Nest Labs has bought another startup -- Revolv, maker of wireless hubs that can speak a dozen or so different protocols for the crowded and complicated home automation market. But for now at least, it looks like it’s taking Revolv’s main product off the market -- perhaps to get it ready to carry Nest’s newfangled Thread protocol as well.
On Friday, Revolv announced its acquisition by Nest for an undisclosed sum, with plans to “continue to unify the connected home as part of the Works with Nest program.” At the same time, it’s shutting down sales to new customers, although it will continue to support existing ones, according to the company’s stripped-down web page.
Nest, which was bought by Google for $3.2 billion in January, provided little more in a Friday blog post, beyond mentioning that Revolv is “now officially a Nest company. Their experience connecting devices around the home will help us continue to grow Works with Nest and bring the conscious home to life.”
Specifically, Revolv has built what might be described as the universal remote for home energy devices, using radios that speak protocols from standards-based Wi-Fi and ZigBee to proprietary versions of wireless used by everything from remote locks or motion detectors to home stereo and entertainment systems.
To make these disparate devices easier to hook up and manage, the startup built software to “flash-link” devices upon launch, and an applications platform available for iOS and Android, as well as via the web. The company raised a reported $6.7 million in venture capital investment
Mike Soucie, co-founder and head of sales and marketing, told us in an interview last year that the company was putting Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Z-Wave and Insteon in its first $300 hubs, but he added that “we don’t see a standard protocol coming out any time soon. We’re hoping that this hardware is going to be in the home for the next five years. We’re trying to have 95 percent of market coverage in the next three years.”
As for Nest, its thermostats use Wi-Fi, as well as the low-power ZigBee protocol that’s proven popular as a way to connect smart meters to home area network (HAN) devices. But in July, it announced that it and partners like ARM, Samsung, Freescale and Yale Security were advocating for a new IPv6 networking protocol built on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, called Thread.
The decision to shelve Revolv’s existing product line stands in contrast to Nest’s $555 million acquisition of Dropcam in June. Of course, Dropcam has an existing and growing customer base with a video monitoring product that fills in Nest’s avowed goal of becoming an integrated home intelligence provider. Revolv fulfills more of a behind-the-scenes role, raising the prospect that Nest is interested in adding Thread to the hub’s list of supported protocols.
We’ve been tracking the surge in investments, acquisitions and partnerships in home automation over the past few months. Most of the opportunity is seen in providing security, entertainment, and convenience for homeowners. But energy efficiency can be an added benefit, whether for green-minded customers or through utility partnerships, like Nest’s Rush Hour Rewards program.