It's been a busy few weeks for us here at NextMarket, first with a trip last week to Chicago for the Housewares Show to check out what's happening in smart kitchen, and this week we flew to Austin to hold our annual smart home event at SXSW.
We also have a deep-dive on the latest developments in the smart kitchen based on our observations from the Housewares show, which you can check out here. You can also hear the recap in podcast form here when Mike Wallace visits the Smart Kitchen Show to talk about cooking guidance systems, smart bar and pancake printers.
If you're planning on coming to Seattle in October for the Smart Kitchen Summit, now's the best time to buy tickets. We've already got some great speakers and sponsors lined up (more on that in coming weeks), so use this special link with a March discount code for newsletter subscribers.
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On to the news:
Last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune broke the story of a new Target secret project called Goldfish. The story centered around a job listing for what is essentially a CTO for the project, and the piece also hinted that the project was led by someone named West Stringfellow. Much of the speculation turned on one bullet point from the job listing which said "We are ambitious and bent on disrupting the way people shop". That is intriguing, as it makes me wonder if they are going to scale some of the lessons learned from their Target Open House, the company's San Francisco concept store focused on connected home and IoT products. And while the products featured at Open House themselves are interesting, it's the new experiential retail concepts they demand that makes Open House worth checking out. To that end, Target has worked on creating some cool presentation concepts, including creating scenes in each of the different "rooms" of the house (each room has a small section in the store) such as a "night time routine" for the baby's room. Read MoreI wrote a piece for Forbes explaining why I thought the Echo/Alexa has had some of the same disrupting impacts on the smart home industry that the iPhone did on the mobile business. I won't repeat them all in full here (go read it), but the gist of my post was this:
- The Echo, like the iPhone, is creating a new interaction paradigm for technology (voice with the Echo, touch for the iPhone).
- The Echo is making the incumbents in the market completely rethink their approaches to market. This is in large part due to their disruptive wedge strategy vs. the Apple/Google old-school mindset of having to create an entire walled garden ecosystem from the bottom of the stack up.
- The Echo, like the iPhone, isn't only disruptive because of the device itself, but the app and services ecosystem it promises to enable.
All of which is fairly relevant to the big story of last week, the Sonos layoffs. The news was announced in a post by John McFarlane, the CEO of Sonos, where he made it clear he recognized the disruptive impacts of the Amazon Echo/Alexa. Read More
Last week, I headed out to Chicago to see what was happening in smart kitchen and foodtech at the Housewares Show. The first stop was a dinner put on in conjunction with the IoT Consortium and Smart Kitchen Summit, and Tuesday was spent on the show floor. It's an exciting time in the housewares space, and while in Chicago I observed a number of trends, including the emergence of a new form of guided cooking systems that aim to enable consumers to create chef-like results with little advanced training. One of the new products in this space is the Hestan Cue. I had a chance to cook salmon with the Hestan Cue, and the experience showed me that this type of technology could be an important new trend, one which we hope to explore in depth at the Smart Kitchen Summit in October. Read More
Skybell Integrates With Honeywell
The Gist: Skybell, one of the leading video doorbell providers, announced an integration with Honeywell's Total Connect 2.0 app. Honeywell is one of the leading provider of home security systems, and this integration through Skybell's API will allow users of the Total Connect 2.0 app to utilize Skybell through Honeywell's app.
Our Take: Skybell's done a good job making finding large providers in home security hardware and services, and Honeywell now sits beside Icontrol, Comcast, Nest and others on their integration list. The doorbell is becoming a critical addition to any security and smart home "awareness" product portfolio, and Skybell's early entrance in this space and continued product evolution has created an ever-growing list of big partners that will help them grow in the managed smart home channel.
Ring Raises $61 Million, Launched Ring Pro
The Gist: Ring announced this week that they'd received a new round of funding - $61.2 million - which puts them at about a $200 million total company valuation of over $200 million and brings their total funding close to $100 million. They also announced a new $250 high-end video doorbell, the Ring Pro, which has HD.
Our Take: Ring and Skybell are locked in a battle to establish themselves as the leading standalone video doorbell specialists, while also doing with a growing list of bigger competitors such as August and Vivint in an increasingly competitive market. With the Ring Pro, Ring finally offers a line-powered product which was, in our view, a product hole in their lineup. Most consumers don't want to replace batteries (or charge them) for something like a doorbell, so this is a good move for the company. We're also interested to see where they go with their newly deeper pockets - we expect them to expand their portfolio of home security offerings, and we have to wonder if they'll look at locks or internal cams/security appliances.