With Market Confusion over DIY Home Automation, Revolv Courts Pros with New Programs, Features
With DIY home automation sales floundering at retail, smart-home hub maker Revolv turns to CEDIA professional installation channel, announcing control of A/V via Global Cache, dealer programs, distribution through AVAD.
Revolv, maker of a much-hyped home automation hub and cloud service for do-it-yourselfers, isn’t abandoning the DIY market, but it’s putting way more eggs in the professional-install basket, formalizing a reseller program for home technology integrators at CEDIA Expo 2014, and announcing a partnership with Global Cache for A/V control and AVAD for product distribution.
How did it come to this?
Well, something happened a year or two ago that made start-ups think do-it-yourself home automation hubs would – for the first time ever—fly off retail shelves and rock the online stores.
For manufacturers, it’s a costly and iffy proposition to design and build product, develop packaging, hone logistics, manage tech support, raise money, raise more money, build a brand, schmooze the press, knock on retail doors, buy shelf space, find and foster reseller relationships, convince non-tech consumers they can do it themselves, and promote the heck out of a product category that is, at once, saturating the market and totally confusing to consumers.
Nobody knows these challenges better than Revolv, one of the early buzz-makers in an increasingly busy space.
Pitching a hub with *every smart-home radio known to home automation, Revolv raised at least $6.7 million in two funding rounds lead by The Foundry Group.
But despite landing in online stores and Home Depot shelves (a few of them at least), despite inundating the Web with contextual ads and social media pitches, despite gracing countless panel discussions with smart-home insights, Revolv—like virtually every other product of its kind—hasn’t garnered the traction the company expected.
In fact, says Revolv head of sells Michael Dee, “The home automation landscape hasn’t had the pick-up that any of the retailers wanted.”
That goes for any product, not just Revolv’s – something that we have heard anecdotally.
Entering the Pro-Install Channel
Revolv has attended CEDIA Expo – the trade show for home technology installers – in the past, mostly just testing the waters.
Next week, at CEDIA 2014, the company will roll out a formal program to entice the trades.
Revolv has sold direct to professional installers since its inception, but the company is only just now formalizing a distribution strategy.
“We have a small number of dealers signed up, and a few who are doing volume,” Dee says. “We feel we haven’t done enough for them.”
So Revolv has two developments that “we believe will make us more relevant to the CEDIA channel, to let them know we’re listening to them,” Dee says.
First is the dealer program itself, which starts off with a distribution agreement with AVAD, a leading supplier for the home systems channel. Revolv inked a deal with AVAD parent Ingram Micro earlier this year, and “we’re just now gearing up for the AVAD part,” Dee says.
He thinks AVAD will help integrators see Revolv less as a home automation hub and “more of a full solution.”
Dealers have struggled to see profit potential in DIY-friendly products like Revolv’s, which retails for $299. Dee says AVAD will showcase Revolv bundles, and make them easy to order, install and charge for.
Meanwhile, Revolv is establishing a dealer-only forum, moderated by the vendor so it can provide rapid feedback and let dealers inform the company’s direction.
At Last: DIY Home Automation with A/V Control
A bigger channel-friendly initiative is the just-announced partnership between Revolv and Global Cache, a provider of IP-enabled modules for controlling third-party devices via IR, relay and serial communications.
Global Cache fills the gaping hole in virtually all of today’s super-trendy new home automation hubs: A/V control. (Many established DIY products have offered A/V integration for years.)
“A lot of the CEDIA dealers are from A/V and we wanted to be able to extend the usability of Revolv as it relates to A/V,” Dee says.
Currently, Revolv is still testing A/V control with Global Cache and has not yet hammered out the user interface but there will be a live demos at the show “so you can get a relative understanding of how we can handle A/V,” Dee explains.
Bullish on the custom-install channel, Dee declares, “I can see a day when we’re not doing retail and we can do more business in the channel.”
*Revolv has seven radios in its hub, but only three of them—Insteon, Z-Wave and Wi-Fi—are being used. The company expects to activate ZigBee integration by the end of the month.
JULIE JACOBSON bio/articles: cepro.com/jj
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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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