As I look around my house and see the number of Echo devices plugged in, look at the empty cardboard boxes piled up in my garage and finish watching season one of Forever on Prime Video, it doesn’t feel like much of a stretch to see how dependent I am on Amazon. At this point, maybe I should just say well, I’ve gone this far, it’s probably easier to just buy an Amazon house.
The idea of living in an Amazon house just got a little less crazy. Amazon announced today that its Alexa Fund has invested in Plant Prefab, a company that makes prefabricated houses. According to the Plant Prefab website, the company is:
“…the first home factory in the nation dedicated to sustainable construction, materials, processes, and operations. We believe homes can and should be built in ways that minimize their negative impact on energy, water, resources — and the health of the people who live in our homes and who build them.”
The CEO of Plant Prefab told Fast Company in an email:
“We will work with Amazon to integrate Alexa and other smart home technology they have into our standard home platforms… We’ll be working with them to create better integrated Alexa and other smart home technology solutions to help improve the quality of life and utility of people who live in the homes we build.”
Hooking up with a prefab home manufacturer does provide Amazon with an additional sales channel, and the company has been making moves to embed itself more deeply into the bones of our houses. Amazon purchased connected camera company Blink last December and followed that up with the purchase smart doorbell maker Ring in March. The company launched Key delivery, which uses a combination of smart locks and connected cameras to allow in-home delivery of packages while you’re out.
If that weren’t enough, at last week’s media event, Amazon unveiled its own brand of microwave, as well as new Echo devices which include a new Guard mode to listen for the sound of broken glass or a smoke alarm. It also announced a $25 smart plug to turn any appliance into a connected device. And if that weren’t enough, Amazon launched Connect Kit, which makes it easier for companies to create smart home devices.
But Plant Prefab doesn’t operate at the scale Amazon normally operates. It seems like there is, like always, a data side to this deal. Getting in with builders allows Amazon to understand on a neighborhood level where these types of new homes are being built, and small things like what different building codes are in various municipalities, and how new building materials perform. It could also give the company architectural know how to better integrate things like secure delivery boxes, or temperature controlled ones that require electricity for food delivery, directly into homes.
Or perhaps, Bezos can take this prefab building knowledge and put it to use as part of his recent philanthropy to help fight homelessness.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear Amazon isn’t just interested in our house, it wants to re-create our world. Smart technology will become a standard part of modern houses, whether that’s having the smarts built in or creating the space and modularity for easy wiring and installation of future technology.
The other question is, how will big will Amazon’s influence get in the home building space and how will that impact other players and professionals in the home electronics installation space, like those in CEDIA.
Whether or not Amazon becomes dominant in this space, or becomes another Sears Kit House remains to be seen. But building smart homes from the ground up is sure to be a topic we continually revisit. In fact, we’ll be holding a conversation with Bruce Thompson, CEO of Urbaneer about “Designing the Kitchen Ecosystem of the Future” at our upcoming Smart Kitchen Summit in a couple weeks. Get your ticket today to be a part of the conversation.