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Professional VS. Consumer Grade Smart Home Control: System Architecture

By June 2, 2015 2 Comments

The Eastern and Western VRMA Conferences were held a few weeks ago. If it’s been a while since you attended, I highly recommend the events.

I’ve attended 10+ VRMA events over the years, and at this year’s “Regionals,” I witnessed a rare occurrence – standing-room only for a presentation.

As the Chairperson of the VRMA Communications Committee, I’m excited to see such a strong show.

As a smart home vendor for vacation rental managers, I’m even more excited for the topic of the standing-room only crowd…VRM smart home control.

Long-time VRM industry veteran, George Volsky presented the topic and followed with a post on the VRMA blog:

New Vacation Rental Business Models: Next-Gen VRMs

George discusses significant changes already underway in the VRM industry, and as he sees it, “smart home technology is at the epicenter.” 

In the conference presentation and in the blog post, Volsky makes a very astute observation about smart home options available to vacation rental managers:

Professional VS. Consumer Grade 

Every VRM immediately recognizes the difference between professional and consumer grade products. This distinction impacts your operations on a daily basis – linens, cleaning products, household appliances, cameras, etc., etc.

The product expectations for one person are much different than the expectations for a company operating on an enterprise level – IE 1 home vs. 2, 20, or 2,000 homes.

This same professional vs. consumer grade comparison can be applied to smart home options as well.

System Architecture is the Foundation of Professional VS. Consumer Grade

I’ll share a few quotes from George’s article below, but I’ll let you jump to the VRMA blog for the full read.

First, I’d like to touch on the the most important aspect of the professional vs. consumer grade discussion – system architecture.

Volsky’s article mentions “reliability” as one of the key differentiators between professional and consumer grade.

The core of reliable enterprise smart home options is the network the system is built upon – IE system architecture.

I can feel your eyes glazing over and rolling back into your head. System architecture may seem confusing and a bit boring, but I believe it’s easier than we make it seem. I’ll even use visuals to explain. 🙂

I’ve preached the HUGE difference between cellular and internet-based smart home quite a few times. I’ll spare you reiteration of the same, but my most recent post on the subject may be of interest:

Your cell phone is reliable. When you pick it up, it has a signal. If it drops signal for some reason, it fixes itself.

Internet on the other hand? Not reliable. How many calls do you get from guests about the Internet/Wifi not working in your homes? Now consider all the effort you put in to keep 2, 20, or 2,000 individual internet routers up and running.

  • As one VRM puts it: “Internet is available, BUT not guaranteed.”

What do you want as the foundation of your Enterprise Smart Home system…

  1. ONE reliable, self-healing network
  2. 2,20, or 2,000 separate, unreliable, networks that must be managed to be maintained.

This is the foundation of the professional vs. consumer grade smart home discussion:

  1. Cellular network
  2. Internet-based networks

Unglaze those eyes – here’s the visual…

Professional VS Consumer Smart Home 

Smart Home System Architecture

As the above image indicates, depending on the partnerships and configuration of the system, you could end up with multiple gateways, multiple forms of communication (Zwave, Zigbee, WiFi), and a whole lot of points of friction, miscommunication, and overall unreliability. All managed through separate internet routers at EVERY home. (Side note, will the old router even support a system like this?!)

On the other hand, you could have ONE, self-managed network that creates a solid, reliable foundation for your ENTIRE inventory of homes.

Cellular = Professional Grade
Internet = Consumer Grade

I highly recommend jumping over the VRMA blog to read Volsky’s post: New Vacation Rental Business Models: Next-Gen VRMs

Here are a few highlgihts…

Next-Gen VRMs reduce costs by:

  • Eliminating brick and mortar, key handling and boots on the ground;
  • Centralizing front- and back-end administration;
  • Growing by extending maintenance and housekeeping over broader geographical areas;
  • Reducing homeowner energy costs and complaints (HVAC, pool/hot tub heat);
  • Reducing legal exposure through improved key management and security;

Smart Home Technology at the Epicenter

Smart Home technology is at the core of Next-Gen revolution that may render old-school VRM business models outdated, inefficient and geographically constrained.

Hotels are embracing smart home technology, though they can benefit less from this than VRMs.

Enterprise systems are designed specifically to allow a single manager to manage an ever growing number of products. They offer dashboards that track and summarize the status of home devices, flexibility to add or delete new products, professional quality and reliability required for a next-gen business model.

There are thus two categories of Enterprise systems:

  1. Those built over DIY technology that offer low-cost functionality and low- to mid-range functionality, and
  2. Those originally designed as enterprise platforms to generate the reliability, flexibility and convenience required for streamlined operations.

A Footrace between Homeowners and VRMs

It is certain that homeowners will deploy Smart Home products if VRMs do not lead the charge.