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Airbnb Partners with Google’s Nest to Push Vacation Rentals Towards Energy Efficiency and Smart Home Control

By October 8, 2014 No Comments

Airbnb logoIt’s a challenge to define Airbnb.

The growth is fast, and the impact on the travel industry is widespread.

Cities across the US are trying to define and regulate this travel giant ($10B valuation). Here’s an interesting piece in the New Yorker about the love/hate relationship Airbnb struggles with in NYC. Very interesting commentary on the background and growth of the this emerging travel sector/product.

The travel industry as a whole seems to have a hard time defining it as well. A recent Tnooz article asks “Is it a distribution or hospitality company?”

Airbnb seems to want to align itself with traditional hotels, but it also has a lot of similarities to vacation rental distribution sites like HomeAway.

Airbnb is creating innovate ways to leverage the sharing economy, but at the end of the day, they do not own or even manage the listings on their site. Seems to lean towards distribution vs. hospitality.

BUT…the jury is still out. Definitions are still being written, and Airbnb is still evolving.

As pointed out by Airbnb’s Head of Global Public Policy in the New Yorker article

“It’s a start-up…[t]here are issues we have to address.”

With a $10B valuation, Airbnb has a lot of incentive and capital to start to address these “issues.”

But what are the issues? Airbnb friend or foe, my guess is you could easily get a long list of priorities that Airbnb should be focused on.

However, in the end, Airbnb is struggling with the same issues the hospitality industry, and specifically vacation rental managers, have been struggling with for years.

  • How do we create the best customer (guest or homeowner) experience possible?

The Tnooz article mentions that “Airbnb is not only attempting to position itself as a hospitality company, but it is investing in hospitality in numerous ways,” and the article continues by pointing out that “[v]acation rental management companies have been moving in this direction for years, investing in more hotel-like features such as front desk services, keyless entry and on-property amenities.”

Great changes are on the horizon as the vacation rental industry and Airbnb (are they separate?) continue to evolve and mature, however, the core of the business will always be the customer experience.

There are a lot of nuances to this improved “customer experience” conundrum, but I’ll focus on a what I believe is the most strategic opportunity AND an absolute necessity:

Vacation Rental (& Airbnb) Smart Home Control

Energy Management

In early September, Airbnb offered further validation to the smart home industry, and more specifically, to vacation rental smart home control:

Take a peek at the below links to my previous posts to learn why I don’t believe Nest (or any other WiFi smart home system) is a viable option for vacation rental energy management, but let’s not focus on the cellular vs. WiFi differences at this point.

Let’s stay focused on the fact that a hospitality/distribution company valued at $10B with an estimated 400,000 stays per night is pushing for smart home control.

Today. Not tomorrow or in a year from now. Right now…actually last month. 🙂

Smart home control, especially for vacation rental management, is not a passing fad. It’s here to stay. In fact, the train has already left the station and is picking up speed at a lightning pace.

  • Save energy
  • Save money
  • Reduce wear and tear
  • Offer control and comfort

Everyone wins (assuming the WiFi is up ;)). Bravo Airbnb.

Safety & Security: Real-time Access Control

To extend this smart home discussion beyond energy, let’s turn towards an area where Airbnb, and the large majority of the vacation rental industry, is falling drastically short: Real-time Access Control.

If superior customer experience is truly what the travel industry is after, then safety and security should be the core of the discussion.

The title of the New Yorker article I’ve mentioned a few times:

“The Dumbest Person in Your Building Is Passing Out Keys to Your Front Door!”

A bit derogatory, but point is made: Airbnb and vacation rental managers have a HUGE security issue – a lack of access control.

Managers know this. Airbnb knows this. Employees, vendors, and the graffitti artist in the New Yorker article know this.

Keys cannot be controlled.

Keyless codes are a slight improvement, but unless you can control the codes in real-time (audit, add, delete immediately…across all your properties), then safety and security is compromised – IE that coveted customer experience is compromised!

Guests and homeowners are starting to wake up to the reality that there are uncontrolled keys and codes floating all around and no one knows when they will be used.

This is the antithesis of the best customer experience possible. AND it needs to be addressed immediately.

I’ve stood on my Access Control soapbox a number of times. I’ll spare you a reiteration of past analysis, but please take a minute to peruse the below links to posts discussing vacation rental security (or lack there of).

Hats off to Airbnb for pushing the vacation rental industry closer to the new standard of smart home control. I may not agree with the choice of technology :), but I certainly agree with your motivation.


Related Links

Nest and the Vacation Rental Smart Home

  1. Nest Thermostats for ALL Vacation Rental Homes? {An Unsolicited Editorial to an Unsolicited Product Endorsement}
  2. Google Acquires Nest “Smart” Thermostat: A Perfect Opportunity for Vacation Rental Managers?

Vacation Rental Security 

  1. Mechanical Keys: An Unnecessary Liability [White Paper]
  2. There’s a HUGE Need for Vacation Rental Security
  3. Breaking Bad: A Look at a Vacation Rental Security Loophole
  4. Floating Keys STINK, But they WERE a Necessary Evil
  5. Vacation Rental Insurance: Where Does Coverage End & Liability Begin?
  6. Where are Your Keys?! {Take Control with Smart Home Automation}
  7. Vacation Rental Security & the Art of War: Why Its Time to Make Your Homes Safe & Secure