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We Need Disruptive Business Practices, Not Disruptive Technology

Plenty of home technology products are affordable, easy to use and simple to install. To reach millions of households, we need disruptive business models.


We Need Disruptive Business Practices, Not Disruptive Technology
Julie Jacobson · October 4, 2012

Countless home-control start-ups have touted their new technologies as “disruptive” (most recently Utz Baldwin’s new company Ube), but is that what we really need to achieve widespread adoption of home automation?

I don’t think so.

As with Ube, we’ve seen many promising new companies with affordable, easy-to-use, simple-to-install products, but none of them has achieved the critical mass that Ube is seeking – some 4 million users within five years.

Some of the inhibitors do relate to technology and price points (the subject of my editorial in the November issue of CE Pro), but I’d like to shift the dialog to disruptive business practices.

Are there any?

The closest I can find is Vivint, the door-to-door security/automation company that sells and installs some 200,000 systems per summer.

Forget what you may think about that particular company or that particular approach. There’s no denying that theirs is a disruptive business model when it comes to home systems sales and installation.

There’s another potentially disruptive business practice in MainStreet America, which is making a “theme park” out of model homes (and the technology within) and charging consumers for the privilege of visiting.

RELATED: Can You Charge Consumers to Enter Your Showroom?

What else?

Can we implement a Tupperware type of business model for home technology?

Let’s say my local integrator, Advanced Electronic Solutions (AES) in El Cajon, Calif., hosted an event at my live/work apartment/condo. There would be wine, cheese and neighborly festivities, plus a demo of my 2Gig and Alarm.com security and automation system.

AES (and sister company JWE Corp.) might offer a 10% discount (or a thermostat or something) if you ordered a system that night, and maybe a 20% discount if more than 15 people signed up. Systems would all be installed within a week.

The party host (myself in this situation, but obviously I’d accept no kickbacks) would get some kind of incentive or commission.

Think of other products that are simple to install and sell, like Sonos. Could you make a party out of that?

Just tossing this idea out there. There must be some other disruptive business models that can help dealers and manufacturers reach a high volume of households in a short amount of time.

Any ideas?
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  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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