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.


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
Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson