Vivint Partners with Best Buy on Smart Home; Builds out Sky AI; Teams with Airbnb

At CES 2017, Vivint announced a partnership with Airbnb, showcased new AI features of its security and home-automation platform, and said little about smart-home trial with Best Buy.

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Vivint Smart Home, the giant security and home automation provider, made several announcements at CES 2017: a partnership with Airbnb, new consumer-payment paradigms and the company’s push into true artificial intelligence (AI), where you don’t have to push any buttons to control the smart home; the system is already aware of you and your habits.

One thing that Vivint isn’t talking about, though, is a trial program in San Antonio, Texas, where the company is selling its products and services through Best Buy. Called “Best Buy Smart Home powered by Vivint,” the pilot program is running in seven San Antonio stores.

Vivint has chosen not to comment on the program at this time, other than to note that the in-store sales and at-home installations are handled by Vivint employees, not Geek Squad or other Best Buy providers. It’s a similar program trialed at mobile-phone stores.

The Web page promoting the services reads:

Many of our San Antonio–area stores are now one-stop shops for smart home products and security monitoring. Purchase a Best Buy Smart Home product package (prices start at $699.99) and you can sign up for professional monitoring from Vivint for as little as $1 a day, with no contract.* …

You can also sign up for a free In-Home Consultation and have an In-Home Advisors visit you and explain your smart home options.

The “In-Home Consultation” noted above is another new Best Buy initiative offered in four metro areas: San Antonio, Austin, Atlanta and Orlando.

In addition to security and automation, the consultants will advise customers on streaming media, cutting the cord, TVs and home theaters, major appliances, Wi-Fi networking and more.

New Financing Options

You might have noticed that the Vivint offering at Best Buy starts at $700. This is a new economic model for Vivint, which traditionally has given away its products for free or practically free in exchange for three-year customer commitments at $50 to $70 per month.

With that “debt-driven” model (as Vivint marketing representative Liz Tanner puts it), ROI on a single install can run up to three years.

The new model allows consumers to buy Vivint products outright, without long-term monitoring commitments. In a partnership with Vivint, Citizens Bank will provide 0% financing to qualified providers.

Monthly monitoring and interactive services cost $40 for security services only, and $50 for the complete range of smart-home services, including video monitoring.

“By separating the purchase of products and services, we’re introducing a model similar to the one used in the cell phone industry to provide greater flexibility for consumers as their needs evolve,” says Vivint president Alex Dunn. “This new payment plan will also make it easier for Vivint customers to continue to add the latest innovations to their smart homes.”

This new option, by the way, enables third-party resellers like Best Buy to obtain margin on hardware.

Airbnb and AI

At CES, Vivint also revealed a new partnership with Airbnb that makes the manufacturer the “preferred smart home provider” for the booking service.

Vivint systems communicate with Airbnb’s cloud service to link reservations with smart-home settings.

For example, when guests book a Vivint-enabled Airbnb property, they receive an email with a unique entry code that allows them to unlock the door at the time of the arrival.

Hosts need not send out PINs manually, and guests need not download an app. The code is valid only during the guest’s reservation period.

Vivint also uses Airbnb’s booking data to adjust temperatures automatically, for example setting back the thermostat during long periods of inactivity.

These intelligent responses are part of Vivint’s foray into “artificial intelligence,” under the aegis of its “Sky” AI platform.

Like many other smart-home providers these days, Sky learns and analyzes user behaviors in the home, adjusting thermostats automatically for energy savings and nudging you if you’re the last one to leave the home and the security system isn’t armed.