middle class working families.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 22, 2017

Chris, he was referring to mainstream production builders. They’re not competing with other builders, they’re competing with existing home sales. So his point was to sell them stuff that will make buyers want a NEW home. Mics in the walls was just an example.

Posted by Adroit1 on March 22, 2017

It is interesting that microphones in the walls was one of the options for a new home. While using microphones may sound like an idea for very expensive homes, I actually installed them in an old house. The microphones were part of a PERS system to keep an elderly woman in her own home. It would have been MUCH easier to install them in a new home. And, no, this was not an expensive home. Along with voice recognition software (that was the expensive part) the microphones acted as a whole house life alert system. As an aging in place option for a production builder, it makes marketing sense. Persons in their 50’s and 60’s would not find said microphones to be a very desirable option with the plan of living out the rest of their years in their new home.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 22, 2017

Thanks for sharing, Adroit. Was this a recent installation? I’d love to learn more. [email protected]

Posted by DIFY TECH on March 22, 2017

Tim, my brother…. Thank you for telling everyone at The Azione to look the other way. Don’t mind the gorilla, the elephant and the giant lions in the room. DIFY Tech (Do It For You Technology by Do It For You Technologist) is here and it’s going to devour the old way of doing business.

Check the forecast. Globally by 2020, 6 Billion cellular phones and at least 50 Billion IOT connected devices! Amazon didn’t give details on exact numbers of the Alexa units sold this holiday, but I think it was around the 9 million units. In one holiday season!  Nest is currently moving 100,000 units per month! I can’t find numbers on other integration darlings for IOT like Sonos, Lutron, Logitech Harmony, Rachio, Roku, DishNetwork but I bet, for most of them, they were huuuuuge.

The clients, realtors, architects, designers and builders that we have been communicating with have been eating up these new affordable, reliable and easy to use solutions. They are tired of being hammered by the “luxury” pricing. It’s tech, here today, new tomorrow and it’s gonna cost you only $30,000 to upgrade. Let’s be fair, that’s all we have had to offer, until now. Luxury is all we sold for many years. I’m not hatin’, I’m just sayin’. Look, less wire to run, no racks, less time overall in a clients home, user interfaces that are professionally designed by the manufacture, very low service issues (go backs), low buy in / big value return, no rocket scientist needed = happy, happy, happy for all.

Let me keep kicking. Crate & Barrel sells nice stuff. It’s not custom, or reinvented every time or one of a kind master piece. But it is designed for the mid market and above clientele. It’s affordable, looks great and works. It doesn’t take weeks or months for C&B to figure out a glitch in their production. They don’t have to cut the leg off of a table to add a few screws. If the bed breaks, the client doesn’t have to sleep on the floor for weeks while the it’s being repaired and stuck with a nice bill once it’s finally back in place.

I can’t walk the bridge of understanding of how builders feel that they are selling a used home with the latest and greatest in new technology solutions. 

DIFY Tech is kinda like rap at a wedding. Some might not get it, but most are tapping their foot, shaking some tail and enjoying vibe. It’s here to stay and it ain’t going nowhere.

I want to be like McDonald’s, over a billion served. With 50 billion + DIFY Tech solutions coming online, we have a chance.

Posted by avidcasey on March 23, 2017

Builders are the connection to the home owner, build the relationship with them, they will resist, last thing they want is another contractor to deal with. Join up, don’t give up, have something to offer them, they have 1 chance to make money from there customer.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on March 27, 2017

DIFY Tech—I think you misread the article. Tim absolutely believes in the merits of DIY solutions. He was referring specifically to new-home builders. Their competition isn’t other new homes. It’s the 125 million existing homes. They want stuff that will encourage buyers to purchase a NEW home because they can’t get the stuff (easily) in a used home.

Posted by CLK3RD on March 27, 2017

There’s a big problem with the “technology advancement curve” compared to a house investment. For most people their biggest expenditure will be a house and they expect that purchase to be a one time cost with worst case upgrades and repairs made after 20 or so years. All of this technology has a lifespan of 5 years at best. So you have to have a bit of extra cash to spend on a 5 year product life cycle. A hardwood floor or kitchen cabinets can last one heck of a long time.  If you bought a cell phone or the first iPad it is now pretty much a worthless brick. When most people are stretched to simply acquire a home extra features with a limited life are not high-priorities. Also, technology gets better and better every month. We’ve installed home automations systems and the infrastructure used a few years back can’t compare with what;s out today at a lesser cost. I expect in a few months Amazon Echo will be doing our billing. Hey, Alexa, send that invoice to Ajax Industries.

Posted by mhealthtalk on March 31, 2017

PLEASE, don’t put technology into new homes that will go obsolete before the home itself. Doing that would be like designing the living room with a big hole in it for the 35-in direct-view TV, not knowing that future TVs would be thin and wall-hung. Another example that I’ve written about before is the Smart Refrigerator (http://www.mhealthtalk.com/smart-refrigerator/). A fridge would normally last 10-15 years, except that the electronics and touch technology will become obsolete much sooner.

Rapid advancements in computer, networking and storage technology enable new features at lower cost each year, making older products seem obsolete. An example of that is buying a $4,000-$9,000 fridge from LG or Samsung with a proprietary built-in touch screen on the front. In the article I showed how I made my existing fridge even smarter, for less than $30. Spending $4,000 would have been a waste, and spending hundreds of thousands more for a smart home would be worse if it means the home can’t keep up with technology.

What will happen with the future voice interface? Will Apple users who prefer Siri even be interested in the new Alexa-enabled home? Will they need to know one set of voice commands for the home and a different set for the car or phone? What voice technology will be in that new Mercedes? Or Toyota? When the home is eventually sold, will the new owners be forced to rip out one set of technology and replace it with another, based on a different platform? Will older buyers replace smart thermostats and light switches with old-style on/off versions for simplicity, like I’ve seen them do.

This is why, in a continuing education class I participated in for real estate appraisers, I recommended adding little value for the technology, except for things like structured wiring and in-wall speakers. Even those features may have little value except for audiophiles and movie buffs still clinging to their Marantz amps, direct-drive turntables, and 7.1 home theater systems. The trend for most new buyers is the convenience of mobility; and smartphones, tablets, compressed digital audio, wireless headbuds, and Bluetooth speakers now offer an experience that’s “good enough” for many of them. That includes the millennials who no longer even watch TV programming on a large screen, or own a TV.