VERTICAL FOCUS: Home Improvement
Building Smarter Homes
Consumers love their smart home devices. Spending on smart home hardware that includes individual devices, such as automated lighting systems and controllers, grew in 2022. It surpassed $30 billion worldwide, up 15% over 2021 spending, according to an ABI Research market data report.
Manufacturers have taken notice. The largest consumer technology and home goods players, including Amazon, Apple, and Google, have expanded their product ranges to connect into existing smart home systems, finds the report.
To simplify purchase and installation of new devices for consumers, Version 1.0 of the Matter specification, a royalty-free standard for home automation devices that enables cross-vendor device interoperability, was released in October 2022 and may spur further growth.
Version 2.0 could arrive in spring 2023 and may include support for robotic vacuum cleaners, ambient motion and presence sensing, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, environmental sensing and controls, closure sensors, energy management, Wi-Fi access points, cameras, and major appliances.
Other growth may come from previously under-served markets such as multi-dwelling units and hospitality, the report notes.
“That is not to say growth will be even across device categories or vendors,” says Jonathan Collins, smart homes and buildings research director at ABI Research. “Interoperability, functionality, and application integration will all be key to spending as consumers increasingly transition from single device purchasing to building out whole-home systems.”
Supply Chain Tech Takes on Loss Prevention
Home improvement retailer Lowe’s is applying supply chain technology to its efforts to thwart shoplifters.
As many retailers combat shrinkage by placing product out of reach of potential shoplifters, Lowe’s is exploring a different approach by making pilfered items useless to shoplifters. It has introduced Project Unlock, which combines RFID and blockchain technology to protect both retailers and consumers. Here’s how it works.
Lowe’s asks manufacturers to embed a wireless RFID chip into a powered product, such as a drill. This tag is preloaded with the item’s serial number and the box’s barcode and disables operation until scanned at the point-of-sale.
When a shopper hits the checkout line, a point-of-sale RFID scanner reads all tags in range, finds the tool, and writes a unique secret key value that activates the tool for use. What this all means is that if a power tool is stolen, it will not work.
In tandem with the RFID capabilities, Project Unlock uses blockchain to create an anonymous record of product purchases. Legitimate purchases are recorded to the blockchain, which contains no personal information. Retailers, manufacturers, and law enforcement can use this information to validate authentic purchases.
Taking Inventory in Hand
The Home Depot is putting inventory management in the hands of in-store associates. A new app, named Sidekick, helps associates at more than 600 stores more efficiently prioritize tasks.
The app, which integrates into hdPhones—mobile devices previously provided to Home Depot associates—uses machine learning (ML) to guide priorities. For example, Sidekick notifies associates when specific shelves need to be restocked and lets them know where to find excess product in the store. Specifically, the app:
- Leverages a cloud-enabled ML algorithm to determine which tasks are actionable and when they should be completed.
- Utilizes machine vision to detect and fill out-of-stock products, as well as to locate products in stores.
- Alerts associates to tasks that need to be completed first via a common tasking engine.
- Shows where and how to complete a task in a dashboard with associate and manager views.
- Integrates with other platforms to ensure all data and task prioritization is up-to-date and aligned with broader business needs.
“The first step to customer service is being in stock with the right product that’s easy to locate,” says Muzammil Akram, vice president for store technology, The Home Depot. “Equipping our associates with innovative technology is one key factor in delivering on that initiative.”
The home improvement supply chain gets busier in early spring as home buying season kicks off and sellers hoping for quick sales begin projects to increase curb appeal. Sixty-five percent of recent sellers responding to research conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by Zillow took on at least two home improvement projects prior to listing their homes for sale.
The most common projects are interior painting (40%), carpet cleaning (35%), and landscaping (33%). About 3 in 4 sellers (74%) in the past two years say they believe that improvement projects helped their home sell.