Like most of you, I read the announcement by Lennar Homes touting its new “Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design” home plans powered by Amazon and a host of other manufacturer partners, and I wanted to throw in my take from an integrator’s perspective. I’ve had a month to digest my feelings on Lennar’s move, so here are a few of my observations.
Lennar’s participation in the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Wi-Fi Home Design Program is enabled by its Wi-Fi Alliance Contributor Membership status (only $15,000 per year!) Any builder wanting Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design plans for their own homes will need to pony up big bucks for the privilege. It’s a smart move forcing larger homebuilders to make a tough choice. Will the likes of Ryan, Toll Brothers, and others follow suit? I bet they will. That’s great for the industry and great for the Wi-Fi Alliance. What about the smaller custom builders (our clients)? How do we position this news in meaningful terms for them?
Standardizing Wi-Fi appears to be the next wave in new construction technology adoption. Lennar is using Ruckus for its networks. Will manufacturers like Luxul, Pakedge, or Ubiquiti use their Wi-Fi Alliance membership to get Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design plans pushed through on behalf of integrators and their builder clients? It’s an interesting twist, and I intend to find out. If we can’t, it’s not a big deal, but certainly worth asking.
At this point, we’re canvassing our builder clients with Lennar’s news and encouraging them to adopt new standard packages with us, including turnkey Wi-Fi solutions. I’ll be surprised if we don’t see a significant uptick in Wi-Fi standardization as a result. We’re all busy, and builders are no exception. Unless we can prove that there’s an immediate benefit to a builder, they’re usually loathe to change anything in their base package. “We can add that as an upgrade,” is the usual response. That said, they’re not going to accept a completely new addition to their standard packages without taking away some other parts of their current base package. A tough dilemma, but it’s the game we chose to play.
We’re going to remove some structured cabling to value engineer the standard package. We see Wi-Fi as a gateway to offering our remote managed services support solutions. We’ll now have an opportunity to help clients manage their networks, parental controls, offer cyber-security protection, add devices, and sit at the heart of the home technology ecosystem in EVERY new home. Sounds good to me!
The road ahead might be challenging because of technology issues we haven’t encountered. If we’re standardizing Wi-Fi, that means we need to be prepared to leave everything ready for the internet service provider (Xfinity, FiOS, etc.) to connect seamlessly. I don’t see this going smoothly. Cable company technicians are wired to rip out all existing gear and install their own. Without good communications, programs like Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design might go awry very quickly. With Big Cable trying to offer their own Wi-Fi solutions at a premium, I also see some intended or unintended competition. How do we ensure a smooth installation? Enlist the homebuilder and developer as early as possible and lay it out for them in simple terms. Cable companies are very interested in pre-wiring new communities and are willing to listen to developers during the planning phases. County boards of supervisors are also powerful allies in obtaining compliance from otherwise opaque bureaucracies.
In short, Wi-Fi CERTIFIED Home Design is a good thing for our industry. Make sure you’re talking to your builders about it before they’re talking to you. It’s a sure bet if they’re calling you, a competitor already made the rounds. What are you waiting for? The guy across town probably just read this and called your best builder! Just kidding… but not really.
Stay frosty and see you in the field!