Vivint’s Innovation Lab and Broadband Aspirations
Vivint is not content to sell just security, home automation and energy. It wants to rival the big boys in high-speed Internet as well.
Today, Vivint has about 300 customers for a new wireless broadband service it is testing in Utah. Vivint’s service delivers roughly 50 Mbps upstream and downstream, but even higher speeds are supported - Vivint likes the extra capacity to give customers the highest speeds even at peak times.
On the day I visited the Zero Home, I watched 4K Ultra HD video being streamed from YouTube at 55 Mbps while the upstream speed was clocking 44 Mbps. Granted, it was playing on one of those cheap Seiki 4K displays, but still …
Vivint is charging a mere $55/month for the service ($60 without a two-year contract).
“You could pay Comcast $100 for the same download speeds but you won’t get fast uploads,” says Warren, the innovation director.
To deploy the service, Vivint taps into the closest broadband pipe and sends signals via microwave to a receiver erected in the neighborhood. The receiver, which looks something like a big satellite dish, then relays the signals to small boxes perched on select homes in the area, which ultimately transmit 5 GHz Wi-Fi signals to neighboring homes.
Those who volunteer to host one of the discreet Wi-Fi hubs get a discount on their broadband service. Each hub can serve about five to seven homes.
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Fueling the system is Smartrove, a provider of wireless mesh networking technology recently acquired by Vivint. The algorithms developed by Smartrove optimize quality of service for broadband delivery, explaining the gorgeous 4K streaming video at the Zero Home.
Here’s how Smartrove describes its solutions:
Smartrove implements a self-healing mesh network, with a unique degree of control over individual streams to meet traffic SLAs [service level agreements]. Using low profile phased array antenna technology coupled with MIMO, peer nodes dynamically discover optimal routed paths. Using 4X4 spatial diversity, and digital beamforming, the mesh architecture delivers higher throughput and range extension than conventional radio.
Smartrove brings together technologies to enable city wide Wi-Fi cloud deployment and has various products to meet specific needs in outdoor carrier grade networks for verticals like law enforcement, public services and 3G/4G offload.
Just as with security, home automation and now solar, Vivint is selling broadband door-to-door.
Will Vivint Be the Next Apple? Comcast?
Vivint believes it can provide all of these valuable services and more “in such a way as to become a household brand, like Apple,” says director of energy Lott. “We create experiences that make life easier.”
The sentiment is echoed by Luke Langford, Vivint director of strategy and COO of Vivint Wireless, who says Vivint “has a good brand now” but the company expects to rival the likes of Comcast in the not-too-distant future. He intimates that door-to-door sales tactics will continue, but Vivint would like more customers to come to them, rather than the other way around. As such, the company plans to invest heavily in enticing more inbound customers.
Much of this planning takes place at Vivint’s new Innovation Lab, a skunkworks organization of big dreamers, currently numbering about 100 product designers, user experience experts, marketers, researchers, operations guys and other thinkers and doers.
With business and family ties to 2Gig, Vivint in the past has relied largely on that manufacturer—now part of Nortek’s Carlasbad, Calif.-based Linear group—to chart its technological path. Via the Innovation Lab, Vivint will be taking more control of its future, while still partnering with 2Gig, which maintains a sizable staff in Salt Lake City to work exclusively with Vivint.
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At the Lab, I saw scribblings all over ubiquitous white boards and glass windows that will some day become the next Vivint thermostat or iPad interface.
So what’s next? I asked Langford when Vivint might make a quintuple-play and add TV service to security, home automation, power and broadband.
“Hopefully soon,” he says, noting that it would make sense to partner with an existing provider rather than go it alone.
Vivint definitely fancies itself as the next Comcast/Xfinity, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, AT&T or other multi-service providers. But while the other guys offer Internet, TV, security and automation, none of them does energy and certainly none of them has thousands of well-trained salespeople knocking on doors and providing a treasure trove of feedback to the higher-ups.
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Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.