Five years ago, Playa Vista’s Belkin International Inc. began developing a range of smart-home products that are operated remotely by mobile devices. The first fruits of those efforts, sold under the WeMo brand, hit the shelves more than two years ago. Now, Belkin is looking to expand its customer base beyond its Internet-connected crock pot, webcam, light bulbs and other home products. It is exploring enterprise opportunities for products that gauge water and power usage. Founder and Chief Executive Chet Pipkin recently discussed Belkin’s plans and the hurdles facing the “Internet of Things” marketplace at his company’s sleek Playa Vista headquarters.
Question: How did you decide to venture into the smart-home market?
Answer: We were coming off the heels of developing a unified message platform – text to voice, voice to text and voice over IP. We were just doing that as Skype and Vonage were coming to market. We said, “We kind of missed on that one, so what’s the right thing to do in that same sort of setup with cloud and app?” When we started to dive into what that might look like, it became pretty overwhelmingly obvious – that the time would be coming quite soon around the space of smart home.
How did you go about it?
The important thing was to build a platform that anticipates the scale of all these different things. From the platform, we could launch our first thing, second thing and third thing. The more things you add, the smarter everything is and the better it all works as one.
Five years and multiple products later, are you meeting sales targets?
Yeah, it’s really a fun time for the category.
But it’s also crowded. Apple and Google have competing platforms and are staking their claim in the market.
I think you’ll see most leading brands doing a good job of working to make sure things work together as well as they can. People aren’t going to want, nor should they be expected to have, 65 different apps to do 65 different things in their home.
We’ve got a lot of interaction points with Apple already, so Apple’s a natural one. When the smart-home space really starts to explode, you’re going to get a lot of entries in a lot of fringe ways, so some of those might be a little tougher to predict.
How do WeMo Water and WeMo Power work?
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